I often wonder if Danica Patrick’s hurting or helping her legacy as a female driver in NASCAR. Above all else you need to appreciate her talent, she is more than qualified to handle a race car and has a ton of guts. She brings a whole new demographic into the sport from a fan perspective and the amount of revenue it generates rivals the biggest names in the sport.
Patrick has been a welcome addition to the garage area. She engages the media, greets her fans and jokes with her peers. She fits in well. Is she good enough to win? She has all of the tools at her disposal. Patrick drives for Stewart-Haas Racing which is an extension of Hendrick Motorsports who supplies the engines and with whom they exchange data. Hmmm, Hendrick engines and info from Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson.
At the end of the day, we are led to believe winning matters most to sponsors. Is Patrick however just as valuable to her sponsors finishing in the middle of the pack each weekend as opposed to finishing at the front? It’s a question worth debating.
What do the results show? In 86 races, she has 1 pole (2013 Daytona 500) and 4 top-10’s. An average starting position of 27.1 and an average finish of 25.2 but she’s accumulated over $9 million in winnings. Through 86 races, Patrick has finished just thirty-four of them on the lead lap. That means she’s finished at least a lap down in almost half of the races she’s entered including 11 DNF’s, nine in the past 2 seasons.
Compare that to her Xfinity series statistics where in 61 races her average finish is 21.1, average start is 17.7 and has finished on the lead lap just 24 times. Winnings? $1.77 million for finishing mid-pack in the minor league series. You can also add 13 DNF’s.
Now, I’m not here bashing her at all, the point of the article is simple. Does NASCAR and her sponsors reap the benefits at the expense of her ability? Does anybody care? She’s sexy, determined and does not back down from other drivers BUT can she truly compete at this level? Has her 3+ years in the series improved enough to call it anything but a side show? Patrick has been involved in numerous wrecks and dust-up’s with competitors and has taken her share of good cars out of races AND to be fair has been on the receiving end of bad luck at times as well.
Personally, I’d love to see her or any female driver in the winner’s circle, standing on the car splashing beer all around in celebration. Will Danica be the first woman to win in NASCAR? I don’t believe she will be but I’m excited at the possibility now more than ever. NASCAR is a sport that has evolved over the years for better or worse depending on who you ask.
We have drivers from all corners of the globe looking to make an impact in stock car racing. Thanks to Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and now Danica Patrick newcomers have a path laid out for them, if they can find a sponsor.
Patrick is off to a typical start in 2015, 2 finishes on the lead lap, 22.5 average finish and in 23rd position after 4 races. You can read the sponsor loud and clear, Patrick can finish wherever she may please, as everyone is getting fat in this deal. As far as running up front, that’s up to Danica at this point.
Statistics courtesy of racing-reference.info