Overheard at Indy - Bump Day - 1 - Kanaan wads up another car Tony Kanaan hit the wall in turn 2 this morning, filling the Speedway with a resounding "boom" and heavily damaging this car in the process. Kanaan had a similar incident yesterday that damaged the 11 car, and today's crash damaged the 11T car. Within minutes of the crash the tub from the 37T car (Hunter-Reay) was wheeled into Marco's garage. However, word from the garage says that the team believes that they can repair this damage in time to make a qualification run today.
Danicamania has once again gripped the Speedway. Once again, Danica is all the press can talk about. However, this time the buzz concerned Danica's comments on the PA system after her run, plus her comments during the press conference. She told the crowd that her slow speeds weren't her fault, but that of the car. The crowd booed her, and I'd be surprised if she didn't hear boos for the rest of the month.
A few minutes later, shortly before her post-qualification press conference, Tony Kanaan crashed his car, and replays were on the TV system during her interview. At that point, her claim that her speed problems are equipment-related made a lot more sense, but before Tony's crash yesterday it sounded more like excuse-making. The local press has since cut up every interview she did yesterday in a way that removes nuanced considerations of her team's situation, further making her the villain. An unfortunate interview with a local TV station where she whined about the crowd booing her won't help either.
What she said in the press conference was, "I started out with the front end not being great from the start off Turn 2. I held on for the first two laps, which weren't even comfortable themselves, and I was pushing off (Turn) 2, and the car was just so loose on the last two laps. We have so little grip in the car to not make it worse. Sometimes that adds to it. When the car pushes more, you turn into it more, and there are going to be times when it catches and then you also have to catch the rear. It's oversteering, and the understeer makes more oversteer. It's really complicated right now. Fundamentally, you have a car that's just not balanced correctly."
The trouble is -- and I'm no apologist for Danica -- is that she's right. What she said in the press conference was NOT throwing her team under the bus, but rather being honest about the situation. The equipment for Andretti Motorsports has been suspect for a year now. None of the Andretti cars are running well this year, or for that matter, last year. Tony Kanaan's crashes can be seen as an effort by a talented driver to get a difficult car up to speed, or perhaps a frustrated attitude of 'either it will go fast or they'll have to buy me another one. Whether or not a driver "goes public" with internal woes or not is a conversation for PR people, but certainly, if the driver can be criticized for being slow then so can the crew.
The real issue for Danica is that she's not only failed to make friends inside of the IRL traveling circus over the years, but that she's now alienated the Indy Car fan base with her constant threat to go to NASCAR. The illusion of Danica as a smart, talented and attractive driver has now been replaced with that of a diva who is past her prime. As she looks towards her future, that doesn't bode well. "Shoot!" Danica said during the press conference, "I say on confident thing out there that it's not me, and everyone boos me. I'm blown away. These people, I mean... I don't know maybe they've booed me before. I would think that some of them probably cheered for me before, and I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago." And that, it seems is the problem. Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy
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