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Dale Coyne Racing driver Milka Duno describes her crash to a teammate during the first day of the Indy Car Series practice at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta July 23, 2010. (Todd Korol/Reuters)
Dale Coyne Racing driver Milka Duno describes her crash to a teammate during the first day of the Indy Car Series practice at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta July 23, 2010. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Motorsports: IndyCar

IndyCar racer Milka Duno dangerous, not up to speed Add to ...

On the first few laps of the first practice, with fresh tires and almost no other drivers around her, IndyCar racer Milka Duno lost control of her car, smashed into the tire barrier and shredded her rear wing on Friday.

It was fresh fodder for fellow drivers who renewed calls to expel the Venezuelan racer for a driving style that has morphed from punchline to menace.

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"She's obviously not up to speed," said Danica Patrick, prior to Duno's crash during the first practice session for Sunday's Honda Indy Edmonton (5 p.m. ET, Versus).

Patrick said the problem is not so much Duno's speed as the fact she doesn't follow accepted practice and move over when she's a lap down to let faster drivers get by.

VIDEO: Fellow IndyCar racers Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay say Venezuelan Milka Duno drives so slowly and erratically, she's a menace.

"I'm not against having some different speeds up there, but she's not as gracious about her position as maybe somebody else might be," said Patrick.

Duno, the 38-year-old driver for Dale Coyne Racing, has been pulled by track officials from two races this year, including last week in Toronto, for driving so slowly she was deemed a hazard.

She has never cracked the top 20 in any race this season, and was knocked out by contact in Brazil and Kansas. Now in her fourth year of the series, she has never finished higher than 14th. She is currently ranked 25th, 275 points behind leader Will Power.

It's the lowest total among the full-time drivers.

IndyCar officials are expected to review Duno's performance after the season and can remove her if warranted.

Series CEO Randy Bernard said last week it's critical that all drivers meet a certain standard.

"It is very, very important for the credibility of the IndyCar Series that fans know they (the drivers) are the best in the world," said Bernard. "This series is not a rich man's club."

Duno is believed to bring in a critical wheelbarrow load of sponsorship dollars to the Dale Coyne operation, which is low-budget compared with series giants like Target Chip Ganassi and Penske.

But her erratic driving has led to flare-ups with competitors, including one with Patrick two years ago, and most recently with Ryan Hunter-Reay during qualifying at Watkins Glen, N.Y., three weeks ago.

Hunter-Reay, in a clip on YouTube, is seen confronting Duno in the pits, saying she wouldn't allow him to pass during qualifying, costing him precious seconds.

"Wake up, man. Wake up," Hunter-Reay is heard gently scolding her.

"You just cost me a (qualifying) session. If you're going to drive that slow you've got to (use) your mirrors. You have to."

On Friday, Hunter-Reay said the showdown was the result of a year of frustration.

"It finally reached a boiling point," he said. "She hasn't accomplished enough to be racing in this series and I think her speed shows that."

He said he's comfortable lapping experienced drivers because he knows when, where, and how they're going to move over to let him pass. He said because Duno doesn't look in her rear-view mirrors, every pass is an adventure.

"The scariest situation is coming up to her the first time during a race on the ovals. We're already doing 220 miles an hour. We don't need to throw another curveball in the mix. Not at that speed."

Power, the leader in the driver championship standings, said Milka needs seasoning.

"She probably should do some junior category stuff and get some experience," said Power. "At this level, all the drivers have been through so many different categories of open wheel, road course and oval racing. They've all done their schooling.

"She doesn't have the experience to be running amongst us."

Driver Ryan Briscoe said, "I almost crashed (earlier this month) in Watkins Glen (coming out of the pits) on one of the restarts because she was running around in the middle of the track and slowing down and then all of a sudden she came into the pits as it was going green (back to full speed racing).

"It's kind of strange. It doesn't look like a lot of fun for her out there."

Patrick had her own run-in with Duno two years ago, accusing her of blocking her on the track during practice at Mid-Ohio.

The spat, captured on YouTube, saw Duno snap back at Patrick and throw a towel in her face.

"What the hell?" Patrick said on the tape. "It's not my fault that you're slow!"

On Friday, Duno said critics should cut her some slack because she's driving the full 17 IndyCar races for the first time in 2010 and has never been on the tracks in Edmonton and Toronto.

"In the last race and this one it was a very tough track for me," she said.

"But everything is better, better, better every session and I hope to have the same here.

"Everything is coming with practise."

As for the general criticism of her driving, she labelled it all so much exhaust noise.

"I don't pay attention to what others say."

VIDEO: Fellow IndyCar racers Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay say Venezuelan Milka Duno drives so slowly and erratically, she's a menace.



Notes: Power, the polesitter and winner at the Edmonton Indy last year, continued his dominance in the first day of practice. He finished first at the 1.96 mile, 14-turn City Centre Airport track at a top speed of 115.176 miles per hour. His teammates on Penske Racing, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, were second and third respectively. Toronto's Paul Tracy was ninth out of 25 drivers and Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., was 14th. Duno spun out again in the second practice session and finished last. The drivers will compete in a qualifying session Saturday to determine starting positions for Sunday's race.

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