Danica Patrick is entering her second season in NASCAR, but is currently in her first full season in the Sprint Cup as a rookie. Patrick started offseason really well getting on pole in the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway, and finished eighth that day. But since then, she has finished in the top 15 twice. Patrick finished 12th at Martinsville in April which is impressive for a rookie, and finished 14th at Daytona in July. So its safe to say Daytona has been a good track for Patrick early in her career.
But what are the real expectations for Patrick? Some expected her to surprise the NASCAR world with immediate success, and others doubted whether she qualified as a NASCAR driver at all.
I don’t only think she is qualified, but she is performing the way a rookie should. Expecting her to take NASCAR by storm the way Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson did in their younger days is unrealistic. Given the talent and the equipment Patrick has around her in Stewtart-Hass Racing, who are tied with Hendrick Motorsports, she has the potential be pretty good real soon.
People have to consider the transition it takes to go from a different type of racing to another. Juan Pablo Montoya went from an Indy car just like Patrick, and Montoya since coming into the Sprint Cup in 2006 only has two wins. It is just a completely different world, and almost nothing can prepare a driver from it. Even driving in the Nationwide series can’t provide a lot of what a driver should expect in the Sprint Cup. But lucky enough for Patrick, she has a great teacher in Tony Stewart who is as versatile a racer as you can get.
With that being said, I think Patrick’s ceiling is higher than Montoya’s at this point. With another full season under her belt in 2014, she can be a dark horse.