I see Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick in one of those tour-bus-for-the-stars mega-cruisers, churning up I-95 toward Dover, Delaware. Ricky is in the driver's seat, mans the wheel, battles the heavy traffic. Danica rides shotgun. She has an emery board, works it hard, trims her nails.
There is frost in the cockpit, heavy frost, but not something that shows up on the windows. You know the kind.
"I apologize again," young Ricky says, just 25 years old. "I didn't mean it. It was all my fault. A mistake, that's what it was. I'll never do it again."
"I've said 'I'm sorry' for three days now," young Ricky continues. "I've said it every way possible, except maybe in Chinese. Get me some kind of English-Chinese dictionary. I'll look up the words. I'll say it in Chinese."
The silent treatment began late Sunday night in Charlotte, NC. Perhaps you saw the genesis on your television screen. With 64 laps left in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's exclamation point at the end of auto racing's biggest day, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 having already streamed past the old Barcalounger, Ricky and Danica were involved in a tough little accident.
Three cars were spread across the track at full speed, never a good situation for drivers at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ricky was low in that No. 17 car from Roush Fenway Racing. Danica, the most famous woman driver in auto history, was in the middle in her familiar green No. 10 GoDaddy.com racer from Stewart-Haas Racing that sat on the pole this year at Daytona. Brad Keslowski, driving the No. 2, was on the other side, the high side.
Ricky seemed to squeeze a little toward the inside and Danica seemed to squeeze a little in response to his squeeze and she and Kewslowski touched and that was that. Cars went spinning. Ricky actually did all right, escaping low, but Danica hit the wall and Keslowski hit the wall, then hit it again. No one was hurt -- Ricky and Danica both were able to get back on the track -- but everyone's chances for a good finish were done. The crash was a killer.
"Ricky maybe moved up a little bit," commentator Darrell Waltrip said in the immediate accident report, filed on Fox television. "This caused Danica to move up and she got into the No. 2 car…"
The fault landed in Ricky's lap.
And that is where it has sat.
For three days.
"I've looked at the film again and again," young Ricky says. "If I could do it again, I'd drive entirely differently. Wouldn't go three wide. That's for sure. Wouldn't edge in a little bit. Hell, I didn't even know I did it this time. Wouldn't crash you. Wouldn't crash me. Wouldn't crash anyone."
"I'm sorry," he adds for the millionth time, at least a million. "I'm really sorry. Baby. Honey. Danica?"
They are an item, of course, young Ricky and Danica. They have been a public couple since January. People magazine and Entertainment Tonight and all of the requisite gossip outlets have gushed heavily about the situation. This is pop-celebrity manna to be distributed and consumed.
Never have a man and woman in a couple been able to compete directly against each other in a major American sport until now, mostly because men and women do not compete against each other in most major American sports. We have seen sibling rivalries, Serena and Venus Williams at the top of the list. There have been father-son situations like Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. and Gordie Howe and his sons. There have been a bunch of family connections, father against son, brother versus brother, in the cramped world of NASCAR. There never has been a boyfriend vs. girlfriend, husband vs. wife. Not in NASCAR. Not anywhere.
The number of situations that can happen here could fuel sit-com writers through a 13-week first season without raising a sweat. (Danica finds that Ricky is using secret tires at Talladega! Gets revenge with a ballpeen hammer! Ricky thinks that Danica is spending too much time at carburation tests! Not only burns the dinner, but serves it cold! A certain big-bucks car owner wants to hire one of the two drivers, but can't decide which! Mayhem ensues!) The situation that unfolded in Charlotte probably would be in the pilot.
Ricky crashes Danica!
"Do you want to stop up here in the rest area?" young Ricky asks as the I-95 trip continues. "There's a Stuckey's. We could get a nice meal. Relax a little. What do you say? Or would you rather keep going, pull off at a real restaurant? Maybe get a better meal? Maybe have a couple of glasses of wine?"
"What would you like to do? I'll do any of them, really…"
I don't know if Ricky and Danica actually have a tour-bus-for-the-stars mega-cruiser, the kind with the frosted windows, the blank destination sign, maybe the Indian painting on the side, the one that other drivers always think has Sting or Prince or somebody inside. I suppose that even if they do, they wouldn't be driving it themselves to the next race on the schedule, the Fedex 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks in Dover. Someone else would do the driving. Young Ricky and Danica probably would be on the private jet. Probably would have stayed in some nice five-star hotel suite since Charlotte.
To tell the truth, I don't even know how they are handling the crash. They probably are just fine with what happened. Racing is racing. Business is business. Then, again, I do know a little bit about male-female relations. If the male in the relationship causes the female's car to crash, something as egregious and bone-headed as that, there usually are some domestic consequences.
A trip to the florist might not be a bad move for Young Ricky.