Danica Patrick apologizes for wreck

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Danica Patrick says she never intended to put Sam Hornish Jr. into the wall when she tapped his car on the cool down lap after Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Patrick told ESPN.com on Monday she called Hornish and team owner Roger Penske later Saturday to apologize after she realized what happened.

She wasn't aware that her former IndyCar competitor went into the wall until she was on the runway to fly home. She also wasn't aware that it was a flat right tire that caused Hornish to pinch her into the wall as she approached the finish line, and it was that same flat that caused Hornish to turn right into the wall when she retaliated.

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Sam Hornish Jr. (12) puts Danica Patrick (7) into the wall on the final lap of the Nationwide race at Talladega, Saturday. Patrick retaliated on the cool down lap, wrecking Hornish.

"I only came up to tap him to say that I was disappointed and frustrated that he turned over into me and put me in the wall, which I later found out was the fact he had a flat tire,'' Patrick said. "That also is why he turned right when I tapped him.

"It's just one of those situations that looked a little worse than it was. Sam and I are fine. We were laughing about it at the end of the call.''

On Monday, NASCAR stuck by what vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told reporters on Sunday -- that Patrick would not be penalized but that both competitors would meet with officials prior to Friday night's Nationwide race at Darlington.

Patrick said no time or location has been set for a meeting, but she welcomes her first trip to the NASCAR hauler.

"Unfortunately, a flat tire was the source of some pain there,'' said Patrick, who finished 13th in the race, one spot behind Hornish. "He didn't mean to do it and I surely did not mean to put him in the wall. We're fine. It's a non-issue.''

Patrick said she already has spoken to Nationwide Series director Joe Balash and told him, "I don't want you to think this is what I was trying to do. This is not my style. I wasn't trying to put him in the wall.''

NASCAR officials remained adamant that this incident was not in the same category as last year when Kyle Busch was parked for a Nationwide and Sprint Cup race after intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in a Truck Series race.

"This hasn't been typical on their part in the past,'' NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp said of Patrick and Hornish. "They are both good and tough competitors. We'll talk to them between now and Darlington and see that it doesn't go any further.''

Patrick understands that the incident came shortly after Eric McClure was airlifted to a Birmingham, Ala. hospital following a hard hit into an inside retaining wall may have heightened sensitivity.

But she reminded again her intent was not to put Hornish into the wall, and her thoughts remain with McClure who was released from the hospital late Monday afternoon after suffering a concussion and mild internal bruising.

"At the point and time when it all happened I was in the racecar and didn't see a replay,'' she said of the McClure accident. "I was in the racecar and didn't see a replay. When we were under red, I didn't know what happened. I just knew Eric was having a hard time getting out of the car.

"I definitely was afraid for him. I almost was afraid to ask if he was OK. I hope and pray he is fine.''

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