CONCORD, N.C. — Danica Patrick was giddy Thursday as she recalled racing go-karts as a teenager at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She remembered where she registered, the spot where the trailers entered — and how she once wrecked a young Sam Hornish Jr.
Patrick wanted to make it clear that when she races on the big track at Charlotte for the first time in the Nationwide Series on Friday, she won’t hesitate to be aggressive.
Watch out James Buescher.
“I’m not going to make it my mission to go out there and take him out because I don’t want anything to take away from my race,” Patrick said of Buescher, who wrecked her last weekend at California. “If he in any way starts to act up out there, yeah, I’m going to do something about it.”
Patrick was running 17th Saturday and on pace for her best finish since beginning her foray into stock-car racing when she got tangled with Buescher and ended in the wall.
Patrick claims Buescher intentionally wrecked her and said Buescher has yet to apologize even though their cars were next to each other in a testing session earlier this week.
“There was an opportunity if he wanted to say something,” she said.
Buescher had a different view of the incident. Speaking after Thursday’s final practice session, he claimed he was squeezed into the wall by Patrick’s car on the previous lap Saturday and if he had held his line again he would have hit the wall.
“It’s not what we wanted to do. I had to pit again to fix my fender,” Buescher said. “It wasn’t anything intentional at all. People keep talking about it and I think if everybody quit hounding on it nobody would care.”
Friday’s race is the second in Patrick’s season-ending six-event Nationwide stint, which began after the IndyCar season concluded. She’ll run the same full IndyCar schedule and selected NASCAR races next year before deciding which way to take her career.
But in retelling how Hornish “tried to take me out the lap before so I drove over the top of him” with a go-kart back in the 1990s, she explained the differences in racing open-wheel cars and stock cars.
“There are a lot of drivers in IndyCar that push you around and do things that you can’t believe,” Patrick said. “You’re like, ‘Are you trying to flip the car?’ … I don’t want to put myself in that position in those cars a lot of time, so I might come across as more of a pushover over there.
“In this series you’ve got fenders all the way around and if someone makes you mad at him, for sure you can just take them out. You make your own way. You don’t have to be taken advantage of because someone is just more crazy than you.”
Having yet to finish better than 24th in eight Nationwide races this season, the 28-year-old Patrick still has a lot to learn about the bigger and bulkier cars. She’s being tutored this week by veteran Sprint Cup driver Mark Martin.
She doesn’t know if she’ll end up racing with Buescher again on Friday, but she’ll be ready.
“I hope that after he thinks about what he did last weekend that, if he plays well with others, we’ll be able to carry on,” Patrick said. “If he doesn’t, then there’s going to be a need for something to happen because you can’t get pushed around out there.”