Stewart-Haas driver welcomes new teammate, accepts blame for Daytona wreck
LOUDON, N.H. – In a wide-ranging interview Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick took the blame for last weekend’s last-lap wreck at Daytona International Speedway, welcomed a new teammate, learned she will make history at the track and told reporters that she is regularly invited to pose nude in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body” Issue, but always demurs and declines.
At least for now.
“I just never felt like that was something I needed or wanted to do,’’ Patrick said of the magazine opportunity. “A lot of the stuff that I’ve done that has been scantily clad has all been swimsuit stuff. I was also asked to do the painted section (of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue) … I asked one of my most liberal friends if I should do it and she was like, ‘um, that’s naked right?’
“Would I feel comfortable? I’m sure it’d be a little bit borderline. There’s a difference to me between going to the beach and wearing a swimming suit and going to the beach and wearing nothing or paint. That’s just pushing the limit a little bit.’’
But, Patrick added, “I’m not saying there will never be a day. When I speak to them, and they ask me each time, I say, ‘Don’t stop asking. I don’t know. I might change my mind one year.’
“It might be something that parallels something else I’m doing or where I’m at or how I’m feeling. But just not right now.’’
The Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender was in good spirits tackling a broad array of topics.
After re-watching video of the final lap multi-car accident at Daytona, she decided that she did trigger the incident while trying a final push through the field on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bumper.
“I went back to my bus and watched it, and I was like, ‘I did follow the 88 (Earnhardt) and that is why I came down.’ So I was just not aware enough of my surroundings, not aware enough that we were turning down the track in the tri-oval that much. …’’ said Patrick, who finished 14th -- one of her better showings on the year.
“So I went and told David (Gilliland) I was sorry, and I’m really sorry. I not only feel bad that it started the accident, but I lost five spots doing it. By no means was it me trying to be tough or move. I had enough momentum to finish ninth.
“But it was my fault. I’m just trying to explain to you how little I thought I did, but when you’re running 200 miles an hour, it doesn’t take much.’’
Patrick will have a completely different set of challenges making her Sprint Cup debut on the tough 1-mile oval. She rolls off 32nd on the grid Sunday and was surprised to learn of the historic footnote of becoming the first woman to compete at NASCAR’s highest level here.
“These are not things I’m aware of,’’ Patrick said. “It seems like an odd stat. But being the first to do things is something that’s happened quite a few times but nothing that I keep track of.
“And on my quest as a driver to be the best driver as possible and as fast as possible and run really well, I guess these are just things that happen.’’
She also seemed genuinely happy at Friday morning’s announcement that Kevin Harvick will be her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate beginning in 2014. Like so many, she had heard the rumors for a long while.
“More than anything, it’s just nice to be able to get planning and get moving and have everybody moving in that direction,’’ Patrick said. “He’s a really good guy. He’s helped me from the beginning when I was running Nationwide. I’m really excited about him coming over and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.’’
As the interview session was closing out, Patrick talked about her off-week plans -- attending the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles next Wednesday and an upcoming wedding. Not hers to boyfriend and fellow rookie candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“Somebody else’s wedding,’’ Patrick said grinning. “No, I didn’t just drop a big bomb right there.’’