It was barely a year ago at this same track, for this same exact race under the same circumstances that Andretti Autosport driver Danica Patrick, was blasting her team for an ill handling car and slow qualifying speeds for the IZOD IndyCar series biggest race of the season.
Patrick, who was close to tears after qualifying 23rd for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 , was heard over the public-address system saying that, “This is the worst car I’ve ever had. There’s no stability or grip. It’s just scary, really scary…It’s awful, really awful. I think I’m still shaking.”
Patrick went on to say that, “I wasn’t flat out the last two laps and I was scared to death flat on the first two. I’ve never been bad here before. I’ve never been outside the top 10 on a finish or qualifying, so, it’s not my fault. The car is not good.”
Right after her comments were broadcast, the fans began expressing their disapproval by booing her because of her displeasure with the team, even though the team agreed with her evaluation that she wasn’t able to maximize the car’s speed because of how loose it was in the corners.
Tom Anderson, Andretti Autosport’s senior vice president for racing operations “You take one on the chin, but maybe you had it coming this time.” Anderson finished with, “All you can do is turn the other cheek and just get back to work.”
One year later and once again Andretti Autosport had their problems finding the speed they needed to qualify up front, while Patrick again became the big story sitting on pit road waiting to qualify her GoDaddy.com Honda powered IndyCar. Patrick was set to qualify second on the day, but was not allowed on the track when her car failed tech inspection, and she was sent to the back of the line once the necessary repairs were made to the rear of the car.
To make matters worse once the car passed inspection, Patrick’s nerves would once again be tested when the rains came before she was about to make her qualifying run. Patrick was lined up behind Paul Tracy who only just finished qualifying, when the rains began as he was coming out of turn three heading into turn four.
With a little over two and half hours left before the gun would go off to end the qualifying session, Patrick sat in her car underneath an umbrella with a blank stare on her face watching the rain wash away her hopes in a matter of seconds.
Unlike last season when Patrick blasted her team for an ill handling car and for the failed tech inspection earlier in the day, Patrick kept her composure knowing that her team was no longer in control over the current situation.
As the rain continued to fall, Patrick’s chances of qualifying for the 100th running of the Great American Race were now in the hands of Mother Nature. All Patrick could do was look on as now time was of the essence, and frustration had to be running through her mind knowing she might not be on the starting grid for her seventh Indianapolis 500 start.
“This place is like a person — it reads you when you are nervous or not confident and it reads you when you are,” said Patrick. Patrick also added that, “It throws a lot at you, but that’s why it’s the greatest racetrack in the world. You’d think after seven years here I’d be better off, but this week was my worst ever.”
With an hour and half left for the final set of drivers to qualify, the rains stopped and the track was dried which also ended the emotional rollercoaster ride Patrick was experiencing at the hands of Mother Nature.
Patrick would eventually qualify 26th with an average speed of 224.861 mph, and said after exiting her car, “I feel like getting a drink, that’s how I feel right now.” Patrick was still not happy with her qualifying efforts when she said, “I am mad because I really thought we had a fast car.”
She also added that, “I’m relieved because I’m in the race. I’m frustrated with some of the process that happened and the things that happened. I’m somewhere between angry and happy,” which is a lot better than her comments last year when she threw her team under the bus.