DAYTONA BEACH, Fla– What would happen if Danica Patrick won the Daytona 500?
Well, if you thought the media coverage after her historic pole award last season was a lot, then winning the Great American Race would probably break social media outlets across the globe.
Patrick is one of NASCAR’s most polarizing and popular figures, and being a female in a male-dominated world brings scrutiny and criticism. It also means all eyes are on Patrick.
Patrick, as mentioned above, started on the pole for the Daytona 500 last season, and ran up front for all 500 miles. Running third after taking the white flag, many thought that she might just have a chance. Instead, inexperience got the best of her, and she fell to eighth after her former car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., made a move to try and win the race.
Her eighth place finish was the highest finish for a female in NASCAR’s top tier division, and it made headlines all over the world, even topping Jimmie Johnson’s second Daytona 500 victory media tour at some points.
That was just from finishing eighth.
If she could win the Daytona 500, not only would history be made, but NASCAR would also go where it has never been before. Patrick is a celebrity in every sense of the word and just this weekend, reached the milestone Twitter mark of one million followers. A victory lane visit from the long-haired maiden would be epic.
It would also show the “Dani-Can’t” that she deserves to be in the No.10 Chevrolet. Maybe Richard Petty and his son, Kyle Petty, would finally jump in on the Patrick bandwagon…it could happen.
Restrictor plate races are Patrick’s greatest shot at a victory in the Sprint Cup Series, and Daytona is the biggest stage the sport has to offer. Patrick thrives under pressure as well.
A victory for her at the Daytona 500 would put NASCAR in the history books, and not just the motorsports ones. It would be the first victory for a woman in NASCAR’s top-tier series, and it would mean more to female racers than one can even imagine.
Can she win it? There are countless fans, analysts, teams and drivers who believe she can. After last season, Patrick says she is more prepared to make that race-winning move than ever before, especially with the expansion of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Could 2014 be her year? She has to start from the back, but it’s been done before. Watch out boys, Patrick is coming through.
CONCORD, N.C.–In the world of NASCAR, one off the cuff comment stirs up far reaching opinions and controversy. On Monday, NASCAR’s King, Richard Petty, made some comments that stirred up debate, and not surprisingly those comments were about Danica Patrick.
According to Petty, the only way Patrick will ever win a race is “if everybody else stays home.”
His son, Kyle Petty, said something similar last season and so have countless others. So what exactly is the deal with the hate against Patrick?
Patrick is one of the most prominent faces in NASCAR, and one could even argue that she is more recognizable that Dale Earnhardt Jr. outside of the motorsports world. Did that help her get a top ride in NASCAR? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with that. In the cut-throat world that is the NASCAR industry, using anything you have at your disposal to get yourself a ride is not uncommon.
Much like several of her racing peers, Patrick brings in sponsorship dollars to whatever team she is driving for, plus her celebrity status and name recognition benefits any team that has employed her in a great way. Stewart-Haas Racing aren’t the only ones benefiting from her popularity. NASCAR, as an organization, receives plenty of the media buzz which she creates.
For example, when she won the pole for the Daytona 500, her history-making story made headlines in media outlets where NASCAR has never been, which to the sanctioning body meant more money and more attention. Her historic run at NASCAR’s Super Bowl continued to make headlines long after the checkered flag waved.
But what about talent? The majority of “Danica-haters” or “Danicant’s” say she has no talent. To those doubters, the response is simple. Get in her car, and let’s see what you can do. Patrick wouldn’t be where she is in her career, regardless of sponsorship, if she didn’t have the talent to drive these cars. Granted, she wasn’t “successful” in her seven years in the IndyCar Series but stock cars are vastly different. It’s hard to compare the two to each other. Patrick won one race in the IRL that most say was a fuel-mileage race, but a race win is a race win, regardless of how it came.
While other Indycar drivers have come in and failed (see Dario Franchitti or Juan Pablo Montoya), or taken close to half a decade to achieve a race win (Sam Hornish Jr.), Patrick is committed to making this work and given the time, will be successful and people forget she has only been driving full bodied stock cars for two years in total. For all the detractors that said her rookie year in Cup was a massive disappointment, they need to reconsider and look at her numbers objectively compared to many of her peer’s rookie seasons.
Not everybody is Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart, and Patrick will not be one of those drivers, but many other drivers won’t as well. Earnhardt Jr. seemingly only wins once every four years in the best equipment in the sport, yet the amount of detractors for the No. 88 are a lot less than for a Cup Series rookie who happens to be female.
As Patrick enters her second full Cup Series season, perhaps detractors should step back and realize the truth instead of coming to rapid conclusions. Patrick is a young and very inexperienced stock car driver learning her trade.
Will she ever win? Well, one does not need to win to have a successful NASCAR career-Ted Musgrave, Rick Mast, Kenny Wallace and the list goes on and on of successful and well-respected drivers who never won a race at the top level.
Judging Patrick based solely on her race finishes of her Rookie season is unfair. Many drivers and crew members who have worked with Patrick one-on-one have said that her knowledge of these cars is impeccable, and her drive to learn and improve each weekend is impressive.
When Patrick’s driving career is over, my hope is that she is viewed no differently and respected as someone who gave it her best shot. As for Richard Petty, he is called the King for a reason but in this instance, I feel he may be wrong about Patrick. Who knows, she might just prove him wrong on Feb. 23.