Going into the wall at Phoenix on Sunday was scary enough for Danica Patrick, but she discovered Thursday night being a spectator can be treacherous as well.
Patrick was watching the World of Outlaws at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track when a rock kicked up by one of the sprint cars hit her in the head, sending her to the ground.
“I feel like this is really sore,” Patrick said Friday. “It hit me straight in the head. Good thing I had a hat on, or I’m feeling like there would’ve been blood.”
In Phoenix, she blew a tire that shot her No. 10 Chevrolet into the wall, but Patrick wasn’t seriously injured.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took two races off last season because of concussions, and Patrick said she was checked out after the crash at Phoenix.
Patrick said she had a headache Sunday night and a sore neck the following day, but otherwise was OK.
“The cars are safer than they’ve ever been, and the tracks are,” Patrick said. “I said after last weekend that I’m glad I didn’t race in the era of the lack of SAFER barriers out there because I don’t know what it’s like without them.”
She will be in the field for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, but will start 37th based on points from last season and this year.
A reporter explained to Patrick, a Sprint Cup rookie, how the field is set.
“I don’t know how the hell is works,” Patrick said. “I am so confused. I don’t know about you guys. I’m sure this is not the best talking point for anybody who is trying to inform me or who has.”
■\u2002DOWN IN THE DIRT — The news of NASCAR’s decision to fine Denny Hamlin $25,000 for criticizing the new Generation-6 car was still being talked about a day later.
Hamlin said he would appeal, and Jeff Gordon was asked about what he thought of his fellow driver fighting back.
“We are in Vegas, so we can try to count the odds of when the apology (from Hamlin) is going to be coming and when the ‘We are all in this together to grow this sport’ tweet is going to be coming,” Gordon said. “Listen, I think it’s been an interesting story for somebody to challenge that authority.
“That is fine, but at the end of the day, I know whose sandbox I’m playing in. I like the sandbox. I like to play in it, and I want to have the best opportunity to have the most fun in that sandbox. Sometimes, while you don’t always like it, you have to bite your tongue and just go out there and race.”
Gordon, though, said NASCAR might have brought attention to a criticism of the new car that mostly was ignored and might have otherwise been forgotten.
“I think we’re all watching and learning as things unfold, and we do know that NASCAR is sensitive to some things,” Jimmie Johnson said. “That line is becoming more defined right now as to where that is and what type of criticism is allowed and what is not.”
■\u2002TOOL TIME — The Sprint Cup race at LVMS will continue to be the Kobalt Tools 400 for the foreseeable future.
The speedway agreed to a multiyear extension with Lowe’s Companies, which owns Kobalt Tools. The length of the extension wasn’t announced.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.