Danica Patrick is feeling the heat, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. thinks she’s the one who started the fire.
During Tuesday’s episode of his “Dale Jr. Download” podcast, Earnhardt expressed both sympathy and empathy for Patrick. But Earnhardt also thinks Patrick needs to work on her situational awareness.
Patrick is facing criticism after a video emerged of her confronting fans who were booing her for not signing autographs at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.
“She’s had a tough year, she’s under tons of pressure,” Earnhardt said. “She’s under a lot of pressure — I can completely relate to where she is mentally.
” … I hate it for Danica because it paints her in a bad light, but she brought it on herself. … You never know when a camera’s rolling, who’s watching.”
It’s understandable for Patrick to be frustrated, as she’d just finished qualifying 24th for the Axalta presents the Pocono 400. But Earnhardt, who’s known to be too hard on himself, believes fans are just what drivers need in those moments.
“For me, going and actually talking to the fans and kind of hearing their positive reinforcement is good for me,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “So I kind of seek that out in those moments because I know once I go through that process of signing some autographs, talking and interacting, you kind of get your priorities readjusted.
” … They tell you what you need to hear.”
And while Earnhardt certainly understands where Patrick is coming from, he also sees it from the perspective of the fan — because he often is one.
“I like to take pictures,” Earnhardt said. “Even today, if I see a celebrity, I really kind of want a picture with them, so I can post it on my social media.”
The 42-year-old Earnhardt understands many people look up to him, so he tries not to disappoint fans he encounters, as that could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for them.
It might not be long before Patrick joins Earnhardt, who’s retiring after this season, as a full-time fan.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images