When you see the headline "Danica Patrick got hit in the head with a rock," your first thought is, "Who threw it?" (Our money would be on one of the Busch brothers. Maybe Tony Stewart.)
But no, turns out Patrick was clonked purely by accident at a Vegas dirt-track race. She's fine, thanks for asking: “I feel like I have a concussion from [Thursday] night," she said. "I got hit by a rock at the dirt track and I took it to the ground. I feel like this is really sore. It hit me straight in the head. Good thing I had a hat on or I’m feeling like there would have been blood."
On a slightly more serious note, Patrick did have to undergo some testing after her vicious hit in Phoenix, where the entire side of her car was torn open after a blown right tire sent her into the wall.
"I was able to say my name and where I was born [to safety crews]," she said. "They take your blood pressure, they do like vitals and they ask how you’re feeling and I really felt fine. It’s understandable that my neck would be sore. The medical staff always does a checkup the next day, they either call or send you a text to ask how you’re doing ... I said I had a headache on Sunday night and on Monday my neck was sore. They said, 'It sounded like it could have been worse, so we’re glad you’re okay.'"
So with her bell rung already, Vegas is off to a great start for Patrick. The whereabouts of the rock are unknown. Surely there are plenty of people ready to chastise it for threatening NASCAR's darling, and quite a few others ready to shake whatever passes for a rock's hand. Either way, somebody could've made a few bucks by selling it on ebay.
Patrick's luck didn't quite extend to the weather; because of a rainout of qualifying, she'll start deep in the pack on Sunday. Here's how it worked: because qualifying was rained out, the top 36 teams from last year took the first 36 spots. That means Brad Keselowski, last year's Sprint Cup champion, will start on the pole. (This pole, however, does not get him into the 2014 Sprint Unlimited preseason race at Daytona.)
Three remaining spots were filled out by teams in the top 36 in 2013 owner's points. So Patrick, David Stremme and Michael McDowell will be in the race. The final four spots were determined by qualifying attempts in 2013; owners' points broke any ties.
The remaining spots for positions 40-43 were determined by qualifying attempts this year, with ties broken by owner points. So Scott Speed, Landon Cassill, Joe Nemechek and Josh Wise were in; Mike Bliss is the only driver left out.
"I don’t know how in the hell it works," Patrick said of qualifying, echoing the thoughts of many. "I am so confused. I don’t know about you guys. I’m sure this is not the best talking point for anybody who is trying to inform me, or who has. But look, you have to go like hell and you just have to qualify as well as you can. That’s all you can do."
"I was just thinking when I walked in, with this being Vegas and all, what the odds would be of a rainout in Vegas," Keselowski said. "I bet that was pretty high. Obviously whenever you can start up front, it's a big deal and you get the first pit stall and all those things that make a big difference on pit road."
The Kobalt Tools 400 starts Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-