Over the past season, Danica Patrick’s NASCAR campaign has been a ride of highs and lows more action-packed than most of her races.
While some say she’s only in the No. 10 Go Daddy! car because of who she is and her press attention, others praise her past successes in Indy Car and her pole at the Sprint Cup Daytona 500. Former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty recently told the press the only women driver in NASCAR was “not a race car driver” but a “marketing machine,” but let’s not forget Petty entered the sport under similar “silver spoon” treatment.
Countering the criticism, Dale Earnhart Jr. told ESPN: “I have to disagree with Kyle. I think she’s a tough competitor. She works really hard at what she does and she has run some really good races. On every occasion, she’s outrunning several guys on the circuit.”
But who’s right? Patrick is a rookie, but has she become the main focus of attention because she’s the only woman currently racing in the Sprint Cup Series?
Why Petty claimed Patrick was better at qualifying, I don’t know. Just look at the statistics: out of 17 races, Patrick has finished better than she started 13 times. In the Quicken Loans 400 she started 37th and finished 13th; the STP Gas Booster 500 saw her start 32nd and finish 12th and the Fed Ex 400 saw her make up 15 places by the checkered flag, so it appears she’s actually better at clawing back places under race conditions.
It’s true she claimed pole at the Daytona 500 and finished eighth, but this is NASCAR — anything can happen. Surely she wasn’t expected to win solely because she was on pole?
I personally think critics should at least wait until the end of the season, or better still, until next season after she has a full Sprint Cup season under her belt.