I had to think long and hard about how to evaluate Danica Patrick’s performance on the Nationwide circuit in the early stages of the 2012 campaign. The only bright spot was when she put her JR Motorsport’s Chevy on the pole at the Drive 4COPD 300 at Daytona in February. Seems after that, her season has went downhill. She dropped to 12th place in the series standings after her 21th place finish at Richmond International Raceway Friday night and is averaging 22nd in finishes for the season. I’m going to have to give her C- on her report card
Danica’s ability to qualify well, but finish poorly in races is, in my opinion, her reluctance to get in there and trade paint with the boys. This I believe is a carryover from her Indy Car experience where racing is done, usually with a little more elbow room. Not how it’s done here with the “Good Ole Boys” where you have to tear up a little sheet-metal to get ahead.
In light traffic from mid pack back, she shows that she understands how to drive, pick out lines and negotiate corners. She knows how to set up passes on the track and she appears to be able to keep up with changing track conditions. She just doesn’t do well in tight racing. I also feel she struggles with drafting on the larger tracks. She was very upset at Daytona after being hit in the rear by teammate Cole Whitt, but my first impression when I saw it, looked to me like he was trying to hook up and push her to the front.
Her problems in Nascar are not unique. There’s not a shortage of drivers who tried to translate their racing skills to Nascar and have failed. These were drivers who attained success in open wheel venues such as the IRL and Formula 1, but just don’t own the necessary gene to compete here. For every Tony Stewart, there are 4-5 Juan Pablo Montoyas. There are not many Tony Stewarts out there. He is like some of the “Old Guys” such as Mario and AJ who could drive anything with wheels.
She is due to run Sprint Cup again at Darlington. This should be a real test for the newbie. Darlington is never good to new and somewhat inexperienced drivers. She should be in for a treat, or maybe a nightmare. Wonder how many laps it will take before she gets her Darlington Stripe. I betting the farm….not Many.