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Danica Patrick faces up to the boos

 Danica Patrick watches fromt he pit area on the final day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in ...
 IndyCar driver Danica Patrick poses for a picture during an event to promote the Indianapolis 500, in New York, Tuesday, May 25, 2010.  The race is s...
 Driver Danica Patrick smiles during an event to promote the upcoming Indianapolis 500 auto race, in New York, Tuesday, May 25, 2010.  The race is sch...
 Danica Patrick smiles as she listens to a question during a news conference for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in ...
 Hideki Mutoh, left, of Japan, sits alone at his table as Danica Patrick is surrounded by the media during a news conference for the Indianapolis 500 ...

IRL Indy 500 Auto Racing

Danica Patrick watches fromt he pit area on the final day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in ...

Indy 500 Auto Racing

IndyCar driver Danica Patrick poses for a picture during an event to promote the Indianapolis 500, in New York, Tuesday, May 25, 2010. The race is s...

Indy 500 Auto Racing

Driver Danica Patrick smiles during an event to promote the upcoming Indianapolis 500 auto race, in New York, Tuesday, May 25, 2010. The race is sch...

IRL Indy 500 Auto Racing

Danica Patrick smiles as she listens to a question during a news conference for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in ...

IRL Indy 500 Auto Racing

Hideki Mutoh, left, of Japan, sits alone at his table as Danica Patrick is surrounded by the media during a news conference for the Indianapolis 500 ...

Danica Patrick is used to setting new firsts for women in motorsport, but she wouldn't have expected her latest breakthrough to be for the amount of booing and abuse she received from fans.
Patrick, one of four women in Sunday's prestigious Indy 500, was booed last Saturday after publicly blaming her team for a sub-standard car that will see her start the Indy Car classic event from 23rd.
Since then, the debate about the jeering reaction from the stands has taken on a life of its own.
Was Patrick out of line by throwing her race team under the bus when she complained?
Is she a whiny, overextended, underachieving driver who gets by more on looks and gender than real talent?
And would the boos have rained down if a man had made the same complaints?
"I don't know," Patrick said. "I would guess so. In sports, when you blame, it's never perfect."
Patrick admitted to being surprised by the reaction when her comments boomed over the track's PA system about 10 minutes after she spoke last Saturday. In five previous appearances, she had never qualified outside the top 10.
She spent much of Thursday's media day taking the blame for what she said.
"It makes me feel bad but I understand why," she said. "I kind of broke a cardinal rule in sports and blamed someone. I understand. What I said came across really aggressive, and I know that."
At Indy, where Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher and other women have been racing for more than three decades, never has a female driver faced such a negative reaction from the fans.
But Patrick was hardly the first driver to complain publicly about a ride.
It happens almost every week, never more famously than in 1985, when the inimitable A.J. Foyt called his car "a tub o' (expletive)" during an interview broadcast over the sound system and on national TV. But Foyt won four Indy 500 titles and Patrick none.
"When she got out of the car, the car scared her, and her adrenaline was through the roof," car owner Michael Andretti said. "We've all been there. She's Danica, so we know what she's like and we know what she is when her adrenaline is high."
The booing last weekend was such a different scene from five years ago, when Patrick, then a 23-year-old rookie, bolted to the lead with 10 laps to go in a race where she finished fourth.
The crowd of about 300,000 went wild. For a time, it appeared Patrick might be the one to restore some energy to a struggling series and a race struggling to stay relevant.
Since then, Patrick has come a long way on talent. but clearly her looks and personality do a lot for her, too, as her zipper-pulling commercials for godaddy.com and her heavy promotional and interview schedule attest to. After the disappointments of last weekend, Patrick spent the first part of this week on the talking circuit in New York _ not the kind of schedule the 16th-ranked driver in IRL would normally take on.
"You hear some people talk about how she thinks she's 'it,'" said race fan Michael Hopson. "I just try to go with the flow. There's still a lot of fans that like her."
Certainly, Patrick's foray into NASCAR's second-tier series this year is having an impact on how fans see her, though the exact effect is hard to measure.
Going to NASCAR was a seemingly natural move for an up-and-coming driver, but one that has coincided with her worst IndyCar season. She insists her struggles are not related to being stretched too thin.
"She has taken her career on a path where she's trying to compete in NASCAR and in IndyCar," said 1998 Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever, now calling the race for ABC. "I'm not saying it's presumptuous on her side to attempt it, but that will add a lot of weight on her shoulders when she's accustomed to success here."
Patrick has given very little indication that she expects good results come Sunday.
"I might get booed if I win, too, but that's OK," Patrick said. "Winning will solve everything for me. That's the be-all, end-all cure for me. I don't know if it'll cure everything from the fans' perspectives, but I can't force them to feel a certain way."
___
AP Sports Writers Michael Marot and Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-25 01:36 GMT+08:00