(Originally posted by Paul to Planet-IRL.com.)
Though they have had their share of run-ins since arriving in the IZOD IndyCar Series, both 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon and 2005 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick say there are no lingering issues and that neither driver has held a grudge towards the other. That’s good because these rivals will once again have adjacent pit stalls in this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
The rivalry between Dan and Danica goes back to the moment Danica Patrick burst onto the scene at the 2005 Indianapolis 500. Though Wheldon enjoyed the spoils of victory in 2005, it was Danica that became the media sensation and grabbed many of the headlines for weeks to come. After Danica appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated following the race, Dan Wheldon showed up at Texas Motor Speedway wearing a shirt proclaiming that he had actually won the race. Tempers flared a year later at Milwaukee when Danica accused Dan of cutting her off and sending her sliding through the grass. Patrick confronted Wheldon on pit road following the race, and the arm-grab-seen-‘round-the-world played on SportsCenter and other news outlets for days afterward.
The latest tiff between the drivers came at the 2009 IndyCar Season Finale at Homestead Miami Speedway when a late-race pit collision eliminated both drivers from competition. Although they have different views on what transpired to cause the accident, both agree that there was no malicious intent for Wheldon to take Danica out of the race.
- Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon tangle at Homestead Miami Speedway in 2010 (Photo by Paul Dalbey, Planet-IRL.com).
Both drivers say they have never had a problem with the other, but nobody can deny that they seem to find their way towards each other on the track and that many of their career highlights involve each other. With many of the pit stops at Indianapolis occurring under yellow flag conditions when the narrow pit lane is fully congested, it will be critical that Patrick and Wheldon give each other adequate clearance and space both entering and exiting their pit stalls. Given the difficulties of Andretti Autosport this month, an unfortunate pit incident would just seem to be the icing on the cake, but with a little concentration and awareness, we can hope that Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick will be able to avoid each other during the race, at least on pit road.