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Patrick confronts Wheldon after on-track incident

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Danica Patrick may be small, but she's not about to back down on the track or off.

Patrick, one of two women in Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile, had an on-track collision with the car driven by Dan Wheldon and then made a beeline for the Englishman in the pits after coming back to finish eighth.

The incident took place on the 88th of 225 laps, with Patrick, who started 17th in the 18-car field, diving low on the track in an attempt to pass both Wheldon and last week's Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti for fourth place.

She got past Franchitti with no problem and appeared close to passing Wheldon when the two cars came together, sending Patrick's car spinning into the infield grass. She made a great save, straightening out her car and getting back on track as the yellow flag came out.

The collision bent Patrick's suspension and forced a long pit stop for repairs, costing her a lap that she eventually made up with pit strategy and a timely late caution.

Wheldon's car was not damaged and he went on to finish third, behind winner Tony Kanaan and Franchitti.

The postrace conversation between Patrick and Wheldon was a pretty one-sided, with Patrick doing most of the talking and eventually giving her rival a light push as she walked away.

"I just came up to him, looked up at him, put my arm around him, started walking and said, 'What happened. What was that for? Did you not see me? Why didn't you back off?' And he didn't say anything," Patrick explained.

"I said, 'I was clearly inside you' because I heard him saying in an interview that I wasn't all the way up alongside of him. I'm not sure what is lost in translation there, but I was completely alongside of him. I've made many more passes happen with being less far up in someone.

"Then he said, 'You can't get caught up in the marbles' and I said, 'Well, that's a pass Dan.' I told him, 'If you don't think I'm going to remember this, I don't know why you're being like this, but if you don't think I'm going to remember, you're crazy,"' she added.

Wheldon didn't see the on-track incident the same way as Patrick.

"She obviously thought she was past me," he said. "She wasn't. I've been in this business long enough to know when someone is there and when somebody is not. Maybe it's a bit of inexperience there on her part."

As for the postrace confrontation, he said, "She's just feisty. There's a lot of pressure on her because she has not won a race and her teammates are (winning). I think in a situation like that, sometimes you get desperate. … She's just being Danica. She'll be fine when she calms down."

Wing woes

Both Team Penske entries in Sunday's race had damaging late-race problems with their rear wing.

Helio Castroneves had an almost certain victory snatched away when his rear wing collapsed and he crashed with 25 laps to go, while teammate Sam Hornish Jr. was in second place when his rear wing came loose, forcing him to pit with six laps to go and costing him a second-place finish.

"I had the race won," said Castroneves, who led four times for a race-high 126 laps. "It's a shame that something so odd happened there at the end. The car just started spinning when my rear wing broke. It's unfortunate because our car was fantastic all day. It was getting better and better throughout the race.

"I just have to laugh it off. It's amazing that I have such bad luck at this place. Now we just have to forget abut this and move on to Texas (for a race next Saturday night)."

Hornish, the reigning series champion, was just as disappointed.

"Today was a tough day for all of Team Penske," he said. "This is the same problem that Helio had. It's pretty strange that this happened to either one of us, let alone both of us. It's the kind of thing that almost never happens.

"It's pretty frustrating since we both had a chance to win the race."

Hornish wound up a lap down in ninth, while Castroneves wound up 16th.

Spark plugs

Team owner A.J. Foyt was the grand marshall Sunday and put a slightly different twist on the traditional prerace words, saying, "Girls and boys, start your engines." … Despite an 80 percent chance of rain, 31,838 people turned out for the race. The rain never fell until an hour after the finish. … Franchitti took the series lead and goes to Texas with a three-point edge on Wheldon and five on Scott Dixon, who went into the race as the leader.


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