It’s not like Dale Earnhardt Jr. meant to run into the back of Danica Patrick with 61 laps to go — he had been having brake trouble all night and couldn’t slow down — but that was indeed the result.
And despite the lack of intent, Patrick was plenty angry at Earnhardt after the incident. She cursed at him on the team radio and ran into the back of him as both cars came to pit road. After the race, she scowled and walked away briskly without comment, pausing only briefly to receive some advice from team owner Tony Stewart.
Meanwhile, the cameras and tape recorders gathered around Earnhardt at the far end of pit road — much to his dismay.
“I mean, what am I supposed to say other than the truth?” Earnhardt said. “We didn’t have any brakes going into the corner. I know better than to run into her because it gets so much attention. There wasn’t nothing I could do.”
Earnhardt said the two were “pretty good friends” and should be able to talk it out, but he was a bit perplexed by her reaction.
“I mean, as hard as I hit her, what the hell did she think I was doing? Trying to wreck her?” he said, sounding in disbelief. “We ain’t got no problem. It’s not like we were having a problem out on the racetrack with her. It’s not like I just drew her name out of a hat and decided she was the one I was going to run into tonight.”
Patrick was told twice of Earnhardt’s brake problems after the incident, but that didn’t ease her anger. She told her team Earnhardt should have picked a different lane.
Earnhardt, as he often does, tried to see the incident from the other perspective.
“It’s hard not to (get upset and retaliate) if you are in her shoes,” he said. “But it makes me mad because I didn’t have any brakes. I didn’t do that on purpose. I don’t know. She will chill out. It happens to all of us. I’m not too worried about it.”