Danica Patrick says she ‘had a moment’ when she lectured fans at Pocono

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Danica Patrick admits the prudent thing would have been to “just keep walking” when she was booed by fans last weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Instead, Patrick approached those fans and lectured them, telling them “I have feelings.’’

Patrick also told the fans: “My job is to not sign autographs, right? My job is to drive the car and tell the crew chief what is going on. I don’t appreciate the boos. It hurts my feelings.’’

While in Boston on Wednesday to promote next month’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Patrick discussed what happened at Pocono.

She said she “had a moment,’’ according to The Associated Press.

“Every now and again they just catch you in a moment, and I had a moment,” she said.

The episode started when Patrick was walking from pit road to the garage after qualifying at Pocono. Fans were cordoned on both sides to allow teams to pass by. An adult male fan slipped through and nearly reached Patrick before a security guard physically restrained the individual. The fan appeared to be holding something to sign.

Patrick turned to see what happened and kept walking. A few fans booed her and that’s when she turned and walked toward those fans.

She said Wednesday she didn’t sign for that man stopped by security because she “didn’t feel it was right to honor that person for disrespecting the security guard.”

Patrick’s comment to the fans that it’s not her job to sign autographs has ignited a debate among NASCAR drivers on if it is their job.

Kevin Harvick, a teammate to Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing, said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours” this week that: “I feel like signing autographs is 100 (percent) a part of my job description. It’s just something that you should do.

“I feel like the fans are a big part of what we do. For me, it’s important to support the fan base and the people that we have to give them what they want. I used to be one of those guys …  ‘Dang it, I don’t want to stop and sign autographs,’ or ‘I don’t want to do the autograph session.’ … I believe signing autographs is definitely a part of what you do and a responsibility of every driver in that garage.’’

Ryan Blaney, who scored his first career Cup win last weekend at Pocono, addressed the issue on his podcast “The Glass Case of Emotion” on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s part of our job to sign autographs, I think it’s something that we should do,’’ Blaney said. “I like to do it a lot. If you’re worried about getting to your car, go early to where you have 10 minutes to stop and sign for fans. I mainly try to sign for kids. That’s my priority.’’

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also talked about the issue on his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, this week.

“I hate it for Danica because it paints her in a bad light, but she brought it on herself,’’ Earnhardt said. “You never know when a camera’s rolling, whose watching. It’s certainly true in that case.”

Earnhardt said signing autographs can help him if he’s frustrated with his performance.

“The thing is I have found that what makes me feel better is actually going and signing autographs because the fans talk to you and go ‘I saw your qualifying, I saw it wasn’t very good. No problem, you’re going to get them tomorrow,’” Earnhardt said.

“That’s all you really want to hear, from whoever is going to tell you that. You’re feeling like crap, you’re disappointed. … Actually going to talk to the fans and hearing their reinforcement, their positive reinforcement is good for me. I kind of seek that out in those moments because I know once I go through that process of signing some autographs, talking and interacting, you kind of get your priorities readjusted, what’s important.’’

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Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: