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Posted: Monday July 21, 2008 1:15PM; Updated: Monday July 21, 2008 1:15PM
Bruce Martin Bruce Martin >
INSIDE RACING

Racing notes (cont.)

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DANICA VS. MILKA

By now you already know that a good, old-fashioned quarrel broke out on pit lane on Saturday morning involving none other than IndyCar star Danica Patrick and Venezuelan female driver Milka Duno.

Controversy has seemingly plagued Patrick since her April 20 victory in Japan made her the first female driver ever to win a race in a major closed-course racing series.

"I'm on the hot seat when I do something and when other people do something or say something," Patrick said. "It's the line that I walk. It's because I am popular, which is a good thing, so I just to keep that in mind.

"You have to walk a fine line all the time. There are two sides to it. I'm either popular and the things I do have positive and negative repercussions and are looked at, or I'm not popular and nobody notices what I do at all. I'd rather be popular and have people know what I do and be a little careful."

The most recent incident started when Patrick had difficulty passing Duno's car when she would not move out of the racing lane to let the faster car by. When Patrick finally got by, she drifted towards Duno's car in a sign of frustration.

After practice was over, Patrick walked down the pits, but on the other side of the pit wall, unlike her march down pit lane in an aborted attempt to confront Ryan Briscoe in this year's Indianapolis 500.

"You have no idea what you are doing out there; you're going to get someone hurt," Patrick said to Duno as a friend of Duno's shot video of the confrontation.

That's when Duno threw a towel at Patrick, who screamed, "What are you doing?"

Duno then said, "If you are going to act that way, you can go. I saw you. I saw you" and then threw the towel at Patrick again.

Patrick then exclaimed, "What the Hell? It's not my fault that you are slow. You are giving everybody a hard time out there."

When one of Duno's crew members interceded, Patrick said, "I just want to talk to her about it. It's happened three times this weekend."

Duno again ordered Patrick out of her pit and said, "You can pass cars because you are fast, yes? Then you could pass me with no problem."

Patrick then said, "When you are in the [bleeping] corner and you turn down, all I want to know is did you see me?"

Duno stormed off and Patrick said, "Brian Barnhart [IndyCar president of competition] is going to talk to you and can take care of this. I don't give a [bleep]."

After Patrick qualified a disappointing 20th in Saturday's qualifications she retreated to her motorhome where she took a nap. Duno returned to her team transporter and did not back off her confrontational attack on Patrick.

"What happened is she [Patrick] came in a bad way with bad words and I'm not going to talk with somebody that comes in like that," Duno said. "If she wants to find my worst side, she is going to find it. She came in a very bad way. She has pushed guys before because she knows a guy can't push back. But with me, forget about it. If she wants to find my worst side she is going to find it. It's not good for her to find that."

That is tough talk from a tough driver who would start last in the 26-car field and finish 23rd in Sunday's race.

"She came to me and said she couldn't pass me," Duno said. "I said she was faster, she could pass me in any corner. Don't pretend I'm going to move when they come. I keep my line and try to do the same. I am not blocking. I'm here to race and I'm not blocking. This is my way.

"With me, forget it. I am very, very explosive if you find my bad side. I don't like drama, I don't like shows, and I don't like this situation. We are here to have a good time and have a good race. When she started on a road course, she was very slow. She wasn't good on road course. I am here for work. I'm not complaining about that."

Several hours after the incident, Patrick spoke about her confrontation with Duno.

"I just had a few issues with her out on the track and I wanted to clear it up a little bit," Patrick said. "The last one in particular I wanted to know if she saw me because it didn't seem that she did. I wanted to know what the situation was."

When asked if she expected a towel in the face, Patrick gave a long pause and said, "No."

"Ideally no one would have ever found out we did it, but at that point in time, it's kind of hard to locate people when you get away from the car," Patrick explained. "I stayed behind the wall and wanted to ask what happened. I did not go down pit lane. I just had a question. That was it.

"Unfortunately, things that happen involving me tend to evolve. It really wasn't a big deal. That's it."

Patrick finished 12th in Sunday's race and was happy to just go racing rather than talk about Duno.

As far as she is concerned, Patrick has said her last word to Duno on Saturday's incident.

"Nope, I didn't talk to her. I did a little interview for the top of the show [ABC race telecast] and said I went down to ask her if she knew I was there and that was it," Patrick said. "I've never spoke to her before and I didn't know what to expect."

The response she got was certainly unexpected.

NOT A HAPPY HOMECOMING FOR FORMER INDY 500 WINNERS

This year's AllState 400 at the Brickyard was supposed to be a triumphant return for two of the past three winners of the Indianapolis 500.

But for 2006 Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr. and 2007 winner Dario Franchitti, the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has given them little reason to celebrate a return to the scene of their greatest racing accomplishment.

Hornish has had a rather unspectacular rookie season for Penske Racing in the No. 77 Dodge Charger. Although he has shown flashes of potential, such as a solid run in the season-opening Daytona 500 and running second at Michigan in June before crashing near the end of the race, his season has been marked by low finishes and crashes.

When Hornish drove an IndyCar, he made difficult things on the track look easy. In NASCAR, Hornish makes easy things look difficult.

But the three-time IndyCar Series champion is determined to make it work in NASCAR as he returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his first race since the 2007 Indy 500.

"It took me a while before I felt like I could win races and championships over there, too," Hornish said. "And everything I did before I went to the IndyCar Series was in preparation to be an IndyCar driver. It was in preparation to be there, and then coming over here, I had probably 15 races of preparation to come over here and be a stock car driver. I was real happy with what I was able to do but if I knew at some point in time I was going to be here, you probably would have went a different road.

"You would have run late models and ASA, ARCA and Camping World and ran a couple of year of Nationwide in preparation to be here. And I felt if I had done that I probably would have been doing a little bit better at this point in time but that wasn't the road I took."

By the time Hornish and team owner Roger Penske made the decision to bolt IndyCar for NASCAR, the driver was already an established American racing star.

But that brilliant career has been tempered by his stock car struggles.

"The decision to come over here was made later on in my career," Hornish said. "I'm still learning and that's the tough thing is that it's going to take a little bit of time. These cars are so much different, the things that you can tune on them to make them handle, make them do what you want them to do is a lot different.

"I can't tell the guys the same thing that I did to the IndyCar to make that run faster. It just doesn't work."

At least Hornish will get a chance to compete in the Brickyard, unlike Franchitti, whose ride was shut down at the end of June by team owner Chip Ganassi when proper sponsorship for the No. 40 Dodge could not be secured.

That leaves the 2007 IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner running in selected Nationwide Series races while he attempts to determine his future as a race car driver.

"I don't know yet," Franchitti said at Chicagoland Speedway on July 10. "[I don't know what the options are going to look like until certainly after tomorrow. The phone's been ringing, which has been nice, from all kinds of different places. We'll see what happens.

"I was thinking about that the other day, and when I made the decision to leave IndyCar it was because I felt I had run my course. I didn't feel I was going to have that, I don't know what the right word, determination maybe to get back in the car again this year. I really felt it was time to do something else. Had I not come to NASCAR, I would have done something else apart from IndyCar. I loved my time and the championship. I really enjoyed it. Obviously last year was a great year, but it was time to do something different. This has been a bonus, really."

Franchitti has even reached out to talk to other Cup team owners in an effort to stay in stock cars but realizes he may ultimately move to sports car racing. But as far as he is concerned, his IndyCar days are over.

"We are starting to look around, starting to talk," Franchitti said. "But really nothing is going to happen until I speak to Chip and see what his position is, see what his plan is for the future and see if it's something that I'm interested in, then I can make a decision.

"I certainly owe Chip that much and then we'll go from there. I had so much luck last year in IndyCar that I really felt at times I couldn't do any wrong. Luck has a way of balancing out. I'll have to have a long, hard thought process about getting back in an Indy car because, like I say, I loved my time there. I really enjoyed it but I was ready at the end of last year to do something else.

"But never say never. I might decide that's something I want to do again but I really don't know right now. It would be a shame to waste everything that I've learned in six months and the progress that I've made."

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