Can We Talk?

Posted by Iannucci | 3/29/2007 | 2 comments »
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As The Voice of IMS Radio Mike King has handled his share of interview with folks in auto racing, so this week on King has a piece discussing the different reactions to interview requests from two frustrated AGR drivers

First is Marco Andretti, who had a handling problem with his ride in Homestead.

You could probably have fried an egg of Marco Andretti's forehead after handling problems forced him to park the NYSE car after completing just 53 laps. It's no fun to open the season with a car that you can't drive and a last-place finish. But after a couple of minutes, Marco did try to explain to fans watching on ESPN2 and listening to our broadcast on the IMS Radio Network what went wrong. He even differed with race engineer Eddie Jones on what went wrong. Jones said they missed the setup. Andretti insisted they would find that something on the car had broken.
Then he juxtaposes this with the reaction of Andretti’s teammate, Danica Patrick.

anica got out of the car, never took off her helmet, waved off any and all comers that attempted to ask what had happened, and disappeared into an AGR transporter.

Was she wrong?

I mean, it appeared Danica had just cost herself a chance at a top-10 finish, so she had good reason to be ticked off. What if she had said something, but it turned out to be the wrong thing at the wrong time? Isn't it better to walk away and hold your tongue, rather than say something in the heat of the moment that you might later regret?
Ever the diplomat, King doesn’t pass judgment on either driver, saying “sometimes walking away, while unpopular, just might be the right thing to do.” This is true, but it should also be noted there were a few differences in the two situations.

First, Andretti’s frustration was more than likely due to something out of his control. It’s a lot easier to talk about a problem when you didn’t cause it, and it’s definitely less difficult when you didn’t make contact with anything. At the same time Andretti 3.0 probably had a lot more riding on the Homestead race with expectations of being a championship contender, so one could make the argument he was more emotionally invested.

But even if the pit-entry accident was completely Danica!’s fault (and considering that other drivers have had the same problem previously at the track it’s not entirely certain it was), she doesn’t need to be afraid to say “I screwed up”. Wade Cunningham owned up to his accident this weekend in the IPS, just as Dan Wheldon did when he wrecked in testing a few weeks ago. As long as a driver isn’t saying it every week, telling the fans you goofed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most of us actually like it when drivers appear human every now and then.

If a driver needs a moment then that’s perfectly understandable as long as said driver comes back and talks within a reasonable amount of time. Last year (I think it was at Milwaukee) an obviously disgruntled Helio Castroneves stormed passed Big Jamie Little into the Penske trailer, only to emerge a few minutes later and give a clear-headed interview. Forgive me for speaking for all of us, but I think Spiderman demonstrated what fans and sponsors expect.

Everyone grasps that IndyCar competition is insanely intense, so if a driver is too wound up for a little chit chat then no one will fault them for taking a moment to collect his or her self. (Well, no one except the broadcast producers. You KNOW a big reason for having pit reporters is just so they can catch someone in emotional moments like this in the hope that they drop an F-bomb or start slugging someone live and in your living room.)

It’s impressive if a driver can keep a level head in a heat-of-the-moment interview, but it’s also acceptable to get a little hot under the collar. Just look at the popularity of such hot heads as AJ Foyt and Tony Stewart, or notice the positive comments folks gave after watching Juan Pablo Montoya tell off a clumsy cameraman. Danica! has always appeared to be rather intense at the track, but no matter how intense any driver is most people are not going to be thrilled about watching someone whine or pout or generally ignore the folks indirectly helping to foot their bills.


  1. Jennifer Coomer // March 29, 2007 11:38 AM  

    I have nothing to add but an, "Amen."

  2. Anonymous // March 29, 2007 5:29 PM  

    One sign of maturity is how you handle adversity. So, you be the judge. I can see taking a minute to swear into your helmet and knock down a cone, but then come on out and do the interview. Part of the reason you get the big dollars. I thought Young Marco handled it fine. Danica, on the other hand, ... Props to Brienne Pedigo for trying to chase her down in a J. Little-like fashion.