Juan Pablo Montoya said in January he thought Danica Patrick would have pretty smooth runs in her first NASCAR Nationwide races.
"You don't want to be the (jerk) that wrecked Danica," Montoya said, smiling.
Well, on Saturday, Michael McDowell became "the (jerk) who wrecked Danica," even though that was only partially true.
It was Patrick's last NASCAR Nationwide race for a few months as she heads back to the IndyCar Series. On Lap 83 she collided with McDowell, whose car already was damaged from a blown tire. She got out of her car and blasted McDowell for ruining her day. McDowell got out of his and took full responsibility.
Without actually knowing if he really was to blame, he said the wreck was all his fault.
"I knew there was nothing I could say that was going to make the situation easy," McDowell said Tuesday. "Our sport is like this. If you wreck Danica or you wreck Dale Jr., there's not a whole lot that you're going to say that's going to get you out of a mess. I hadn't seen the replay. I hadn't heard her comments on TV. It was the right thing to do to take the blame."
Once he thought about what happened, McDowell saw that both he and Patrick made mistakes. Either one could have prevented the wreck, but neither did. And so Patrick goes back to open-wheel racing having crashed in two of her three NASCAR starts and finished in the 30s each time.
Just like anything related to the Nationwide's newest star, McDowell is getting a lot of exposure.
He's pretty sure next week things will go back to normal, and people will stop wanting to talk to him.
It's like fellow Nationwide racer Parker Kligerman told the Orlando Sentinel back in Daytona, "If I wreck her, I could be on 'SportsCenter' for three straight weeks."
Maybe not quite that long, but McDowell knows what Kligerman meant.