Does Danica Patrick Deserve the Hype at This Point in Her NASCAR Career?
Leslie and I were discussing this on air this morning in light of yesterday's Daytona 500 where Danica Patrick finished 8th after earning the pole position in qualifying. At the start of the final lap, Patrick was third with a shot at second, but by the end of the lap and the race, she dropped to 8th. A Top 10 finish is certainly great for Patrick but did she live up to the hype? Make no mistake, winning the pole in qualifying is great for any driver, but Patrick was the first woman to win the Pole in the history of NASCAR. That feat deserved all the attention it received, but keep in mind she is yet to win anything significant up to this point.
During her time in the IndyCar Series, she only had one minor victory that came in the Japan 300 in 2008. After that, her best finish was 5th despite leading a few laps at the Indy 500 a few years back.
Since joining the NASCAR Series in 2012, yesterday was her best finish in 8th. The point is, every time you see a NASCAR promo, there is Patrick being featured with the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, all of whom have won at that level with Gordon and Johnson winning the Championship multiple times.
Is Danica Patrick one of the best in the sport? I say, not yet, but she is well on her way. Most people say it's only an issue because she is a girl, which is true to some extent, but I would argue that Patrick would be the first to say she wanted be judged on her ability and talent alone - not her gender. The race started yesterday with the command of "drivers and Danica start your engines." Really...and Danica....what's up with that and why single her out that way at the start?
The fact is, Patrick is a marketing machine and has generated a lot of interest in the sport, but we don't see young girls all over the country turning to racing, even though there are many female racers at all levels that we never hear about.
All I'm saying is nothing gives you elite status more than wins and at least one championship really helps that cause. Patrick is yet to win at this point. I certainly think she proved yesterday that she will be a factor in the sport and the wins may very well start to roll in, but until they do, let's hold off on including her with the best in the business....for now.
She just isn't there yet with the new crop of drivers that include Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose and Brad Kaselowski, who was the 2012 Champion. Hang on Danica, your time is coming.