Danica Patrick Booed, Struggles in Qualifying at Indianapolis
Her sixth attempt to start the Indianapolis 500 went terribly awry -- leaving the typically pro-Patrick Indianapolis crowd booing IndyCar's most popular driver after a bad start to the 2010 season was compounded by a rough first week at the Brickyard.
Patrick, in her familiar lime green and black GoDaddy.com No. 7, qualified 23rd with a four-lap average of 224.217 mph on Saturday's Pole Day at IMS, just inside the first qualification day's cut-off point of 24th for drivers to be locked into the field for the 94th running of the 500. Helio Castroneves later won his second straight pole.
"I was shaking for minutes after I got out of the car," Patrick said after her sole qualification attempt Saturday. "I know a lot of people are saying they're loose, and I'm sure they are for sure, but this is such an uncomfortable imbalance."
The loose race car -- the rear of the car won't grip the track, producing the sensation that the car wants to spin out -- prompted Patrick to tell the crowd how frustrated she was during an interview on the track's public address system.
"I wasn't flat out the last two laps and I was scared to death flat on the first two," Patrick said, her words booming out to the sizable Pole Day crowd around the 2.5-mile track. "I've never been bad here before. I've never been outside the top 10 on a finish or qualifying, so, it's not my fault. The car is not good."
The crowd likely perceived that Patrick seemed to be blaming someone else, and responded with very audible boos. The criticism seemed to bother Patrick, as she brought up the incident without being asked during her post-qualifying press conference.
"Shoot! I say one confident thing out there that it's not me, and everybody boos me," Patrick said after being asked about the confidence in her race car. "I'm blown away. These people, I mean, I don't know, maybe they all booed me before. I would think that some of them have probably cheered for me before, and I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago."
To back that up, Patrick remembered back to a frightening moment she had in the first corner of her first-ever qualifying lap at IMS in 2005.
"I don't know if those people were here five years ago, but I got loose in (turn) one and caught it and kept my foot down," said Patrick, who finished third last year. "I can drive a loose car, but this is beyond."
For her part, Patrick made sure to point out that the problems her car is facing isn't due to a lack of effort on the part of her team.
"My car, that my mechanics took tons of time to make sure it fit perfectly, was fast and slick and no drag," Patrick said. "It's just that the setup's not there, and I feel bad for them because it's a good car."
Patrick's teammate, Tony Kanaan, spun during his qualifying attempt and hit the wall in turn two, even after he was used to help the Andretti operation earlier in the week to find a baseline setup for each car by getting in them one-by-one during practice.
"I don't like to see Tony spin and hit the wall, but he did just spin," Patrick said. "Marco (Andretti) is loose and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and John (Andretti) are a littler slower. They don't feel like they have the speed, but they're still feeling some of the same things."
"We're just generally struggling. If I had the answer, we'd do it."