Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito?: Danica Patrick’s Hollow Darlington Start

On Wednesday, a Forsyth County judge ordered Jeremy Mayfield to pay $1 million to a Catawba, N.C. postal worker who was attacked by his five pit bulls. To quote the admiral from Top Gun during the climatic final dogfighting (get it?!!) scene, “…There’s five?!!”

First off, good luck getting that money. He’s been out of a ride for nearly five years, and Mayfield just got his house yanked form him for defaulting on the $3 million property as he faces a butt-load of legal bills. It turns out fighting a legal battle against a billion-dollar organization and fending off charges of receiving stolen property can take a toll on the pocketbook.

Mayfield is charged with five counts of felonious breaking and entering of tractor-trailers and one count of felony larceny. He is also charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering and felony larceny from a building dating back to 2010.

Which, if you’re going to be running a fledgling meth ring, I guess it makes sense that you’d have five pit bulls lose in your yard.

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Denny Hamlin is paying homage to Cale Yarborough this weekend at Darlington, honoring the Timmonsville, S.C. native and his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Yarborough won his three consecutive Winston Cup titles driving the No. 11 of Junior Johnson in 1976, ’77 and ’78.

Kind of a strange pairing with these two if you think about it: Hamlin who was very open about seeing a sports psychologist following his meltdown and subsequent championship fold at Phoenix in 2010, and his admission last year that neither he or Mike Ford wanted to be the alpha-male and take charge over the No. 11 team.

Yarborough on the other hand got bit by a cottonmouth when he was a toddler, jumped out of a plane and bounced after the chute failed to deploy, played in the NFL, had a guy shoot him in the foot at a burger joint and is generally accepted as one of the toughest and badass guys in the sport’s history. One just hopes that Hamlin doesn’t try to imitate Cale and drive over the wall like he did in the 1965 Southern 500.

In another bit of irony, Hamlin will be sponsored by Great Clips this weekend, while Cale still sports the most incredible comb-over in recorded history.

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Danica Patrick will be the third woman this weekend to compete in a Cup race at Darlington, following Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson. There’s a bit of a hollow beating to that drum however. Danica is guaranteed a spot in the field based on owner points complied by her and David Reutimann in Tommy Baldwin’s No. 10 car… or Tony Stewart’s… or Rick Hendrick’s, or wherever it came from this weekend.

Plus, being the third person to do anything kind of puts that individual in an awkward position. If you’re the first, it’s groundbreaking. If you’re number two, it will receive some attention, but little more than a blurb at the end of a tabloid news program. If you’re the third-person, well, you’re basically doing a bad Bob Dole impression.

I just hope that she makes it through the race unscathed. If not, it won’t be any worse than when Elliott Sadler took out Tony Stewart on the second lap in 2008, or when Dale Earnhardt passed out on the first lap in 1997. Everybody has trouble here, and the boo birds will probably be out in force the second she goes a lap down.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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