Friday at Pocono Raceway, Danica Patrick took a moment to address fans that booed her after an autograph seeker did not get her signature following qualifying. The thing is though, Patrick was more right than wrong.
The fan that approached Patrick never actually made it to her as they were stopped by security and Patrick kept on walking. After that the other fans began to boo her and Patrick approached them to express her displeasure.
The beginning of the confrontation was not caught on the video above but was on Facebook Live. Patrick began the exchange by talking about how it’s not her job to sign autographs.
I do the best I can, I mean, if you’re a real fan, you know that I’m not just — my job is not to sign autographs, right? My job is to drive a car and to tell the crew chief what’s going on. I don’t appreciate the booing. It hurts my feelings. I’m a f— person, you know what I mean? I’m a person too. I have feelings.
Should she have addressed the fans? Should she have sworn while addressing them? Should she have let them get under her skin? In the end, none of those answers really matter because ultimately Patrick is correct.
It truly isn’t her job to sign autographs.
Patrick is a professional athlete. Patrick’s profession is being a racecar driver. At the end of the day, she makes her money driving a car. While Patrick is at the race track, she is essentially at ‘the office’ or her place of employment. Yes, NASCAR fans have a lot of access to Patrick’s place of employment but that doesn’t change the fact that while she is there she has work to do.
When it comes to getting autographs from a driver or anyone else, there is a thing called tact. Timing is everything and often it is timing that will decide how the interaction goes down. Slipping pass a designated area for fans and trying to approach a driver right after qualifying probably isn’t the best time. Much like following a celebrity into a bathroom or approaching them while they are eating with their kids, also isn’t really the best time.
While I am sure Patrick loves and appreciates all of her fans, they have to understand that there is a time and place for everything. They also have to understand that no driver is required to be accessible 24/7. Again, this goes back to the theory of just because you have access to a driver, it doesn’t mean you have the right to approach them or they have an obligation to engage you.
The focus of any driver in NASCAR is to put in all of the work needed in an effort to end up with the best result on Sunday. Whether a driver signs 1 autograph or 1 million during the weekend, it has zero impact on how they are going to perform on the track. As a result, sometimes a drivers focus is on other things aside from engaging with fans and signing autographs. Not to mention the fact that drivers have several autograph signings built into their schedules each week on top of whatever personal time they take (going from one place to another at the track) to interact with fans.
The bottom line is that work comes first.
Can you judge Patrick and say that other drivers always make time for fans? Sure, you can if you want to do so. However, I’m willing to bet that every driver that turned away fans at one point or another, whether it be for an autograph or a picture. On Friday, Patrick was only speaking the truth, and the truth is that signing autographs isn’t her job. She was also speaking the truth when she told the fans that their words and actions matter because drivers are human just like all of us.
There are far too many occasions when NASCAR fans cross the line when it comes to interacting with drivers, but that’s a conversation for another day. On this day, Patrick was correct in her message to the fans at Pocono.