Michael Waltrip is a lot better talker than he is a driver but that’s okay with me. He’s an entertainer, and auto racing could use more like him.
One time he was on an early morning radio show in Atlanta and was trying to slip the name of his sponsor into the conversation. The host caught on to what he was doing and told him he could – but only if he got another famous driver on the line.
So Waltrip called his brother, Darrell Waltrip.
"Darrell?" said Michael. "I’m on the radio and the announcer says the only way I can mention my sponsor is if I get a famous race car driver on the phone. Do you happen to have Jeff Gordon's number?"
– Danica Patrick has millions of fans. She had better think about working a little harder to keep them.
She was interviewed by Tommy Kendall on Dave Despain’s Wind Tunnel program on Sunday night and said – words to the effect – that in order to avoid her fans, she’d had to make a mad dash back to her motor home after the IRL race at Chicagoland on Saturday night because some old friends were there and she wanted to talk to them instead of having to sign autographs.
This reminds me of the time years ago at Nazareth Speedway when Sarah Fisher was the toast of the IRL. The weather was threatening but there was a long line of people waiting outside her transporter for autographs.
Just as it started to rain, Fisher emerged – and dashed right past her fans and ran to her street car that was parked on the other side of the paddock She got into it and drove away.
I can still hear some of the people calling, "Sarah? Sarah?" as she ran past them.
Memo to Danica, Sarah and all other professional athletes: You really don’t know how lucky you are, do you?
– Late in the 1991 Indy 500, Michael Andretti was running second to Rick Mears. They’d had a back-and-forth battle but time was running out. Andretti needed some help to close the gap.
"Does Michael need a yellow?" his father Mario allegedly asked his crew over the radio. I say allegedly, because although Mario’s car subsequently stalled at the entrance to pit lane, bringing out the caution flag, both Andrettis have always denied there was any collusion. (An aside; Mears won the race, with Michael A. second).
So these things are not unusual in car racing. And we all know the history of "team orders" in Formula One.
But the scuttlebutt surrounding Nelson Piquet Jr.’s crash at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix is beyond the pale.
(There are reports that the FIA is investigating allegations that Renault F1 asked Piquet to crash on purpose in order to help his teammate, Fernando Alonso.)
I can see being asked to fake a yellow (see above) or spinning on purpose (it happens, particularly in NASCAR) but to tell someone to drive into a wall – hard – as Piquet supposedly was asked to do is difficult to fathom.
I mean, you can get hurt doing that.