Regan Smith apologized for wrecking Danica Patrick during Saturday night's NASCAR Bristol race, but he insisted it was not intentional.
"I just pushed up into her," Smith told SB Nation by phone after the race. "Trust me when I say this: No one wants to be the guy who wrecked Danica."
But that apology might not do much to soothe the anger from Patrick and her team, since the No. 10 car had a surprising top-20 run going until the wreck.
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli told SB Nation that Bristol was "by far her best effort" and said Patrick was improving as the night continued. Then came the incident with Smith, which happened with 65 laps to go when the No. 78 car slid up the track and spun Patrick into the inside wall.
"Obviously, it's just unfortunate," Zipadelli said. "There's absolutely no reason in the world to do that running 40th. If you're a nitwit, you're a nitwit. He's got to prove something, I guess."
On the team radio after the wreck, someone on Patrick's team vowed to "choke that prick later."
"It's been that way all night with him," Patrick reportedly said on the radio. "He's a dick."
Smith was surprised to hear Patrick's team say that, because he said they didn't spent much time racing one another on Saturday night. Patrick wagged her finger at Smith as he drove by after the crash.
"I was only around her one other time the whole night, and she let me go," Smith said. "Everybody was racing hard all night long. You had to, because you couldn't pass. It certainly wasn't intentional. I know that's not going to make her feel any better. I got wrecked last week (at Michigan) and I still don't feel any better about it.
"If she's got to wreck me to get me back, then I'll be ready for it. That's how it is sometimes, unfortunately."
Patrick was expected by most observers to finish somewhere in the 30s and get lapped several times. But at the time of the wreck, she was 19th and on the lead lap.
"Everything was running really smoothly," she said. "So it's a shame that we lost that. But you know, Bristol is a place where you find out who's playing fair and who's not."
Said Zipadelli: "The people she raced all night, some of them raced her good, some of them are just jackasses. I don't think they accept or want to accept that she's here. But if she keeps doing what she's doing, she'll do good and she won't have to race them guys for long."