Danica's temper flares after running out of fuel

Updated: July 31, 2006, 8:18 AM ET
By K. Lee Davis | ESPN.com

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Danica Patrick ran out of fuel with three laps remaining in Sunday's Firestone Indy 400.

Then the winless star of the IndyCar Series, who announced she was switching teams for next season earlier in the week, lost her cool.

Patrick's telemetry package -- the electronics in the car that tell her and the team how much fuel she has, what gear she's in and other vital info -- was sketchy all day. So when she coasted to a stop at the exit to Pit Road at Michigan International Speedway, even she admitted there was probably no one to blame.

That didn't stop her from pounding on her Rahal Letterman car's steering wheel or throwing her gloves or kicking a marker in the pits at the conclusion of the race.

Running eighth when her car first sputtered, Patrick summed up her day easily enough.

"It was a brutal day," she said. "I wish I would have brought the car home in seventh, where it should have been."

She finished 17th out of 19 cars, beating only Marty Roth, who finished eight laps down and Sam Hornish Jr., who retired after 60 laps.

Still a bridesmaid, but working on it

Vitor Meira has started 57 IndyCar races and he's finished second seven times after losing to Helio Castroneves on Sunday by 1.6229 seconds.

After being asked by one pressbox wag if it was upsetting to always come in second, Meira took it in stride.

"We come here to give 110 percent," Meira said. "That's what everybody does. The outcome is a result of the work you do. We took 110 percent out of the work we had to do -- not only today, but we've been doing it since John [Barnes] made the call of restarting Panther Racing.

"I think that's the proof of victory."

Panther won the 2001 series title with Sam Hornish Jr. at the wheel, and the team has won 15 IRL races. But the team was all but left for dead for lack of sponsorship after the 2005 season. Meira, who just recently picked up Revive U.S.A. -- a Texas based food, nutrition and beverage company -- as an associate sponsor, ran most of the season with cleanly painted side-pods.

Target Ganassi driver Dan Wheldon, clearly a have to Meira's have-not, came to Meira's and Panther Racing's defense.

"These guys are going to win when they win," Wheldon said. "They do a bloody good job. Vitor, I think, is one of the most underrated drivers out there. Everybody knows, I think, that Panther perhaps don't quite have the budget that the Target guys and Penske do.

"I think their time is going to come very soon. Just let it happen and it will happen."

Simmons racking up top-10s

Jeff Simmons, who took over the Ethanol entry on the Rahal Letterman team after the death of Paul Dana, is on a bit of a streak.

His 10th-place finish on Sunday was his fourth-straight in the top 10. He finished a career-high seventh at Nashville two weeks ago.

"It was good to get another top-10, but I was thinking we would have a chance for a top-five," he said. "Our car was very different from the cars that finished sixth through ninth. It was a big chess game at the end."

Around the paddock

Castroneves' victory was the first for Roger Penske at the track he owned for 26 years since Rick Mears won here in 1991. ... The IRL has run five events at MIS and the winner has started from the pole three times. ... MIS doesn't announce attendance, but a very unofficial estimate put the crowd at 35,000 on a day that saw the race delayed for two hours and 40 minutes by storms that rolled through the Great Lakes region.

K. Lee Davis is the motorsports editor at ESPN.com.

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