Sign Of The Times

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Wisconsin is the Dairy State. And last week in Milwaukee there was a lot of crying over spilled milk.

That's how foolish the Andretti-Green Racing team looked after drivers Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and defending Indy Racing League champion Tony Kanaan boycotted an autograph session in protest of what they perceived as "special attention" given to Danica Patrick. While the bulk of the IndyCar drivers in the session were positioned in one area, Patrick was in a separate section signing autographs.

The AGR quartet didn't like the arangement and boycotted the event, choosing to hold a private session at their team trailer.

What the AGR boys failed to realize was that there were roughly four times as many people standing in line for Patrick's autograph as there were in theirs.

The IRL fined the team this week, with the official penalty for violating Section 7.1 (B) of the IndyCar Series Rule Book (Additional Driver Activities) which states: "During events, IRL shall conduct Driver autograph sessions and Driver introductions. Failure to participate or failure to attend for the designated amount of time may result in fines and/or other penalties."

"The decision by the team principals not to have their drivers appear at the league-mandated autograph session is a very serious situation," said Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League. "I know that all of our teams, including AGR, understand that an important aspect of the League’s identity is accessibility."

"Moving forward, the league will not hesitate to transition from fines to more severe penalties such as moving cars to the back of the field or even a deduction in championship points."

Since Patrick captured the world's attention with her exploits at this year's Indianapolis 500, many in the AGR camp, including Indy 500 winner Wheldon, have been critical of what they perceive as an overabundance of publicity for the young female driver.

Wheldon has been photographed wearing a "Danica Who?" t-shirt while Kanaan and Franchitti have made several sarcastic comments aimed at her.

However during this week's IRL media teleconference, questions about the boycott and fines were off limits to reporters, a decision made by AGR and not the sanctioning body.

Patrick, as usual, didn't hide from the issue.

"I think they (the other drivers) understand I don't control the autograph session or anything like that," Patrick said. "All I do is kind of show up where I'm supposed to and sign as many autographs as I can and hopefully put a couple of smiles on people's faces."

She should start with the sour pusses at Andretti-Green Racing.






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Auto Club 500

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Saturday, October 19, 2013
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