Duno moves past spat with Patrick
Some have called it the best catfight in motor sports history, others "Girls Gone Wild in the Indy Racing League."
Milka Duno, the personable 36-year-old Venezuelan driver, would like to forget her part in it, move on with her career and get to the checkered flag Sunday in the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix without incident.
However, when you snap a towel not once but twice in the face of Danica Patrick, you gain instant notoriety -- like it or not -- plus celebrity status on YouTube.
The Duno-Patrick spat occurred during the IndyCar Series stop at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 19, when Patrick marched over to Duno's pit box to complain to her and Dreyer & Reinbold crew members that Duno was too slow on the course and blocking faster drivers like herself during practice for the Honda Indy 200.
Patrick, who has a history of confronting fellow competitors, shouted at Duno and anyone in the area: "(You've) got no idea what you're doing out there."
When Duno, a former naval engineer and part-time model and actress ("Speed Racer"), shooed away Patrick from the pit wall with a towel, the Andretti Green Racing star seemed stunned.
"What the hell?" Patrick exclaimed. "You're slow -- you're giving everybody a hard time out there."
Duno, clearly angry, rushed the wall.
"Go away! Go away!" she told Patrick.
Patrick did, threatening to get Brian Barnhart, IRL President of Competition and Operations Division, involved.
"I don't talk about it -- it's not important to me now," Duno said of her Patrick run-in. "That's in the past. I don't like drama. I don't like to talk about that anymore."
Duno, a hit with fans because of her willingness to spend extraordinary amounts of time talking with them and signing autographs, does speak to Sarah Fisher, the third woman driver in the IndyCar Series, however. Fisher will not run at Belle Isle this weekend but will be back for the season finale at Chicagoland on Sept. 7.
"We have no problems," Duno said of her relationship with Fisher. "Her family gave me a big welcome in my first race last year. I have nice memories of them."
Duno joined the IndyCar Series in 2007 after participating in various sports car series in America, including the Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes, the ALMS and the Panoz GT Series Championship, among others. She arrived in the United States in 1999 to chase her dream of being a professional race-car driver.
Educated in Venezuela and Europe, Duno brought Citgo sponsorship with her to the IndyCar Series, driving last year for SAMAX Motorsport. She finished a career-best 11th at Texas and 20th in series points.
This season, she has started nine races and is 27th in points with a best result of 16th at Kansas. Critics have complained Duno is not fast enough to race with the likes of Patrick, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and others.
Duno stands her ground.
"I have had limited time to practice and develop the car," she said. "Practice makes perfect. I think we've improved a lot. My team owner Robbie Buhl has been very good, and my teammate Buddy Rice has helped me a lot."
Duno and fellow IRL drivers Jaime Camara and Enrique Bernoldi will visit Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit on Thursday morning to meet the kids, sign autographs and hand out coloring books and pencils. Duno has written a book for youngsters, aged 8-12, called "Go, Milka, Go!" that she hopes will inspire children everywhere. It is available at her Web site, www.milkaduno.com, and will be on sale at Belle Isle this weekend.
Duno is looking forward to her trip to Detroit and the race.
"Detroit is the Motor City capital of the world, no?" she said. "I hear Belle Isle is very pretty. This weekend will be tough, but I am going to give it my best."
And her fans, what can they expect?
"I enjoy my fans so much," she said. "I think they like me because I have only one face. I'm the same person to everyone. I am excited to see them." Freep.com