No 'Danica Rule' conspiracies, please

May, 18, 2013

CONCORD, N.C. -- Danica Patrick was well into her media availability Friday when asked about her name being connected to a clarification in the fan vote that likely will get her into Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race if she doesn't race her way in.

"I don't know in what light they were talking about," she said of media reports.

"The 'Danica Rule,'" a reporter said.

"What rule?" Patrick responded.

"On having or not having to be on the lead lap at the end of the Showdown," the reporter said.

"From my understanding, that was a mistake on NASCAR's part earlier in the week," a somewhat irritated Patrick explained. "So outside of that, I have absolutely no idea what the rules are from the past or what they're going to be or what they have been."

Conspiracy theories have been a part of NASCAR almost from the beginning of the sport. I've never bought into them because if officials were going to conspire, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have a championship or two by now.

He'd have more than one win in the past four-plus seasons, too. There are no conspiracy theories behind getting Patrick into the All-Star Race, either.

I confess, I tweeted something during the week that would allude to a conspiracy theory in this matter, but it was all tongue-in-cheek. I later joked it was the Bobby Labonte Rule.

Unfortunately, it contributed to putting Patrick in an awkward position.

But she was right. NASCAR made a mistake.

From 2007 through 2011, there was no mention of having to finish on the lead lap in the Showdown, the preliminary to the main event. One had only to have a raceable car, which means not wrecked.

The rule was written that way so if a driver who had been dominant had a flat tire or another small issue in the second 20-lap segment, he or she wouldn't be penalized for finishing a lap or two down.

By mistake, it was mistakenly written into the 2012 rules that drivers who won the fan vote had to be on the lead lap to advance.

The mistake was corrected this year to revert back to the way it was. Because it possibly could benefit Patrick, who is expected to garner the most fan votes because of her popularity, the "Danica Rule" terminology was born.

But make no mistake, there is no such rule.

And make no mistake, Patrick wants to drive her way into the All-Star Race to become the first woman to participate in it.

"I feel I am very lucky to have so many great fans, and all my partners and everybody involved are doing a good job of promoting the fan vote," Patrick said. "Hopefully, that is there, but I would rather just focus on racing my way in and, if I needed the fan vote, then I will cross my fingers."

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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