INDIANAPOLIS - Danica Patrick had just failed to finish for the first time in four Indy 500s, and she was ready to fight.
She climbed out of her car and still wearing her helmet strode angrily toward the pit crew of fellow driver Ryan Briscoe, who had knocked her out when he slammed into her leaving the final pit stops of the race.
She ripped off her gloves before a security official intercepted her and steered her away.
“Probably best I didn’t get down there anyway,” Patrick said.
It was that kind of day for the most successful woman ever to drive in the world’s richest race.
A prerace favorite after her history-making victory in Japan last month, Patrick was never really a factor. She started fifth but quickly fell back and got as high as sixth only briefly.
Patrick said it was obvious what happened on pit road.
“You don’t pull out from your pit box three lanes out. You have to wait ’til you blend in there,” she said. “That’s why they have a get-up-to-speed lane, which is the inside lane, and then, when you’re at speed, you’re at the outside lane.
“It’s not the right thing to do that you just go all the way out to the wall. That’s not right.”
Briscoe, unaware Patrick was after his head, watched a replay of the crash after the race and didn’t see it the same way.
“From what I could see, there was still plenty of room on the right side for her to get around me,” he said. “There are people pointing fingers, but that’s not the way we are in here.
“You know, we both have a brake pedal in our cars. I was trying to get around (Dan) Wheldon in front of me, and I was staying in the middle lane. I got ran up in the back, and it’s a real shame for both of us.”
Suddenly, Patrick was done.
After the wreck, Patrick flipped up the visor on her helmet and, seconds later, banged her fists on the steering wheel.
“I took my gloves off. I was ready to take it all off; my helmet and everything, because it’s hard to talk through the helmet,” Patrick said of her walk toward Briscoe’s crew. “It’s probably a better idea that I didn’t make it all the way down there anyway because, well, as you guys know, I’m a little emotional.”
It was a miserable ending to a frustrating day for Patrick, who started fifth, stayed among the leaders but was never in contention.
“I don’t know if we had enough speed to win the thing,” Patrick said. “The guys worked so hard all month; we all worked hard all month and we all worked hard all day today just trying to come up with any way that we could move forward.
Patrick first gained national notoriety as a rookie at Indy in 2005, qualifying fourth, leading the race and finishing fourth, all firsts for a woman at the speedway.
That set off Danica mania, which has made her a familiar face on talk shows, TV commercials, billboards and magazines.
When she took the checkered flag in Japan last month to become the first woman to win an IndyCar race, it unleashed Danica Mania II, bringing very welcome attention to the IRL’s IndyCar Series.
A victory at Indy would have been even bigger, but it just wasn’t her day.
She made it very clear throughout the race that she wasn’t happy with her car.
“I just didn’t feel fast,” she said after the race. “We were making the best of it. I really, really had to be on my toes through the corners and (was) trying to really just drive perfect and keep as much throttle on as possible.”
But driving perfect couldn’t protect her when it came to the pit road incident. And she won’t be letting that go anytime soon.
“I want to do it right,” Patrick said. “I want him to be able to talk to me. If he doesn’t come to me within a certain amount of time, rest assured I’ll talk to him about it.”
She might not get the answers she’s looking for.
“I’m not here to get in fights and rumbles,” Briscoe said. “We can sort it out nice and quietly, but I’m sure as soon as she sees the replay she’ll understand that she’s out of line.”
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