Danica Patrick's Talladega Spin Of Sam Hornish Jr. Goes Unpunished

Danica Patrick was on a plane after the Talladega race, taxiing to the runway when she saw a highlight of her incident with Sam Hornish Jr. for the first time.

After their cars crossed the finish line at the Talladega Nationwide Series race, Patrick had chased Hornish out of anger and bumped him from behind, sending the driver crashing into the wall.

Her reaction upon seeing the footage?

"I thought to myself, 'Uh oh,' because he hit the wall, and I didn't know that," she said. "That was not my intention."

She called Hornish that night -- they ended the conversation on good terms and with a laugh, she said -- then she sent Hornish's team owner Roger Penske an apology email.

The next morning, she called NASCAR Nationwide Series director Joe Balash to explain her side as well.

"I was definitely surprised he hit the wall," Patrick said. "That was completely unintentional and I definitely needed to know that was not intentional. And Sam didn't mean to put me in the wall, either. We're both good and we're both looking forward to Darlington."

That's all well and good, but there's something curious about what happened in the days following the incident: NASCAR decided not to penalize Patrick in any way, even though similar incidents have resulted in probation, fines and even a suspension (Kyle Busch at Texas last fall).

"That's not my department," she said. "I don't make those kind of decisions. That's up to NASCAR."

NASCAR apparently bought Patrick's explanation that she just meant to bump Hornish and not actually send him into the wall.

"You can't compare that to Kyle Busch," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told SportingNews.com. "Every situation is different. ... There's not a blanket answer to any of this stuff."

As NASCAR's "Boys, Have At It" policy has evolved since it began in 2010, it's been tough to determine which situations will result in punishment and which ones will be declared legal.

Here's a sampling of some notable incidents in the Have At It Era:

• March 2010: Carl Edwards intentionally spins Brad Keselowski at Atlanta, but Keselowski gets airborne -- which Edwards didn't intend. PENALTY: Edwards gets three races of probation.

• May 2010: Clint Bowyer retaliates against Denny Hamlin in the Nationwide Series race at Dover. PENALTY: Bowyer gets one month of probation.

• July 2010: Edwards and Keselowski tangle on track in the Gateway Nationwide Race. PENALTY: Edwards loses 60 points, is fined $25,000 and placed on probation. Keselowski also gets probation for the rest of the season.

• October 2010: David Reutimann intentionally puts Kyle Busch in the wall after earlier contact at Kansas. PENALTY: None.

• May 2011: Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have a pit-road confrontation at Darlington. PENALTY: Both drivers are fined $25,000 and placed on probation for four weeks.

• June 2011: Brian Vickers intentionally wrecks Tony Stewart at Infineon Raceway after Stewart wrecked him earlier in the race. PENALTY: None.

• August 2011: Greg Biffle and Boris Said clash at Watkins Glen. Said has to be restrained from going after Biffle. PENALTY: None.

• November 2011: Kyle Busch intentionally wrecks Ron Hornaday under caution after earlier contact between the two in Texas Trucks race. PENALTY: Busch is suspended for both the Nationwide and Cup races that weekend, is fined $50,000 and placed on probation.

• May 2012: Danica Patrick chases down Sam Hornish Jr. and intentionally makes contact with him after Talladega Nationwide race, sending him into the wall. PENALTY: None.

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