FORT WORTH – In the days following the March 20 race at Auto Club Speedway, Danica Patrick was on vacation.
Relaxing on an island, she didn’t want to be bothered. Even by NASCAR.
“They’re reaching out to me to talk to me and I’m on vacation, and I’m like ‘I don’t want to answer this,’ ” Patrick said Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The message was similar to the one she received when Patrick learned NASCAR would fine her $50,000 and dock 25 points for intentionally slamming into the back of David Gilliland during the Nov. 1 race at Martinsville Speedway.
“The text goes like ‘Can you take a call at 1 p.m.?’ ” Patrick said.
On the opposite end of this call was a $20,000 fine, punishment for Patrick having approached the track after being wrecked by Kasey Kahne at Auto Club Speedway. In August 2014, NASCAR outlawed drivers exiting their cars before safety workers arrive after an incident.
After exiting her wrecked car, Patrick said the prospect of being fined never “entered my mind” as she approached the track to give “the universal WTF” sign to Kahne.
“Did I feel like I was in danger?” Patrick said. “Absolutely not. It’s my own body, I don’t want to put my body in danger at all. Then you start working into gray areas as to what’s too close and what’s not close. I get it. I get their position.”
NASCAR also fined Trevor Bayne and Jennifer Jo Cobb in the same week in 2015 for similar incidents, which remind Patrick of the “rowdy, rough and tough, boys have at it” image she associates with NASCAR.
“I understand NASCAR needs to do whatever it can to, again, protect their drivers … and making sure that we don’t put ourselves in harm’s way,” Patrick said. “I get that it is 2016. We can get smarter and better. There’s certain things that cross the line, and I guess that they deemed that I did it.”
The idea of being fined was first presented to Patrick after the race when her agent texted to ask if she would be.
“‘No, not that I know of,'” Patrick responded.
But a few days later, that familiar message came. The Fontana penalties weren’t announced until Thursday, a day later than normal because NASCAR officials said all of the affected parties couldn’t be reached.
Apparently, one of them was Patrick, who initially had ignored the call while lounging in paradise. Her advice to NASCAR the next time? Just issue the fine and tell me later.
“‘Oh, now I get it,'” Patrick said she thought at the time. “Pretty much, my answer from now on will just be ‘Just give me the fine.’
“I fought the good fight and I didn’t win.”