Danica Patrick's Wreck at Phoenix Could Have Happened to Anyone
Danica Patrick's wreck in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway was unquestionably a hard hit—well, actually, two hits.
First, the right front tire blew out on Patrick's Chevrolet, sending her nearly head-on into the outside retaining wall before bouncing off and then getting hit again on the driver's side by David Ragan.
Interestingly, it was Ragan's hit that seemed the harder of the two, at least from a damage standpoint, as much of the left side of Patrick's No. 10 was peeled away as if a four-wheeled can opener had done the work.
For Patrick, the wreck on Lap 184 of the 310-lap event was an early end to what had been a miserable weekend that ended with a 39th-place finish—the complete opposite of her outstanding run the week before at Daytona.
Of course, the critics almost immediately came out in droves, seemingly as quickly as it took for Patrick to climb out of her demolished race car. Look at some of the comments already here on Bleacher Report and other sites.
The "We told you so" crowd appeared to be in its glory because Patrick's wreck—at least in their minds—was positive proof that Daytona was a fluke and that Phoenix was the first of many more similar incidents to come.
So tell me, critics, how was Patrick's wreck any different than the earlier crash involving her Stewart Haas Racing teammate, Ryan Newman?
It was the same problem—a blown right front tire.
It was the same end result—crash into the wall, the race day done prematurely.
And yet Newman's wreck raised few, if any, eyebrows.
But Patrick's wreck was major news only seconds after it happened.
Sorry, critics, but Patrick's crash could have happened to anyone. It had no bearing on the fact she's female, or that this is her first full season in Sprint Cup racing.
Rather, Patrick battled an ill-handling race car all weekend at Phoenix, starting with unloading, practice and qualifying 40th, and ending with a race performance that was subpar, for sure.
But it was not her fault. No way, no how. How many other drivers over the years have lost a tire on the gritty racing surface in the middle of the Arizona desert and ultimately wrecked out?
At the time of the wreck, Patrick was running 26th, was running on the lead lap and had slowly been making progress. If the wreck had not happened and if she had been able to continue her advancement, she likely would have wound up with at least a top-20, if not top-15, finish.
Although PIR is a relatively flat one-mile oval, it is one of the trickier race tracks on the Cup circuit.
There's the blinding sun at times that drivers must contend with as they head down the front stretch and into Turn 1.
There's the unique dogleg coming out of Turn 2.
Overall, the racing surface is one of the slipperiest in the sport. And even though the track was repaved in 2011, it already is starting to wear because of the arid desert area it's located in, just west of Phoenix.
Frankly, PIR's pavement has been, is and likely always will be brutal on tires. That's why I'm not surprised at the way Patrick and Newman wrecked.
And where did Goodyear have two tire tests in the last six months? PIR, that's where, and in hopes of avoiding what played out Sunday.
But I'm not blaming Goodyear. It gave drivers the best tire it could, but the racing surface is that abrasive. Short of bulletproof rubber, there's not much more that the tire company could do.
Other drivers also hit the outside wall at PIR during the race, including David Gilliland, Kasey Kahne, Ken Schrader and Kyle Busch—either because of tire issues or just getting out of the groove.
Yet Patrick is the only one that got more attention than was warranted or deserved.
Sure, she was bound to have a bad race early this season. She probably would be the first to say she couldn't keep up the pace she maintained at Daytona.
So that bad race came Sunday. Big deal. Like I said, it could have happened to anyone. If Carl Edwards had lost a tire and wrecked instead of winning, would there have been the resulting fallout?
Nope, not at all.
Now that Sunday is out of the way, can we please proceed instead of thinking what we saw Sunday will be the norm out of Patrick for much of the rest of the season?
And what if she bounces back to win next Sunday at Las Vegas?
What will the critics have to say then?
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski.
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