Danica Patrick started out sixth, in a top-10 car for the first time in three years. She held her own for the first 15 laps of the NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, staying in the top ten.
It should have been a great day for her at the Sonoma Raceway, however, collisions with other drivers pretty much ruined the day.
While, at first, it may sound as though she was at fault for her 17th place overall finish, the collisions really weren’t all her fault or really her doing at all.
She had her first encounter with Dale Earnhardt Jr. during lap 15. Earnhardt took some of the blame for their first collision.
While following her into a hairpin turn, Earnhardt lost control of his car and ended up colliding with Patrick.
Patrick said she didn’t believe she did anything wrong in the first collision even though Earnhardt Jr. only took partial blame.
With Patrick being one only a handful of female NASCAR drivers, it’s likely she gets that a lot, being blamed for something that wasn’t really her fault at all.
She took it in stride, however, and just didn’t want anyone to make a big deal over the collisions.
Earnhardt’s description of the first collision was different from Patrick’s, according to ESPN.
“Wrong place, wrong time, Danica was trying to protect her position, and I went even lower than we normally go. It’s real slick down there, and I just locked up the rear tires. That was kind of a racing deal. I’ll take some of the responsibility for sure.”
ESPN has Patrick quoted as saying that she felt like Earnhardt “kinda lost it” and that there was “a lot of dive-bombing” going on in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday.
She also said that she just “didn’t know what happened to him,” talking about Earnhardt.
Unfortunately for Patrick, the other collision with Earnhardt caused a third collision between her and her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Still, while some headlines are insinuating that these collisions were all Patrick’s fault, that isn’t exactly true.
During lap 31 Patrick, Earnhardt and Kyle Larson went three wide into Turn 4. Larson who was on the inside was the one who hit Earnhardt, who then bumped into Patrick sending her spinning into Stenhouse.
Stenhouse’s car ended up being so damaged that he was knocked out of the race, ultimately placing 38th which is the very last place.
Earnhardt actually told ESPN that the second collision wasn’t Patrick’s fault, but he took no blame on this one. Instead, he blamed Larson.
“I don’t think Danica knew that [Larson] had went to the inside of that one, and we all sandwiched together.”
In an interview with FOX Sports Stenhouse talked about how going three-wide never works, saying he didn’t need to see the replay and that Larson, Patrick, and Earnhardt “were three-wide in front of us trying to go through Turn 4, which never works.”
Earnhardt recovered to place 6th in the race and the collisions didn’t seem to cause any friction between the four drivers.
When Patrick made the transition from stock car racing to NASCAR she drove for Earnhardt and is reportedly good friends with Larson. Then, of course, there was her boyfriend.
She told the media to chill on making the story more dramatic than it needed to be.
“We’re buddies, c’mon… Just relax. It is what it is.”
[Featured Image by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images]