NASCAR driver Danica Patrick made a tough season tougher when video of her calling out – complete with the “f” word – some fans who had booed her went viral over the weekend.
Patrick, whose words stirred up fans and media, offered her side of the incident for the first time Wednesday. But Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt suggests that Patrick should see talking with fans while signing autographs as a way to move beyond her own frustrating moments.
According to reports, Patrick was walking past a group of fans at Pocono Raceway last week on her way to consult her crew chief when a security guard stopped them from getting autographs.
That led to boos and Patrick turned around to confront them.
In the video, Patrick can be heard telling the fans that “I’m a f------ person. ... I have feelings. When you boo me, it hurts my feelings.”
‘... WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR’
Earnhardt, on his weekly podcast, offered empathy and didn’t criticize Patrick. But he also explained that on down days, mingling with fans can make a driver move beyond their frustrations.
“[Danica has] had a tough year. She’s under tons of pressure ... I can completely relate to where she is mentally,” Earnhardt said. “But for me, going and actually talking to the fans and kind of hearing their positive reinforcement is good for me.
“So I kind of seek that out in those moments ’cause 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. They tell you what you need to hear. ‘Get over this. Tomorrow’s another day.’”
Dwelling on problems at the track only makes them worse, Earnhardt said. Offering further insight, the driver related how he sees his own encounters with celebrities.
“I like to take pictures. Even today, if I see a celebrity, I really kinda want a picture with them, so I can post it on my social media,” Earnhardt explained.
“When I meet a famous person, I just want to walk away feeling like, ‘Man, I’m glad I pull for that guy,’ or ‘Man, it was cool to meet him.’ You just don’t want to be disappointed by the way they act.”
A few seconds may be all it takes to make a fan’s day.
“And it can be quick and small. ... I don’t think people or myself have to have five minutes or an hour of your time, but just don’t be an a------ or disappoint.”
‘I HAD A MOMENT’
Wednesday in Boston, Patrick spoke about the incident at Pocono Raceway. Patrick knows that she should have just kept walking.
“But every now and again they just catch you in a moment, and I had a moment,” Patrick said, according to the Associated Press.
Patrick also offered an explanation as to why she didn’t want to sign autographs for one fan – she said she had seen him go through a security cordon.
It “didn’t feel it was right to honor that person for disrespecting the security guard and trying to get past him by signing his stuff,” Patrick said. “So I was put in this awkward situation.”
Wednesday, there were no awkward moments. Patrick shook or slapped every hand that was held out to her, and signed dozens of autographs.
She also has no plans to retire, despite her outside projects that include a recent fitness book. Patrick said she’d like to continue driving when her contract with Stewart-Haas Racing expires at the end of the year.
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WHAT DANICA SAID
Key quotes from Danica Patrick’s encounter with fans Friday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania:
“Since I’m old, instead of taking the booing, what I want to tell you is like, I’m doing the very best I can. If you’re a real fan, you know that I’m not just like…my job is not to sign autographs, right? My job is to drive a car and to tell the crew chief what’s going on.
“I don’t appreciate the booing. It hurts my feelings. I’m a [expletive] person, you know what I mean? I’m a person, too. I have feelings. When you boo me, it hurts my feelings. Okay? Please just be supportive fans. I’ll do everything I can.”