Before NASCAR Sprint Cup practice began at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, Danica Patrick visited David Gilliland at his transporter to discuss their differences.
Patrick wanted to set the record straight with her fellow competitor regarding how she felt he was racing her last week. Over her radio at Kansas Speedway, Patrick said, “He tries to take me out every time.”
After the race, Gilliland delivered the message through his public relations representative, “shut up and drive.”
Gilliland didn’t take kindly to the texts of concern from his wife and 13-year-old son, who heard Patrick’s comments on the FOX broadcast. “Tell his spotter that I’m coming after him if he does it again. In fact I might just do it right now.”
Patrick acknowledged on Friday morning that she “was mad.” She believes there’s been a recurring pattern with Gilliland since the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway last May.
“I’ve felt like he drives very aggressively against me from Darlington last year on,” Patrick said. “There was just a lot more of it last weekend, and I was frustrated. But, I think in general it was a frustrating race, and that was just one of the elements.”
Gilliland believes that mid-pack racing is just naturally aggressive as drivers are “scratching and clawing for every position back there.” And considering that her No. 10 GoDaddy.com car was involved in an earlier altercation, along with the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets of her and her teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman this season, it just added to Patrick’s frustration.
“Where our cars seem to run on the racetrack is probably the hardest racing on the racetrack, realistically, you know,” Gilliland said. “When you’re in the top 10, you can let guys go and get back in. When the leaders are coming and you’re fighting to risk going a lap down, back there where we’ve been racing, at the end of the day it could mean five or six spots. It’s hard racing.”
Gilliland agreed with Patrick’s assessment that he races her differently than he races veteran drivers.
“I watched him move over, and let someone by, so no, I don’t think he does,” Patrick said of whether he races her the same. “And, that is what makes me mad. He is just getting more attention for this than he deserves. I think he was just driving in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate, and I haven’t thought was appropriate for a long time, but it was just too much that time.”
Still, no one gave Gilliland a free pass when he was a rookie either. But after eight seasons on the tour, Gilliland has learned traditional racing etiquette from his fellow competitors.
“You come to certain people and expect them to race you a certain way and you race them a certain way and give and take,” Gilliland said. “In a 500-mile race there’s certainly a lot of give and take. You hate to give and give when someone isn’t giving back. She’s learning a lot and these tracks are tough. But she’s getting experience. I think she did a really, really great job at Martinsville. But this is a tough sport. I know when I was a rookie coming in here nobody gave you anything. You had to earn it from each and every person on the racetrack. It’s not easy.
“But we talked this morning and feel like we’re on track to race each other the way we feel like we want to be raced. That’s just it – a mutual respect thing that hopefully we got figured out. I think we’re on the same page. We have to figure out what we have to do to make our lives easier on each other. At the end of the day, you want to lose the least amount of time as you can. But we feel good about it going forward.”