Denny Hamlin, Danica Patrick got over 2015 Daytona spat quickly


The only thing you probably remember about the 2015 Daytona 500 qualifying races is what happened after the second race on pit road.

After being involved in a five-car accident on Lap 58 of the 64-lap race, Danica Patrick quickly found Denny Hamlin to confront him, believing Hamlin had gotten her loose, resulting in the wreck.

But a year later, both Hamlin and Patrick said they got over the incident quickly and still remain friends. It helps when they were motorhome neighbors that week.

“I’m pretty sure we were laughing that night afterwards,” Patrick said during Daytona 500 Media Day this week. “Our buses are parked next to each other. Maybe it was even the next day.”

Hamlin said they are back to being “one big happy family” and he understands why Patrick was upset with him in the first moments after the end of the qualifying race.

“Looking back on it was funny how it all worked out,” Hamlin said earlier this week. “I think that’s where her frustration came from the most. Her buddy on and off the track wrecked her a couple times. Anytime you are superspeedway racing, we’re messing around with inches here and when you feel like it’s your friend that wrecked you, you get a little bit more upset.”

But no one was upset during the offseason. Both Patrick and Hamlin were part of a group that went on a cruise to the caribbean.

“We chartered a boat to the Exuma and all through the Bahamas and did some island hopping – it was a lot of fun,” Hamlin said. “It wasn’t as much fun for me because I thought I’d be better physically than I was at the time (due to ACL surgery), though I had to sit on the boat a lot while the group went out and did a lot of cool activities.”

Though fence-mending wasn’t necessary, Patrick said the aftermath of their pit road talk last year provided for an interesting observation of their friendship from someone very close to Hamlin.

“I think I heard his girlfriend say, ‘Why don’t you talk with me like that? Why don’t you argue with me like that?'” Patrick said. “Because he was very understanding with me, too. But I was definitely frustrated.”

Patrick said the entire accident was a lesson she needed to learn as far as how she handles entering corners in plate races.

“My ask going into this year was that the speedway cars were more stable,” Patrick said. “They had more rear grip. That way I can be more on the throttle. I’m not lifting for any reason getting into the corner, and I can be as aggressive as I need to be. That keeps you away from the car behind you, but it also puts you in a better position if you do get hit to hopefully save it a little bit easier, or just not be in that position.”