Danica Patrick angry with NASCAR over ‘Dega qualifying, questions its diversity program

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Danica Patrick was among multiple drivers that voiced their displeasure over social media at NASCAR’s modified qualifying format last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

But as she revealed yesterday at Martinsville Speedway, Patrick also did the same in person at the NASCAR hauler before commiserating with her boyfriend/fellow driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one of two full-time Cup racers that failed to qualify for last weekend’s GEICO 500.

“I was really pissed off after qualifying,” she said to reporters. “I mean I went to the NASCAR hauler and I said ‘What the — is this? Is that what we were trying to accomplish?’ Part of it was because it was Ricky, and part of it was because that could have just as easily been me.

“And, I know how important those races are to me and my team, but also my sponsors and the people who invest in those events, especially the big ones at the speedways…Those are all very big races for us every year, all four of those, obviously particularly the Daytona 500. And so, I was fighting for not having someone that wasn’t deserving being in that situation.”

Patrick said she didn’t receive a solution to her problem, herself noting that it probably wasn’t the best thing to argue with NASCAR president Mike Helton. However, she believes they understood her thoughts on the qualifying format.

“The last thing we want to do is lower the car count for qualifying in Sprint Cup because we don’t have the cars to fill,” she said. “I’m sure that they understand and they will do everything they can to make appropriate changes…I’d be surprised if there weren’t changes made for next year.”

As for Stenhouse, whose best qualifying lap at Talladega was completed after the session had ended, he’s back this weekend at Martinsville and will start 18th in Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.

Patrick was also outspoken on another topic that was brought up during her Friday presser at Martinsville.

When asked about the current state of NASCAR’s diversity program – an appropriate topic considering the tributes being made this weekend at Martinsville in honor of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and African-American driver Wendell Scott – Patrick appeared to question its need.

Here’s the exchange between Patrick and a reporter on the subject:

Press: IT IS THE 50-YEAR MILESTONE OF THE TRACK PRESENTING A GRANDFATHER CLOCK AS A TROPHY, AND ALSO THEY ARE RUNNING SPECIAL PAINT SCHEMES TO HONOR WENDELL SCOTT HERE, WHO HAD TIES TO THE AREA. WITH THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEMES AND THE TRIBUTES IT ALSO BRINGS TO LIGHT SORT OF THE DISCUSSION OF THE DIVERSITY IN NASCAR, AND WITH YOU…

Danica: “I have never benefited from the Diversity Program.”

Press: SO I GUESS FOR YOU, IN YOUR EYES, WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR MORE WOMEN…

Danica: “Well, clearly then I wouldn’t think that there needs to be a Diversity Program if I’m here and I didn’t get in. It wasn’t like they asked me to be in it. They didn’t give my team or me any money. They didn’t say we’d love you…you know? So I would say that you have to just make it. And I’m not saying that being a girl hasn’t helped, but I didn’t need a program to make it happen.”

NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations Jim Cassidy has since issued a response to the Charlotte Observer, saying that the sport is “fortunate that there are many different paths of entry into our sport for our participants” and that it’s “seen a growing number of talented diverse and female drivers compete in NASCAR thanks to our Drive for Diversity program started in 2004.”

Patrick certainly has the right to share her opinions, but you can’t help but wonder if she’s rankled NASCAR’s higher-ups – particularly with her comments on the diversity program, which has been emphasized in recent years as a chance for minorities and female drivers such as herself to get either behind the wheel, in the pits, or into other areas of the sport.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.