As you likely are aware of by now, Saturday night’s Monster Energy Cup Series race in Kansas was marred by a fiery crash that left driver Aric Almirola hospitalized overnight with a compression fracture in his back.
Oh yeah, Danica Patrick was also involved in the crash, though the vibe on social media suggests I shouldn’t bring that up or talk about it. Apparently it’s disrespectful to Almirola to discuss Danica’s awful luck/vicious collisions of late as well as her growing frustration. I suppose I should also avoid mentioning that Martin Truex Jr. won the event Saturday night. Oh, no, that’s ok to talk about, but Danica can’t be mentioned.
What happened to Almirola is awful and may very well combine with the points penalty incurred at Talladega be the final nail in the coffin to his playoff hopes. However, one can discuss other angles of this story and other storylines regarding this race without disrespecting Almirola. And if it were just about any other driver being focused on, hardly a gripe would be heard.
But it’s not just any other driver. It’s a woman. And while she is loved and adored by many, especially younger girls, she’s still very reviled by much of the traditional fan base. And the reason is simple; She’s a woman. Men hate her for being a woman in a “man’s sport” while women resent her for being both talented and attractive to boot. These are people with whom she’ll never win, and people waiting to pounce on anything they can find to criticize her and drag her through the mud.
Saturday night, in their mind, gave them such an opportunity.
Never mind that she was turned head on into a wall at 200 mph, just a week after having the same thing happen to her at Talladega. Or that she’s now a fifth year into what’s become a visibly frustrating foray into stock car racing. Forget that she was finally putting together a solid weekend and seemed poised to compete for a top ten finish. We’ll also gloss over the sponsorship fiasco where a company in over their head backed out of their contract just weeks before the season began. Forget all these things and let’s all be aghast and infuriated that these things came to a head in her interview and she had the audacity to speak on them upon exiting the infield care center on Saturday night.
Apparently she’s a selfish (insert multiple words typically designated to degrade women) because the focus of her interview was, gasp! her.
Did Joey Logano express great concern over Almirola after being interviewed following the same incident? Sure, but it’s apples and oranges.
Logano isn’t staring a career crossroads in the face, he doesn’t have sponsor and thus job security issues, he’s still having fun at the racetrack, and he hasn’t been subjected to nasty hits with the regularity Danica has. There’s also one other small difference; Even though by an uncontrollable freak accident, Logano is who caused both Danica and Almirola to endure such savage impacts. That matters.
I guess the NASCAR community wants to pretend Danica is the only person who has ever spent the duration of an interview discussing themselves and not spending enough time expressing concern for an injured driver.
In 1996 at Talladega when Bill Elliott broke his leg on the backstretch I’m positive the focus of driver interviews after the race was on expressing concern for his well-being. Oh, wait….
Well certainly in 1991 at Talladega when Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg in a multi-car crash the driver’s interviews were all about concern for Petty and weren’t focused heavily on criticizing the cause of the incident. No? Wait, so fan favorites like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin are self-centered a**####s?
Okay, so then certainly when Neil Bonnett suffered life threatening injuries at Darlington in 1990 the drivers expressed concern for him in their interviews and they too weren’t focused on criticizing the cause of the crash and weren’t lamenting their race being ruined, right? Well ok, then for sure when Bonnett’s own best friend won the race he mentioned something, right? Huh… I guess they should have kicked Dale Earnhardt out of NASCAR and he should’ve been ashamed of himself.
Danica comes from open wheel racing where she’s been privy to witness some brutal on track fatalities. Almirola put his window net down to indicate he was conscious and alert. So let’s stop pretending he was fighting for his life and she callously ignored it.
Secondly to that point, how much did Danica even know in regards to what was happening with him? Beyond seeing the net down, when she and Logano got into the ambulance who knows what she knew regarding the extent of his condition?
Was she possibly told in the infield care center? Possibly, but we don’t know specifically what she got told. But i think it’s safe to think that whatever information was given to her she was not led to think he was in any sort of grave danger.
Beyond that, even if told of his situation, how much do we know even resonated with her? She herself was visibly shaken by the incredible impact with which she hit the wall. As documented earlier, that’s not the first time she’s taken a nasty hit, and was the second time in less than a week.
She spoke specifically of her own concern that eventually one of these nasty wrecks is going to end badly for her. This was clearly weighing heavily on her, and has been for some time. She has friends and loved ones she cares about and has a fear of them being hurt by something bad happening to her. That’s not selfish of her.
And when something as rare and as freakish in nature like a brake rotor exploding on the car beside her at the fastest point on the racetrack occurs, its human nature to ask, “Why me?”. The chances of a rotor exploding at Kansas are rare enough, so for that perfect storm of events to come together like that, it’s perfectly understandable for her to start wondering if someone is trying to tell her something.
This alone more than provides adequate explanation and justification for her demeanor after the race. When you factor in the frustrations from the performance issues and questions of how much longer she wants to do this, or can do this, you’ve got to sit on a pretty high horse to be so judgemental of her for how she handled that interview.