Danica Patrick goes to bat for boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse.
According to a story by Jordan Bianchi on SBNation.com, Danica Patrick confronted NASCAR president Mike Helton about the qualifying procedures at Talladega last weekend that led to her boyfriend and motorhome-mate, Roush-Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse, to miss the race.
Stenhouse, as you will recall, was the highest-profile driver to lose out, since some major teams had to use up all the provisionals, with Tony Stewart having to take a the Past Champions Provisional, something Terry Labonte was counting on using in this, his last race ever.
But part-timer Labonte qualified, Stewart didn’t. Stenhouse never got his Ford on the track in the time allotted to get a clean lap, so he went home. Literally.
“I was really pissed off after qualifying,” Patrick said Friday at Martinsville Speedway, according to SBNation.com. “I went to the NASCAR hauler and I said, 'What the [expletive] is this? Is that what we were trying to accomplish?'
“Part of it was because it was Ricky, and part of it was because that could have just as easily been me. I know how important those races are to me and my team, but also my sponsors and the people who invest in those events, especially the big ones at the speedways, but all of them. ... I was fighting for not having someone that wasn't deserving being in that situation.” Wonder if she would have stormed the NASCAR castle had it been, say, David Ragan that got sent home?
Clearly, what Patrick – who did make the race, and even led briefly – was lobbying for was a “Stupidity Provisional,” to be used when a driver, through no fault of anyone but himself and his team, misses a race.
And, according to the SBNation.com story, leaves to go home and ride his tractor. Stenhouse "wanted to go home,” Patrick said. “As much as a girlfriend, I wanted him to stay and be there, I was like 'I get it, if you want to go home, go home. I get it.' He wanted to ride the tractor all day and not even watch the race, which I wouldn't want to watch either if I was in that scenario, so I really understood where he was coming from.”
Patrick said she was lobbying not so much for Stenhouse, but for any driver in his situation who is sent home, apparently regardless of the reason.
“I just hope that no one undeserving is ever in that scenario in the future,” she said. “Hopefully NASCAR does something that it doesn't happen.”
That what doesn’t happen, exactly? Doesn't someone have to go home when you have too many cars? Yes, Stenhouse had started 68 straight races, but in my book -- an admittedly tattered volume from the olden days – that doesn’t mean to me that he is entitled to start every race, no matter what. In my book, the 43 fastest cars qualify, and everybody else watches. I don’t care if Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has to sit out a race: They should have gone faster. To please their disappointed fans, they are welcome to sit in the parking lot and sign autographs for four hours.
Bizzare, no argument there
No question, the Talladega qualifying format was bizarre, but it was also the first time I’ve really paid attention to NASCAR qualifying in a long time. There was something actually on the line. Stenhouse got caught standing when the tune ended in the weird game of NASCAR Musical Qualifying Chairs.
“[NASCAR] didn't give me a solution, but I don't blame them,” Patrick told SBNation.com. “You really don't want to argue with Mr. Helton.”
No, you don’t. But you did, Danica, and perhaps we now know who wears the fire suit in that family.