Tag:Danica Patrick
Posted on: June 25, 2010 5:51 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2010 5:51 pm
 

She's Back

Danica Patrick made her return to NASCAR this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to begin her second foray into stock car racing.

Let's hope it's a little more low key than the first time around.

To be fair, I thought the "Danica Mania" blitz that surrounded Patrick's stock car debut back in February wasn't all that bad. She brought added attention to the sport and Daytona's "Speedweeks" and in NASCAR's current struggle for any bit of exposure possible that spotlight was a much-needed kick start to the season.

The television coverage of Patrick's on track race adventures went way too far with isolated shots of the No. 7 car wallowing back in 37th place or so turning off many long-time fans. While it was probably necessary to appease those casual fans who were tuning in just to see Danica take on the NASCAR boys, it's an approach that should not be taken this time around.

When ESPN fires up the cameras to cover Saturday's New England 200 Nationwide Series race of course Patrick will be a story line to set the scene and follow throughout the day. But it has to be a much more balanced approach than what was employed earlier this year.

New Hampshire track officials report ticket sales for Saturday's race are better than a year ago and much of that is credited to having Ms. Patrick in the field. Some accounts have an extra 10,000 planning to be in the stands for Saturday's race at the "Magic Mile." So there is no doubt that she is still a lightning rod and a promoter's dream.

Patrick seems to have a real expectation of what will be considered a good performance come Saturday and I'd say a top twenty finish would be equivalent to her taking the checkered flag. This is all about seat time and a learning curve that Patrick has already found to be quite steep. Although she has experience driving an Indy Car on a flat, one-mile track like the one in Loudon it's going to be a much different animal to harness behind the wheel of a 3,400 lb. stock car.

Try as she might to downplay things this time around there are still media outlets hyping Patrick's return like the second coming. The New Hampshire track didn't do anything to help keep the proceedings to less than a sideshow by presenting her with a $1,000 pair of shoes during her media availability on Friday. What that had to do with anything is anyone's guess.

I'll be watching Saturday's race intently to see if the incredible streak of having 23 different drivers win New Hampshire's 23 Nationwide Series races to date is extended to 24. I hope that's the main story that gets covered but you and I both know it won't be.


Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: May 30, 2010 6:45 pm
Edited on: May 30, 2010 11:08 pm
 

Danica's Day

INDIANAPOLIS - She started the month as public enemy number one in a lot of fan's eyes. By the time the checkered flag flew in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 Danica Patrick was once again a fan favorite.

Patrick rallied from starting 23rd to notch a fifth place finish in Sunday's 94th running of the Indy 500 and continue her impressive string of performances in "The Greatest Spectacle of Racing."

Patrick has only finished outside the top ten once in seven career 500 starts and notched her third top five finish.

That's a mark that hundreds of other drivers would trade most anything to have on their resume.

Patrick's comments on the track's PA system that the Andretti Autosport team gave her a crummy car in qualifying and it "wasn't her fault" didn't sit well with a number of fans at the track last weekend that showered her with a chorus of boos. Patrick was then thrust into the critical spotlight by many media members who questioned her comments and team loyalty.

But stop to think about that for a minute. Patrick certainly wasn't the first driver to complain about a car prepared by their team.

Denny Hamlin threw the Joe Gibbs Racing team under the bus last August at Michigan and said there wasn't anyway he could make the Chase with the way his organization was performing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems to constantly talk about an ill-handling car and his team missing the set-up. The list goes on and on.

Yet when Patrick the lightning rod makes similar observations, she's seen as a crybaby and a malcontent.

Patrick brings much of that spotlight she's constantly under onto herself. That's going to happen when you try to be taken seriously as a race car driver but star in a string of saucy television commercials and push the envelope photo shoots for the likes of Maxim and FHM magazines.

But sometimes lost in that magnification is the fact that Patrick is a pretty good talent behind the wheel. She speaks her mind. And she's not afraid to back down on the track when necessary.

I'd say those are talents any team owner - or fan - would want from their driver.

Her performance at The Brickyard on Sunday was another reminder that it's a mistake to consider Patrick just a pretty face.
**A scoring change after the race ended dropped Patrick to sixth in the final standings.**
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 20, 2010 10:16 pm
 

Lessons Learned

Don't let Danica Patrick's 31st place finish in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway fool you. Despite the finish in the second half of the field, Patrick's day in Southern California was a success.

Although she was never a factor in the race, which ended in a wild affair between Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle, Patrick's second career NASCAR start will be viewed as time well spent. The only goal of crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and Patrick on Saturday was finishing the race and not having her day end as it did a week ago at Daytona when she was swept up in an 11-car accident.

Patrick stayed out of trouble, ran at the back of the pack and basically just learned what it was like to pilot a lumbering stock car around an intermediate-sized track like the two-mile ACS.

She'll take the same approach next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before returning to her Indy Racing League job with Andretti Racing.

Anyone who thinks Patrick should be challenging for wins or top ten finishes hasn't been around NASCAR racing for very long. The learning curve is pretty steep and drivers who were considered superior to Patrick came into NASCAR with a distinct lesson plan before there was any thought of finding victory lane. Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr and Joey Logano are just recent examples of highly-touted drivers with stellar credentials in other forms of racing who went to school before entertaining any remote idea of being competitive in NASCAR.

Patrick is no different. In fact with the schedule she's chosen to follow combining NASCAR with her IRL slate, her transition will most likely take even longer.

The hype machine was in high gear again this week in California and no doubt will do the same next Saturday at Las Vegas.

But the reality is Patrick is in the middle of a major on the job training program, which will certainly last through her entire first year as a stock car driver.


Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 6, 2010 8:07 pm
 

Danica's Debut

Those people who don't think Danica Patrick can drive a stock car need to find another reason for her not to make a move to NASCAR.

Patrick couldn't have been more impressive Saturday night at Daytona in her stock car debut. And it wasn't just her sixth place finish in the ARCA 200 that was reason for even her most stout critics to stand up and take notice.

It was how she got there.

Patrick ran near the front of the field for most of the race and at times showed the patience and prowess of someone with several years of stock car restrictor plate racing rather than a driver making her first appearance at "The World Center of Racing."

Patrick used the draft, hugged the yellow inside line and even applied a little bump drafting technique in the first night on her new job.

Oh and she even got a little taste of crashing, well almost crashing anyway.

Patrick and Nelson Piquet Jr., a Formula One veteran making his stock car debut as well, made contact coming out of turn four on lap 54. The impact sent Patrick on a wild ride down the frontstretch and finally through the infield grass before she was finally able to right the ship and remarkably head back top pit road with very little damage.

Her JR Motorsports crew changed tires and made a few minor repairs and after restarting 17th, Patrick was able to again draft her way to the front and finally take the checkered flag in the sixth position.

All the while the crowd seemed to ooh and aah with her every move on the race track and she was by far the focal point of what turned out to be a typical ARCA "Crashfest" at the 2.5-mile track. The race was punctuated by several scary-looking wrecks and proved once again that running these mostly inexperienced drivers at such high speeds at a mammoth track like Daytona probably isn't the best idea in the world. By the grace of God no one was hurt.

Patrick came away unscathed and although it's only one race in a clearly lower level series on a restrictor plate track proved that she has a shot at figuring out the stock car game. Whether she makes her NASCAR debut in next Saturday's Nationwide Series race has yet to be announced but the feeling around the track is that will come on the heels of her performance tonight.

Patrick had every reason to say "I told you so" to a lot of people after she climbed out of the car Saturday night. 

She didn't.

But her smile and look of accomplishment spoke volumes.
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 29, 2010 3:02 pm
 

Busy Girl

Danica Patrick's 2010 racing schedule was finalized with the announcement of the 12 race Nationwide Series schedule she'll compete in with JR Motorsports.

Let's just say she'll have her hands full this season.

Starting with next week's ARCA opener at Daytona, Patrick as of now has 29 races on her calendar across three different divisions - the IRL, Nationwide Series and ARCA. That could grow to include the Nationwide kick off event at Daytona if her ARCA voyage goes well. And there is the possibility of a few more ARCA stock car rides in the mix in the final third of the season.

Already Patrick's announcement has caused an uptick of excitement around some regular season Nationwide Series races that have struggled to move tickets the last few seasons. One track promoter told me Patrick's appearance will account for 5-10,000 more butts in his seats later this summer.

The folks at ESPN are most certainly grinning from ear-to-ear with Patrick's news which will no doubt bring a few more eyeballs to the network's Nationwide Series telecasts. And if just a handful of people tune in to watch Patrick's IRL endeavors after getting a taste of her skills in stock car racing, the anemic Indy Car TV audience will also pick up a few notches in the ratings department.

All that's left now is for Patrick to learn the nuances of driving a 3,400 pound stock car while balancing her regular job of piloting her Indy Car rocket ship. Whether she can juggle the two successfully is still the biggest question on most people's minds.

"You've hit the nail on the head," said Dario Franchitti, who knows a thing or two about making the transition from open wheel racing to stock cars and then back again. "You can learn to switch by focusing but the back and forth I think will be tricky."

The countdown clock is now down to seven days for the great Danica experiment to begin.  In a season that is already shaping up as one filled with potential and story lines, this one may be the most intriguing to watch.
Category: Auto Racing
 
 
 
 
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