Danica Patrick, IndyCar's most popular and visible driver, had to fight back tears and was shaking after qualifying 23rd for the Indy 500 with her only run Saturday.
She has been having problems controlling her GoDaddy.com car at the famed racetrack during practice this week. When the public-address system broadcast her criticism of the car's setup, fans voiced their displeasure.
"I say one confident thing out there, that it's not me, and everybody boos me," she said. "I don't know, maybe they were booing me before, but some of them were probably cheering for me before. I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago."
Patrick covered four laps at an average of 224.217 mph Saturday. She was in line to make another attempt when the session ended.
Reigning champion Helio Castroneves averaged 227.970 during qualifying to win the poll for the May 30 race. Will Power will start second after averaging 227.578 and Dario Franchitti took third at 226.990.
While fans were upset with Patrick's comments, members of her race team agreed with her assessment, that the car was too loose and she was unable to maximize the car's speed.
"You take one on the chin, but maybe you had it coming this time," said Tom Anderson, Andretti Autosport's senior vice president for racing operations. "All you can do is turn the other cheek and just get back to work.
"I think we underestimated, or I underestimated, what it was going to take to make the top 24 there," Anderson said. "Speeds were up a little bit. Not the starting position we wanted, for sure. Sometimes, you just need a day away from the track to analyze it."
Patrick was a little more blunt in her assessment.
"The car is just totally skating across the track, and there's no grip," she said. "My mechanics took tons of time to make sure it was fast and slick and no drag. It's there, it's just that the setup's not there. I feel bad for them because it's a good car.
"The GoDaddy car deserves to be higher up than this. It's better than this. It's just not set up right."
-- Dan Loumena
Photo: Danica Patrick reacts after seeing her qualifying time Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: John Summers II / Reuters