The NASCAR industry has a list of its all-time greatest drivers that includes names like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson but the most recent debate is whether or not Jimmie Johnson should be included on that list.
With Johnson winning his sixth Championship just over a week ago, sports analysts, fellow athletes and fans started calling him the greatest driver ever. But is he really?
Johnson did something that no driver has ever done before when he won five straight championships from 2006 to 2010. After a two-year hiatus, he is back on top in 2013 after a hard-fought battle with Matt Kenseth during the Chase. Hoisting up that Sprint Cup Championship trophy with his daughter Evie by his side, this win meant more to Johnson than he realized.
With six championships under his belt, Johnson is just one away from tying the greats of Petty and Earnhardt, and two away from winning the most championships…ever. Johnson revealed this season that his ultimate goal is to surpass the greats.
I took to Facebook and Twitter on m personal pages to see where other NASCAR fans ranked Jimmie Johnson among the greatest drivers:
Anita: 5 Championships in a row demand he be on the list….I’m not familiar enough with past drivers to say the BEST.
Aaron: Is he a great one? oh yea! Is he the greatest of all time? NO! Can’t compare to different era’s. Sport is so much different.
Robert: Yes, he needs to be on the list just think 6 championship in 8 years.
Justin: Yes, he is the greatest driver ever. Am I a bit biased, yes maybe, but the numbers don’t lie. 66 wins in 12 full seasons. Only Richard Petty had more in his first 12 seasons. Johnson has won 6 championships in 8 seasons, a feat no one else has accomplished. Jimmie is also on pace to reach 100 wins in 6 more seasons at his current wins per season average. Plus Johnson has won championships in 3 different generations of race cars.
Ace: Jimmie Johnson is a great driver in a sport that great drivers need a ride with unlimited funding and a superior team to make it all happen. There have been many great drivers over the years who never had all the other resources that JJ has. That being said, this is a very hard question to answer honestly and knowingly.
Alicia: I do believe he has already been named one of the greatest drivers. Well deserved.
Ryan: One of the greatest? Yes. The greatest? Not yet. Drivers like Earnhardt Gordon Petty Waltrip rank ahead as far as stats go.
Geoff: Jimmie is dominating the competition in an age of unprecedented parity in the sport. He is not human, and is the greatest driver EVER. Better than Petty and Earnhardt.
Lee: One of them, perhaps, but NOT the greatest.
Donte: No, the King is first, but Johnson is a close second. It’s the 200 wins that will keep the King on top, IMO. Then it’s Johnson, Earnhardt, Pearson, Gordon, Waltrip, etc….
RD: I’m a JG fan, but Jimmie I think will be at the top of the list by the time he hangs up his gloves. Lots of complaining about him but to borrow words from the sage of pro wrestling, Ric Flare, “if you want to be the man you gotta beat the man.” At least in the Chase Era He’s the man.
Stephen: No. deserves to be on the list. hes top 5 at this point
As you can see, opinions vary as far as where he ranks among NASCARs greatest drivers but most agree, he deserves to be on the list. Jimmie Johnson, along with Crew Chief Chad Knaus, will go down in history as one of the greatest duos in all of sports once they hang up their firesuits. It is impossible to compare Johnson with drivers like Petty, Earnhardt and Pearson because the racing and technology were vastly different then then it is now.
For now, Johnson will continue his quest for eight Championships as the series moves into the 2014 season. Will he get to eight? I have no doubt in my mind that he will and heck, he might even go past that.
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Just a few months ago, the NASCAR world learned that Nationwide Insurance would not be returning as title sponsor of the industry’s second series after their contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. Instead the company plans on sponsoring more teams, like Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and be the title sponsor for race weekends. NASCAR announced the monetary terms as it searches for a new title sponsor. According to the Sports Business Daily, NASCAR is raising its rates almost 20% to make the yearly sponsorship between $12-$15 million a season, up from the $10 million Nationwide Insurance pays currently.
In addition to the rights to the title series, NASCAR is also asking for a 10-year contract. Within that contract also lies a $10 million media commitment and a $10 million activation commitment…per season.
That brings the asking price up over $30 million a season for a new title sponsor.
According to the Sports Business Daily, the current Nationwide Series brings in roughly $130 million dollars a season. With new broadcast negotiations being announced this season as well, NASCAR races will be broadcast on three networks beginning in 2015: Fox Sports 1, NBC, and NBC Sports Network.
NASCAR hopes that brands such as Subway, Auto Zone and Dunkin’ Donuts will renew their interest in sponsoring the series as they did when it was last available in 2007.
With Nationwide Series viewership down this season, will that have an impact on finding a new title sponsor with raised rates? It’s a good thing NASCAR has a full year to negotiate because it might just take that long to come to an agreement.
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What started with a win in the Daytona 500 ended with the biggest win of all.
Contact on lap 74 left Johnson with left front fender damage but that didn’t stop him from rallying back to claim his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Matt Kenseth led the most laps in Sunday’s finale but Johnson was never far behind. In the end, he would finish 19 points behind Johnson.
“There is nothing like this,” Johnson said in Victory Lane, choking back heartfelt emotions as he held his 3-year old daughter Genevieve and kissed his wife, Chandra.
“I have six, and we’ll see if I can get seven. Time will tell. I think we need to save the argument until I hang up the helmet, then it’s worth the argument. Let’s wait until I hang up the helmet until we really start thinking about this.”
Matt Kenseth proved to be a formidable championship contender all season long. In his first season in the No.20 car, Kenseth went to Victory Lane a total of seven times and finished second to Denny Hamlin at Homestead. If anything, losing this Championship will just make his 2014 campaign that much stronger.
“It was just unbelievable year for us, obviously we wanted to win the championship as good as we ran all year,” said Kenseth. “If Jimmie would have got a flat or something, that would have been all right. Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably never will again. … Maybe he’ll retire.”
Jimmie Johnson will no doubt go down in history as one of the best drivers the series has ever had. Will he stop at six Championships? Never.
For Johnson, this Championship win meant more than the others. For one, his family was able to celebrate in Victory Lane with him. His wife, his daughters, his father and friends made this victory just that much sweeter.
“This is extremely sweet. I feel like those five years were a blur. And things happen so fast,” Johnson said. “It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it or appreciate it or respect what happened. It just went by so fast it seems like. Now, I’m really going to slow things down here and enjoy it. This is so, so sweet.”
Denny Hamlin won the Ford Ecoboost 400 lengthening his season win streak to 8 straight.
“Is the year over yet?” a grinning Hamlin asked in Victory Lane. “Man, I wanted to keep that streak alive.”
Rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. takes home the Rookie of the Year Award over Danica Patrick and Timmy Hill.
For the guys at Hendrick Motorsports, they won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Like Chad Knaus said to his driver over the radio as he crossed the finish line:
“You better get a sip of that (water) bottle, it’s the only healthy liquid you’re going to get all night.”
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n the closest Championship battle of the season, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon overcomes early race issues to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship over Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. Battling a tough-handling race-car, 23-year old Dillon and his team fought hard to get the No.3 AdvoCare Chevrolet up to race conditions. Slapping the wall early in the race, it seemed like his Championship hopes were slowly fading away. Throwing everything they could at the car, the No.3 found his way up and into the top-10. Throughout the race, it was back and forth between Hornish and Dillon for the points lead.
A series of late race cautions allowed for pit strategy to play out and Dillon found himself four positions behind Hornish on the track, and three points ahead of him in the Championship standings. When the checkered flag flew, the 2011 Truck Series Champion became the new 2013 Nationwide Series Champion.
“It’s probably the worst car we had all year; we fought,” Dillon said. “I’ve been criticized for restarts for a long time and that (the last one) was a pretty good one.”
With a smile on his face, Hornish climbed out of his car and welcomed a swarm of media. A battle well fought, but still he came up short.
“We missed it having that late-race caution, being where we needed to be,” Hornish Jr. said. “We couldn’t get far enough ahead of those guys who had taken four tires.”
Four tires proved to be the downfall for Hornish’s championship hopes after a late race caution caused a long and extensive clean-up. Taking the cars down pit lane in order for officials to clean up the carnage, fans, teams, drivers and media alike thought NASCAR should have red-flagged the race. Restarting with just a handful of laps to go, the drivers on fresh tires, including Hornish’s teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, quickly overtook the field. When the checkered flag waved, Hornish would see his Championship dreams fade by a mere three points.
In the end, it was Hornish in 8th and Dillon in 12th and Penske driver Brad Keselowski in Victory Lane.
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All he had to do was start the race and Matt Crafton clinched his very first Championship in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
In a race full of drama and hard racing, nothing compared to seeing Crafton hold up that trophy that was a long time coming. Thirteen seasons in the Truck Series, Crafton started the Ford Ecoboost 200 in 11th but ended up finishing 21st after being collected in a green-white-checkered finish.
“It’s an honor,” an emotional Crafton said after the race. “To be able to do it for (team owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson that have been doing this for 18 years and give them their first championship … and me driving for them for 13 years full time … for (sponsor) Menards and all the people that have been behind me, and every one of these guys that work on this truck, it’s an honor to be able to give them this championship. These guys are the ones that work so hard. I’m just the one who gets to celebrate and look like a hero, because I get to drive a great truck all year.”
Besides the drivers championship, Crafton was also battling for the owners title, which was handed to Kyle Busch in a tie-breaker for most wins.
2013 was no doubt the most impressive season of Crafton’s career. His one win this season came at Kansas early in the season. That win propelled him to the top of the standings where he remained all season. With 7 top-5′s and 19 top-10s in 22 races, he was no doubt one of the most consistent drivers in all three of NASCAR’s top series.
Crafton will get the chance to race for the title once again wen he returns to the ThorSport Racing No.88 truck in 2014.
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One month after a horrific accident left him with a broken back, broken right ankle and a severe concussion, IndyCar Driver Dario Franchitti has announced that he will no longer be behind the wheel of his No.10 Target machine.
Franchitti released a statement this afternoon regarding his decision:
“Since my racing accident in Houston, I have been in the expert care of some of the leading doctors and nurses, all of whom have made my health, my safety and my recovery their top priority. I am eternally grateful for the medical care I have received over the last several weeks. I’d also like to thank my family and friends for their unbelievable support.
“One month removed from the crash and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing. They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop.
“Racing has been my life for over 30 years and it’s really tough to think that the driving side is now over. I was really looking forward to the 2014 season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with a goal of winning a fourth Indianapolis 500 and a fifth IndyCar Series championship.
“I’d like to thank all my fellow competitors, teammates, crew and sponsors for their incredible support over the course of this amazing ride. I’d also like to thank Hogan Racing, Team KOOL Green and Andretti Green Racing for the opportunities to compete on the racetrack, and especially Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who have become like a family to me since I joined their team back in 2008. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all my fans around the world. I can’t thank you enough for standing by my side for all these years.
I’ll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I’ve forged in the sport will last a lifetime.
Hopefully in time, I’ll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I’ll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team, and with all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years at Target.”
Franchitti ends his career tied in eighth for all-time wins in the IndyCar Series with 31 career wins and 33 career poles.
The three-time Indy 500 winner had an immediate outpouring of support from fellow drivers after his announcement.
“Sad, indeed,” Kanaan said via text message to USA Today. “Dario was the key person on the process of getting me to the Ganassi team and I was counting the days to be his teammate again.
“Dario is a great person, a superb driver and a motorsports legend. But most importantly, he is my friend, and as much as it hurts not seeing him compete with me in IndyCar, I’m very happy that he got out of that accident and is still with us.”
Teammate Scott Dixon also made a comment regarding Franchitti’s unexpected retirement saying: “Dario is a true legend in the sport. More importantly, I can call him a best friend. There are very few people that have achieved as much in auto racing and knowing Dario, he won’t go far as IndyCar racing is in his blood and I am sure he will stay involved somehow.”
IndyCar will feel the loss of Franchitti’s presence at the track in 2014 but the legacy he has left behind will be present for years to come. “As a four-time IndyCar Series champion and a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Dario Franchitti has etched his name among the greats of this sport, and his legacy will continue to influence future generations of competitors,” a spokesperson for IndyCar said Thursday. “His passion was born, in part, from a deep love for the sport and a reverence to its history, and Dario carries that heritage everywhere he travels and shares it with everyone he meets. Dario’s leadership on and off the track has helped shape IndyCar, and we look forward to him remaining involved in the sport he loves.”
Franchitti has already underwent two surgeries to repair his ankle and is at home in Scotland recovering.
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For thirteen years, Matt Crafton has been competing in what is now called the Camping World Truck Series. Thirteen years and a long road to his first Championship in one of NASCAR’s premiere leagues.
A road that has not been easy to travel, Crafton is one of those racers that has had to earn everything he has gotten. As a young driver, his family didn’t have the money to spend on top-notch and new equipment. Instead, they settled for hand-me-down cars and homemade chassis. The 2000 Southwest Tour Champion had to practice many times on old race tires and his father would bargain for a new set.
“I remember one thing my dad always said: ‘You run good enough this week, you’ll get a practice set of tires next week,’ ” Crafton told NASCAR.com
Nowadays, that isn’t the case. Crafton currently sits 46-points ahead of Ty Dillon and is well on his way to hoisting up the Champions trophy on Friday.
Crafton is coming to be called “Mr. Consistency” in the garage after finishing outside of the top-10 only twice this season. How close is Crafton to clinching the title? He only needs to start the race at Homestead-Miami.
Driving the No.88 for ThorSport Racing, Crafton’s only teammate Johnny Sauter has three wins this season yet sits 77-points behind him. Crafton has one win this season coming at Kansas bringing his total wins in his Truck Series career to just three. Crafton told NASCAR.com that the reason he is so consistent is because he always had to work for what he had.
“I’ve never had everything given to me. I’ve always had to take care of what I had, from when I was a kid racing go-karts to micro-midgets to late models. You go out there and tear it up, you don’t get to race next week. I guess it teaches you to take care of your stuff a little bit more. Yes, maybe if I were more aggressive and a little more wild, maybe I could have won a few more races. But at the same time, I might have been out of a job if the owner says, ‘This guy tears up too much stuff.’ That’s just the way I was raised, to take care of your stuff.”
All of his hard work and patience is about to pay off in a big way. For Matt Crafton, this championship isn’t just for him, but for his father Danny who has stood by his side since his first race as a child.
“I think about it every day,” Danny Crafton said. “Coming from that little town in (Bakersfield) California, we got here.”
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This season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series could have a winless champion. A season where only four races were won by Nationwide Series drivers actually running for the Championship has made this season hard to watch for some NASCAR’s most diehard fans. So what will the championship come down to?
Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. are at the top of the standings with only one win between the two. Dillon currently sits eight points ahead of Hornish with one race left on the schedule and that race will determine who sits at the head of the table at the awards banquet next week.
Driving for grandfather Richard Childress, Dillon has been rumored to move up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. The 2011 Camping World Truck Series Champion is currently winless this season with 13 top-5′s and 22 top-10 finishes. His strength this season has been consistency and finishing races. With one DNF coming at Richmond in the spring, Dillon has completed 99.2% of the laps this season.According to statistics from Racing Reference, Dillon’s average start is 4.8 and in a seven week stretch through the summer, Dillon sat on the pole six of those weeks.
In his second full season in the Nationwide Series, the 3-time IndyCar Series Champion has a NASCAR Championship within reach. Sam Hornish Jr. has had a wild ride in NASCAR since joining the series full-time in 2008. With one win this season at Las Vegas, Hornish has been fairly consistent this season. According to Racing Reference, Hornish has 16 top-5 and 24 top-10 finishes. His downfall this season has been the two DNF’s he has acquired. With an average finish of 9.0 and 97.6% of the laps completed this season, it shows just where he has fallen short compared to Austin Dillon.
Barring a wreck or mechanical failure for either of our two championship contenders, the winner will be decided in the closing laps at Homestead-Miami Saturday night. Both drivers are equally deserving of being at the top and with just eight points separating the two, the slightest mistake could cost someone the big trophy.
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The X Games superstar announced to his fans and followers yesterday that his foray into NASCAR has come to a close. Currently finishing up his second full season in the sport, Travis Pastrana is calling it quits. He took to Facebook yesterday to make the announcement.
This past season of NASCAR has been an awesome experience. I have made a lot of great friends, had a lot of fun and gained a new appreciation for all aspects of this sport. Jack Roush and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing have gone above and beyond to try and help me succeed and I am truly grateful for their support. I would like to thank them and all of the other people who stuck behind me during the last two years as I tried to learn how to make a successful career in NASCAR. Its tough to step back now and prove the critics were right, but unfortunately my results were not good enough to get the sponsors I needed to appropriately fund next season.
My wife Lyn-z has been more then supportive of my foray into NASCAR, often times being my biggest source of encouragement and support. But as my wife had to take a step back from being a professional skater to let me chase my goals in racing, I too need to take a step back and look at my situation as a father and husband. The NASCAR schedule is grueling and takes enormous sacrifices from those you love to make work. With a lack of funding next year, now is my opportunity to sit back and offer support as she chases her goals.
I hate to quit and I hate to fail, but sometimes things work out as they should. I’ve never been able to figure out the finesse required in pavement racing and that is disappointing, but I’m looking forward to driving more rally and racing more off-road trucks and there will be some announcements on those fronts shortly! My wife is excited to get back to skating on the Nitro Circus Live Tour and I’m excited to spend some quality time with my girls.
Thank you to all my fans for the support and I hope to see each of you at an event in the near future.
Fans and critics alike have shown their support for this talented driver over the past two seasons but unfortunately, NASCAR just wasn’t the right fit for Pastrana. He brought a new light and a new fan base into this sport and broke away from the crisp white shirts that represent Roush Fenway Racing. Homestead-Miami will mark the last race that we will see the multicolored car out on the track.
Before I get into the logistics of this piece, I just want to make something clear. This article is based on research and fact, not strictly opinion. Am I a fan of Danica Patrick? Yes, I have been for many years and will continue to be for many more to come.
My point for this article isn’t to point out her accomplishments or failures, but to prove that she isn’t to blame for everything, even though many people seem to think of her as the easy scapegoat. So, on to the article.
Many times this season, the driver of the No.10 GoDaddy Chevrolet has been involved in an accident of some sort. Have they all been caused by said driver? No. Not even close. Has said driver caused wrecks this season that took out others? Yes, but which driver hasn’t?
Let us start from the beginning of 2013.
March 2013: Phoenix
Just the second race of the season and Patrick earns her first DNF after a hard wreck at Phoenix International Raceway. Take a look at the video from NASCAR of the wreck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN50p45hPDM Listening to the broadcasters and the in-car camera, Patrick blew a right-front tire coming out of turn 4 which sent her straight into the wall, bouncing her off and into the oncoming car of David Ragan. A similar incident happened to Patrick’s teammate, Ryan Newman. He also blew a tire during the race, but hit at a different angle (Click here for the video). Was this wreck Patrick’s fault? Not entirely. Blowing a tire while traveling at high speeds is going to lead to a wreck and Ragan just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Could Patrick have stopped her car from rolling down the track? Possibly, but the way her car hit would have made it extremely difficult for even the most experienced driver.
April 2013: Martinsville
This one isn’t necessarily a wreck, but it did bring out a caution. Patrick, after starting in the back after an engine change, is fighting her way up through the field only to be turned by Ken Schrader (watch it here ). This is more than likely due to the fact that this was her first start at Martinsville and she was still learning how to race the track. In the end, she gets back on the lead lap and surprises everyone with a top-12 finish. Will I call the spin her fault? No, it’s Martinsville. Everyone has isues at some point or another at Martinsville.
May 2013: Talladega
Like most of the drivers in the field, Danica Patrick was caught up in the “big one” with just a handful of laps to go. With her pole-winning Daytona car, Patrick was on her way to another respectable plate track finish when a wreck, triggered by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JJ Yeley, caused the field to crash and scatter. Looking at the video caught by the Goodyear blimp (which you can watch here ), Patrick is riding around in the middle of the track when the wreck starts in front of her. She slides up the track to avoid being caught up in it, only to run right into Terry Labonte, causing them to both hit the wall. A Rookie mistake or just a split-second reaction? It’s both but the fact of the matter is, she may have made it through this one with little to no damage if she wouldn’t have slid so far up the track. I will put this one as a draw.
May 2013: Charlotte
So this one is a little harder to determine who is at fault. Seven cars were racing for the Lucky Dog position and were all racing hard. Two of those cars, the No.2 of Brad Keselowski and the No.10 of Patrick plus the No.17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. decide to take it three-wide going into turn-3. Looking at NASCAR’s video of the wreck (here ), it looks like Stenhouse slid up the track just a bit, but enough to make Patrick slide up as well, right into Keselowski’s left rear quarter panel. We will hand the start of this wreck to Stenhouse.
July 2013: Loudon
The one that landed her on the couch that night. Patrick, racing hard with boyfriend Stenhouse and Travis Kvapil, misses her braking point going into the turn and runs right in to the side of Stenhouse. Stenhouse loses control from the contact with Patrick and takes out Kvapil (watch the video here ). This one falls solely on the shoulders of Patrick.
August 2013: Pocono
Patrick drives it hard going into the turn and her car loses grip. She chased it up the track but went right into the No.93 of Kvapil.
Patrick spins, collecting Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. This one, once again, falls on Patrick. Would this have happened if she had more experience driving these cars? Probably not. This one is definitely a Rookie mistake, but a mistake at that.
October 2013: Kansas
I was actually here for this one…and it wasn’t pretty. Patrick had been having a reasonable weekend with practice and qualifying but a very cold day led to very interesting track temperatures and conditions. At the green flag, Patrick makes a big mistake; she slides up to the middle of the track. With cold temperatures and cold tires, the car had little to no grip at the start of the race. She slid to the middle of the track before going in to turn-1 and lost control. Her car slides around and slides up the track, ending her day. (Watch the video here ).
November 2013: Phoenix
The most recent incident Patrick was involved in was one not of her own making. Lap 146 at Phoenix saw Patrick colliding with former JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt along with David Reutimann and Justin Allgaier after Reutimann was spun out by the No.43 of Aric Almirola. Patrick and Allgaier both slowed to avoid the wreck ahead of them only to be run into by the No.30 of Whitt. This was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So my point for all of these is this; each and every one of the incidents, whether started by Patrick or not, led to a stream of hate and blame on social networks and fan sites. My question to you is; why always blame Patrick? Yes, she has caused a few wrecks this season but can name a driver who hasn’t? Patrick seems to be the scapegoat for NASCAR fans and drivers to blame when she is involved in an issue out on the track when she isn’t necessarily the one at fault. There have even been times where she hasn’t been involved, yet someone throws the blame her way.
Whether you are a fan of Danica Patrick or not, you have to remember that she is a Rookie, or at least will be for one more race, and is going to make mistakes. Even seasoned drivers make mistakes that cause carnage and big wrecks. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and even the 5-time (probably soon to be 6-time) champion Jimmie Johnson have caused a wreck recently.
Love her or hate her, Danica Patrick is here to stay.
NOTE: Racing-Reference.info was used to collect a majority of the race data as well as DanicaRacing.com and NASCAR.com
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