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Motorsports Commentary - Really NASCAR? That Dog Won't Hunt

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by Rick Carlton - Senior Motorsports Editor

Austin, May 7, 2012: NASCAR has finally stuck its fleshy parts in a hornet's nest, by declining an opportunity to fine Danica Patrick as a result of her flagrant wall slam of Sam Hornish at the finish of the Aaron's 312. NASCAR's Robin Pemberton, now apparently head cheerleader for the Danica Patrick Fan Club, would only say, '"It didn't go unnoticed. Those are two good competitors, clean competitors. We'll just make sure it doesn't go any further." However, there are no plans to penalize them."'

Unfortunately, for those of us who don't care for the taste of DanicAid, the word 'them' shouldn't have applied in this case. Hornish's near miss on Patrick in the latter stages of the event was clearly a racing incident caused by a cut down right front and, after all, Patrick did continue apace finishing P13. On the other hand, however, her destruction of a $500k racecar after the fact, along with the potential of seriously injuring Hornish in the process, should have been seen in an entirely different light.

What is disturbing is that Patrick's performances have been one disaster after the other this season and NASCAR hasn't seen fit to do bubkus about it. To paraphrase a NASCAR colleague, "She'll run all the way around the racetrack just so she can get in a wreck." But more importantly, NASCAR management is obviously willing to deal a pass to Danica regardless of what she does. However, based on her history, Patrick is not a 'good competitor,' at all, but more of a celebrity marketing 'tool' that, just like a gunslinger who stays in a town too long, can become a problem for the series and the sport as a whole, unless her behavior is better reined in.

The plain truth is that, no one wants to accept that there may be a problem with the woman, anymore than IndyCar organizers failed to take punitive action when she was in open-wheel. But in the latter case there were two mitigating facts, first; open-wheel cars tend to intrinsically limit any driver's 'bravery quotient,' simply because of the potential of wheel to wheel contact, and second; all IndyCar had to offer from a marketing perspective was, well, Danica; and when one has little to offer, one burnishes whatever apple is available, even though it may have a worm in it.

On a less snarky note, however, given the number of set-to's in her career, and the fact that any incident involving Patrick always seems to end up being the 'other guy's' fault, the Talladega event should be seen for what it was; another area of concern.

Just to make the point, here are some of Patrick's career behavior 'highlights':

The obvious, and recurrent theme should be that there's 'trouble in River City', since after simply translating all of her previous athletic angst from IndyCar to NASCAR, Patrick's frustrations have now become more and more obvious and problematic, particularly since she's ensconced in a full-bodied racecar. Therefore, unless she can finally learn that on any given Saturday, or Sunday, there are going to be 42 other drivers who want to win while being respected just as badly as she does, someone is going to get hurt - and no one wishes that potential on anyone.