On April 26, 1981, Morgan Shepherd earned his first Winston Cup victory at Martinsville Speedway.
On March 25, 1982 Danica Patrick was born.
Shepherd has 842 starts across NASCAR's three top series. Patrick has precisely four starts, all in the Nationwide Series this year.
This past Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway their paths would cross with sparks, and one fiery temper, flying. On Lap Eight, what could best be described as a NASCAR flat track racing incident sent Patrick into the outside retaining wall from a tap from Shepherd.
Immediately, that intense fury which resides in Patrick came bursting to the surface, accusing Shepherd of taking her out. While fuming on pit road, she asked her crew chief Tony Eury, Jr, "Don't you get some kind of penalty for that or something?"
No Danica, you do not receive a penalty for what is clearly an accident.
Instead she decided to pay Shepherd back under caution and again after the race. If boys will be boys, girls will be girls right?
Except this highlights one of the major problems of Patrick's assimilation into NASCAR, a lack of knowledge and respect. Obviously, she was oblivious to the fact of who Shepherd is. One of the most liked drivers in the NASCAR garage area since before she was born, Shepherd treats his cars almost as if they are a newborn.
And for a team on a shoestring budget, there's no reason why he should not. To suggest that the 68-year-old driver blatantly took her out is beyond ludicrous and quite frankly may even deserve an apology of sorts.
Frustration is an inevitable part of the transition for Patrick. If Juan Pablo Montoya, victor of the Indianapolis 500 and the Grand Prix of Monaco, struggled during his first races, then it is apparent that a stock car is not as easy to wheel as it may seem.
What makes Patrick's situation even more distressing is her lack of knowledge of the sport. Calling for a penalty after an incident like that? Why would that even be warranted?
During her introduction to stock car racing at Daytona, Patrick expressed surprise over how close the cars can run to one another. She was quoted as saying she did not realize you could get closer than two or three car lengths behind the car in front of you.
Really? Even the most casual fan is well aware of the close drafting and bumping that occurs at Daytona and Talladega.
Some justify this by stating that not all drivers are aware of all the intricacies of the different disciplines of motorsports. If this was the FIA World Rally Championships, I could understand that. NASCAR is, by far, the most well-watched form of motorsports in the country. There is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to this.
NASCAR welcomes new drivers with open and warm arms. It is a family in the most literal sense, which is a big reason for its appeal. Those arms can only take so many tantrums, lack of knowledge, and accusations for so long.
Patrick needs to learn that it is not the fault of the car, or the fault of other drivers, or the fault that the angle of the sun in the sky changed for the reason why she is struggling. Montoya, Hornish, and Franchitti all took their struggles in stride. Why can't Patrick do the same?
Until she learns this fact, she will continue to struggle and will begin to wear out her welcome in the sport. You are not entitled to anything simply because your name is Danica Patrick.
Perhaps this is what happens when a big fish from a small pond finds herself in the ocean.
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