TMS gets high mileage from Dan-Dan­ica feud

The Dallas Morning News - - SPORTSDAY - RICHARD DURRETT rdur­[email protected]­las­news.com

IRV­ING — Texas Mo­tor Speed­way pres­i­dent Ed­die Gos­sage con­sid­ers pro­mo­tion an art form. But it doesn’t take a Michelan­gelo to turn last week­end’s pos­trace spat in­volv­ing Dan­ica Pa­trick and Dan Whel­don into a ticket-sell­ing ma­chine.

“It’s paint by num­bers,” Gos­sage said.

And he’s taken long, broad strokes with his brush ever since Pa­trick stormed up to Whel­don on pit road af­ter Sun­day’s race at the Mil­wau­kee Mile. Gos­sage has put ad­ver­tise­ments in this news­pa­per billing Satur­day’s Bom­bardier Lear­jet 550k as the “rum­ble at the speed­way.” He sent e-mails to sea-

son-ticket hold­ers and other fans hop­ing to en­tice them to buy more tick­ets. The “bout” is all he talks about. Who doesn’t love a good fight? Of course, the only punches thrown by Pa­trick or Whel­don were ver­bal ones. But each landed a few. Whel­don said Pa­trick was “just feel­ing the pres­sure of not win­ning races.” Pa­trick, who gave Whel­don a slight push but wasn’t fined this week by the IRL, said she told Whel­don, “If you don’t think I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber, you’re crazy.”

Pa­trick was an­gry be­cause she en­tered Turn 4 three-wide on the 88th lap and was try­ing to pass Whel­don when he came to­ward the inside and clipped her. Pa­trick spun into the grass and bent her sus­pen­sion, which cost her time in the pits for re­pairs. She fin­ished eighth and wasn’t in con­tention for the win af­ter that.

Whel­don’s car didn’t have any dam­age, and he placed third. Pa­trick thought Whel­don should have held his line. Whel­don said that the cars weren’t three-wide by the time he slid down the track and that Pa­trick had room to the inside and should have moved there.

Both driv­ers were in North Texas on Wed­nes­day, and nei­ther was back­ing down.

What both­ered Whel­don the most was Pa­trick’s grab­bing his arm as he tried to walk away.

“She put me in an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion,” Whel­don said by phone on his way to an au­to­graph ses­sion. “I thought she was tak­ing ad­van­tage of her gen­der. I lost a lit­tle bit of re­spect for her.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press quoted Whel­don as say­ing that Pa­trick acted “like a spoiled brat” and that she “kept grab­bing on me like a dog that wanted to bite my an­kles.”

Pa­trick was at an Irv­ing Ra­dioShack on Wed­nes­day sign­ing au­to­graphs and chat­ting with fans as part of a spon­sor­ship ap­pear­ance for Mo­torola. She said that she wasn’t go­ing to for­get what hap­pened with Whel­don, but that she wasn’t hold­ing any grudges, ei­ther. She said she wasn’t go­ing to let Whel­don turn his back on her un­til she fin­ished speak­ing her mind.

“I don’t re­gret what I did,” Pa­trick said. “I said what I felt. Some­thing needed to be said, and I said it.”

The driv­ers haven’t spo­ken to each other since and don’t plan on do­ing so be­fore Satur­day’s race. But both said their jobs are to run smart races and not worry about each other. Whel­don and Pa­trick didn’t have any prob­lems with Gos­sage’s us­ing the ex­change to in­crease fan in­ter­est.

“Ev­ery driver likes fans in the seats, so if this helps, then that’s fine,” Whel­don said.

One fan in Irv­ing had Pa­trick sign a box­ing glove Wed­nes­day. She laughed and told the fan to get Whel­don to sign it, too.

The whole ex­change is great for the IndyCar Se­ries. At a time when the hub­bub of the Indy 500 has died down, the sport’s most vis­i­ble driver has stirred things up again.

But it’s prob­a­bly a one-week sideshow. She could make a more last­ing im­pact if she won a race. She knows the pres­sure is mount- ing to do so. It’s been more than two years since her cel­e­brated fourth-place show­ing at the Indy 500. Coin­ci­den­tally, Whel­don won that race in 2005, prompt­ing a Texas fan to give him a T-shirt that read: “I Ac­tu­ally Won the Indy 500.”

Pa­trick hasn’t fin­ished bet­ter than fourth since then. And any ex­cuses about her equip­ment not be­ing good enough went away when she joined An­dretti Green Rac­ing — one of the big-three teams — this sea­son. All three of her team­mates have ex­pe­ri­enced the thrill of vic­tory. Dario Fran­chitti won the Indy 500, Tony Kanaan has won two of the sea­son’s first six races and Marco An­dretti won once last sea­son.

“I know that I can win,” Pa­trick said. “I’ve had my best races lately. I’m not wait­ing for things to hap­pen, I’m mak­ing them hap­pen. I think that’s all stuff that starts to hap­pen when the win is get­ting closer.”

Gos­sage said he wants that win to come Satur­day night. Can you imag­ine the kind of pic­ture he could paint if Pa­trick hoists the win­ner’s tro­phy?

BRIAN SPUR­LOCK/US Presswire

Dan­ica Pa­trick con­fronted Dan Whel­don on Sun­day af­ter his car clipped hers at the Mil­wau­kee Mile.

DAR­RON CUM­MINGS/As­so­ci­ated Press

Dan Whel­don found him­self in “an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion” when Dan­ica Pa­trick grabbed his arm dur­ing their re­cent quarrel. “I thought she was tak­ing ad­van­tage of her gen­der,” he said.

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