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.’’