By admin | October 28, 2013
By Richard Allen
The 2013 Sprint Cup season is very near to taking the checkered flag and heading to the garage area. So, it’s time for evaluations to begin for those who have been taking part in all the fun and festivities this year. No doubt, every NASCAR team is in the process of grading itself now for the purpose of building on its successes or improving upon its failures.
That same process is likely going on with drivers as well. So with that said, one driver who has been and will be judged by just about everyone who even has a casual interest in the sport is Danica Patrick.
There has perhaps never been a rookie to come onto the NASCAR scene with such fanfare as Danica did this past season. And that hype was only heightened when she put her Stewart-Haas Racing car on the pole for the season opening Daytona 500. Conveniently, her qualifying run came a full week before the actual race which allowed television and other media outlets to highlight the feat for days.
Most will acknowledge that the job of a rookie driver in the Sprint Cup Series is to log laps and learn. But at the same time, there is a responsibility on the driver to show improvement throughout the year as well.
So the question is, has Danica done what rookies are supposed to do?
I bring this up at this time due to the fact that she was returning to the site of one of her better runs in 2013 this past weekend at the Martinsville Speedway. Back in April, the ‘Go Daddy Girl’ posted a 12th place result on a track known for its difficulty on both driver and machine. It appeared as if the former IndyCar star had made a breakthrough of sorts in the bigger, heavier stock cars.
So how did Danica do in her return to the paper clip shaped half-mile? Well, she turned in a decent 17th place finish, one lap of the leader’s pace. However, she did lose the use of her primary car after a practice crash before the event.
As far as all the other tracks go, Danica hasn’t seemed to progress very much at all this year. As a matter of fact, her high point was actually in the previously mentioned season opener. Her top qualifying run eventually ended with an 8th place finish in NASCAR’s biggest race. Since then, she has only threatened the top-10 with that 12th in Martinsville, a 13th in Michigan and a 14th in the sport’s return trip to Daytona in July.
Statistics bear out the suggestion that Danica has shown little improvement. So far in 2013, she has posted only one top-10. At the same time, she has scored 21 finishes of 25th or worse in 33 races. Her worst showing of all came just four races ago in Kansas when she made an ill advised move between two other cars going into the first turn of the first lap and caused a crash that resulted in a 43rd place finish.
That goes completely against the “keep the fenders on it and log laps” mentality that certain television commentators stated over and over again during their network’s segment of the Sprint Cup schedule. The #10 Chevrolet has completed 9046 of 9640 laps.
Just for the sake of comparison, Patrick’s boyfriend and fellow ‘Rookie of the Year’ candidate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has posted one top-5 and three top-10 finishes this season. He too won a pole and has completed 9505 of 9640 laps.
If solid results don’t start to come soon, there could be a much bigger problem for the sport’s most prominent female driver. Although she has achieved several feats and firsts during her career, Danica’s main asset to date has been her marketability. Would anyone disagree with that?
So if marketability and sex appeal are keys to her rise through the ranks in racing, trouble could be on the horizon for her career. At 31 years of age, time might just be running out on her greatest asset. How many models do you know of who are deep into their 30s?
Also, it has been suggested that the new CEO of GoDaddy.com may want to re-evaluate his company’s place in motorsports, although he does like Danica as a spokesperson.
The bottom line is that Danica needs to post some results worth bragging about sometime in the near future. If not, the clock may strike midnight before NASCAR’s most visible princess finds any real success.
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