After three races, Danica Patrick sits fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings. Her most recent effort was a fourth-place outing in Las Vegas; not only a career-best finish, but the best finish by a woman in NASCAR history.
Patrick has one more race in the Nationwide Series(Saturday, March 19th at Bristol) before jumping back over to the Indycar Series. Her next NASCAR race won’t be until early June.
So what are we to make of Danica Patrick, anyway?
I’ll start with this. Danica has not lucked into the fourth-place points spot. Her average finish through three races is 12th; not bad for somebody who could barely finish a race in the few she attempted last season.
Her fourth-place effort in Vegas was not a fluke. Did she have a top 5 car? Probably not. Top 10? Most definitely. Even without pit strategy, Patrick still would have finished well inside the top 10 on Saturday.
The fact that she can run with some of the big guns can no longer be argued, and anybody who believed it was impossible(including yours truly) has been proven wrong.
Now for those dreaded seven words: With that said, some questions still linger.
First, Patrick can run with the leaders, but can she run with them consistently? She’s had one great run in her entire career, and while her other runs this season have been solid, they have not taken the world by storm. We know now that she can run with the leaders, but can she do it on a consistent enough basis to where she’s actually competitive all the time?
If given time, I believe the answer could be yes. But that leads me to my biggest question about Patrick: commitment.
I’ve said it since before the season started. If anything concerns me about Patrick, it’s her commitment, or lack thereof, to the sport. She’s shown she can be competitive, but now she only has one more race before she hops back in the open-wheel cars. After she does that, how long will it take Patrick to get re-aquainted with the heavier stock cars?
If she continues to bounce back and forth, is it possible that she can really retain everything she learned about stock cars? And even if she does, who will want to continue to invest time and money into a driver who only wants to run 12 races a year?
Patrick is a good driver, and no doubt has what it takes to be successful. Is she great? We have yet to find out I think.
But right now, if I were a team owner, I would not hire Patrick as a development driver under any circumstances, regardless of sponsorship dollars. I would rather take my chances on an unproven driver with absolutely no sponsors if they showed me that they were truly committed to the sport because they have a better chance to be successful long-term.
Patrick would not even be my first choice if I had to pick a female driver, because there are woman drivers who have already proven that they are fully committed to being successful in NASCAR.
But if Danica Patrick commits to NASCAR entirely, well then I might just change my mind.