Friday, June 1, 2018

Danica: A Great Driver?

So last week in an interview with ESPN, Danica Patrick hoped she would be remembered as a great driver. AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Bush and Danica Patrick. One of these is not like the others. Great drivers have numerous victories over a long period of time. Hell, Jimmie Johnson has 7 championships. Patrick has one career victory spread over 3 racing series. Her big accomplishements are one victory in Indy car, one pole position in NASCAR and 7 top ten finishes in NASCAR. Her average start and finish position in NASCAR is in the 20's. These are not the stats of a "Great" driver.
Of all the pro sports out there, auto racing is the only one non-gender specific. The racecar does not know the race, religion or gender of the person behind the wheel. It just responds to inputs from the driver. Because she is female she got extra attention and opportunities that other drivers more deserving never got. She raced for one of the super teams in NASCAR (Stewart-Haas) and could not manage a single win in 5 years. In fact looking back on it now, I wonder about the legitimacy of her single pole position for her rookie start at the Daytona 500 in 2012. Afterall, the difference between pole position and a 20th place start is only a couple of miles per hour. Who's to say that Fox broadcasting in conjuction with NASCAR didn't juice her qualifying time to boost ratings. She never came close to a pole position after that race.
I know this sounds like a very female-hating opinion. On the contrary, I am big fan of the gals of NHRA. Why? Because they win races. They also get very little media attention because drag racing just isn't main stream racing like NASCAR. While it's not unusual to see Ms. Patrick in a commercial for Coke or Go Daddy, you'd be hard pressed to name the sponsers for Leah Pritchett. So when Patrick came out last week to say she considered herself a great driver, I just had to shake my head. Greatness is an achievement not and entitlement because of your gender. The only thing she may have achieved is opening the door for other young women to race at NASCAR's highest level. Conversely she may have set female stock car racing back 10 years. After her failure in NASCAR, teams may be cautious to hire another female driver. Stewart-Haas gave her good equipment which wound up being a waiste. Patrick's successor, Aric Almirola, has already out performed her this year. While he still has no victories for Stewart Haas, he has started and finished each race better. He was a half a lap way from winning this year's Daytona 500 until he was wrecked by winner Austin Dillon.
The bottom line is Danica Patrick was a below average driver competing in above average equipment.
The problem with Patrick may have been her focus. While it was not hard to hear about her insane yoga moves on social media, you would be hard pressed to hear hear about her working on her "profession". In fact, it was about this time last year that stories of her departure from Stewart Haas began to gain some traction. Her response was that she had a great passion for racing. But when asked if she would accept a ride in the Xfinity series, she shot that down. If someone is offering you a ride so you could continue you "passion", wouldn't you take it? Ironically she could have won a few races at that level which could have paved her way back the cup series. Instead she began promoting "the Danica Double"(Daytona500 and the Indy 500). I guess that is her real talent. Shameless self promotion . Quite frankly, it was a waiste of good potential talent.

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