Patrick backs up boss on decision not to race

Associated Press
Published March 29, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Danica Patrick said Tuesday the Rahal Letterman Racing team made the right decision in keeping both her and teammate Buddy Rice out of Sunday's season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway after the death of rookie Paul Dana.

"I don't think you can ever question the decision that your boss makes," she said during a break in testing for Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Referring to team co-owner Bobby Rahal, she added, "If he would have said "race' or "don't race,' that's what I would have done. I race for him. I think he did a very, very good thing. This is life. We drive race cars, and it's what we love, and it's our job, but we don't walk out there a couple minutes afterward and say, "I've forgotten already."'

Patrick and Rice both plan to race Sunday.

Dana, a 32-year-old rookie, joined the team this season and was scheduled to make his first start fpr Rahal Letterman on Sunday. He was killed hours before in practice after crashing into the nearly stopped car of Ed Carpenter, who had hit the wall several seconds earlier.

Patrick pointed out that Dana got his ride with Rahal by getting Team Ethanol to sponsor his No. 17 race car.

"Either you get a free ride or you bring a sponsor along," she said. "You can write your own checks, and you write your own ticket. He did the hardest thing; he got a sponsor to stand behind and give him a ride."

Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 winner, remembered Dana as a driver with a lot of heart.

"That guy put everything he had into becoming a race car driver," Rice said Tuesday. "Obviously he got a little bit of later start than some of us; that's just the way of the course. I think he had a lot of drive, he had a lot of heart and he put everything he had into becoming a race car driver.

"Obviously, it was short but he got to do what he wanted to do and he made it to the top level."

Patrick said race car drivers understand that it is their job to race, even under difficult circumstances. She said there was no hesitation about getting back in the cockpit this week.

"Things are a lot more somber, and rightfully so," she said. "Somebody died. It sounds a little bit cold, but it is the job. We do have to keep racing, but we will give him the best tribute and the best thoughts and prayers that we can."

Injured Carpenter intends to race in St. Petersburg

Ed Carpenter said he hopes to be ready for Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Carpenter, 25, stepson of IRL founder Tony George, spent Sunday night in a Miami hospital after being involved in the two-car crash in which Dana died. Carpenter came away with a bruised lung and was released from the hospital Monday.

Carpenter was not cleared by doctors to take part in Tuesday's open test in St. Petersburg.

"I have some breathing exercises to do, but other than that I am doing very well," he said. "I'm very blessed and fortunate and it is my goal to get back in the car for St. Petersburg."

A memorial service for Dana has been scheduled for Thursday in St. Petersburg.