NEAR the conclusion of our meeting with IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe Monday, I said, smiling, "We can't let a media session go by without a Danica question."
You'd have thought someone had dialed back the room temperature 30 degrees at XFINITY Live! Talk about a frosty reaction . . .
Dixon looked at Briscoe, who returned the "you first" glance. Asked about Danica Patrick's transition from the IndyCar series to NASCAR Sprint Cup this season, Briscoe finally said, "She's looking at it more from a sponsorship and business standpoint. It made sense for GoDaddy.com [to switch to NASCAR]. I never asked her why she made the move."
Said Dixon: "Maybe it should have been a year or two earlier for her to go. It's not uncommon for [her] results. You can see from someone like Sam Hornish, who I think is very good on ovals: It's taken him a little while to wrap his head around it. This year, he's been very good in the Nationwide Series."
Hornish is a former IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner who has been unsuccessful in the Cup series. This year, Hornish is second in Nationwide points.
Patrick is 28th in Cup points. Since her pole position and eighth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, she has only one top-20 finish. During her IndyCar career, she collected only one win, in Japan in 2008.
Addressing why the TV networks frequently focus on Patrick even though she is usually running from 20th on back in races, Briscoe said, "She has a huge following. She's been the most successful female driver ever. People love to see her."
Dixon and Briscoe were in town to talk about the Pocono IndyCar 400 at Pocono Raceway July 7.
Dick Trickle's suicide last week shook up many people in NASCAR. Trickle, 71, was best known to casual racing fans for his name. But to devoted racing fans, Trickle was a short-track racing legend. Some estimates credit him with 1,200 short-track victories.
Trickle was the Cup series rookie of the year in 1989, at age 48. He never won a Cup race.
I think the last time I saw Trickle at a racetrack was at Dover, Del. He was sitting in his car on pit road smoking a cigarette. Hopefully, the car's engine was off.
"He partied hard, he raced hard," Ray Evernham, Jeff Gordon's former crew chief, told ESPN.com. "He did nothing his whole life but race and help people that raced."
Said veteran driver Mark Martin, who was mentored by Trickle: "I'm confused and brokenhearted about what happened."
While Carl Edwards did not know Trickle, he recalled the first time he saw the Wisconsin native.
"I was 16 years old [and] working on Kenny Schrader's ARCA team in the garage at Michigan. It felt like it was 140 degrees outside. It was really, really hot. They sent me on an errand.
"I was walking through the Cup garage [and I saw] this gray-haired man standing in a black fire suit with a cigarette in his hand out in the sun leaning on the garage. I think he had a cup of coffee in the other hand. I thought right then, 'That must be the toughest human being on earth.' After seeing that, I've always had a ton of respect for Dick Trickle."
Edwards carried Trickle's name on his race car when he won the pole for last Saturday's Sprint All-Star race.
Trickle's brother Chuck, 68, said Dick was suffering unbearable pain under his left breast. Doctors were unable to find the pain's cause.
"He must have decided the pain was too high," Chuck said, "because he would have never done it for any other reason."
Trickle is survived by his wife, Darlene, and three children.
'Greatest day in sports'
As noted annually, Sunday is the greatest day in sports - the Indianapolis 500 followed by the Coca-Cola 600 - 1,100 miles of racin' . . .
Two American drivers, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti, will start on the front row at Indy. Eleven American drivers are in the race. Four women qualified for Indy, none named Danica.
This will be the 49th consecutive year ABC telecasts the Indy 500 (Channel 6, 11 a.m.).