So Danica Patrick won’t be racing in the Indy 500 next year, or ever again most likely, and I say the sport is better off without her. Let NASCAR have the circus that is having one of your most popular drivers consistently finish mid-pack.
Okay, I say that knowing that most of the last decade Dale Earnhardt Jr has been far and away NASCAR’s most popular driver and has only four wins since 2004 with an average finish of 16. Still, I don’t think it’s healthy for NASCAR to have it’s first and second most popular drivers consistently mid-pack and out of contention for the championship.
One of the problems with Dancia in when she was racing in the IZOD Indycar Series is she overshadowed everyone else. The little bit of coverage the series would get on ESPN would literally be, “Dario Franchitti won the Iowa Corn 300 today and Danica Patrick finished twelfth. Patrick said her car is improving every week and expects to be strong when the series rolls into Toronto.”
Basically everything Danica did was news, which would have been great for the series if she was winning three or four races a year and challenging for championships. Had Danica won the Indy 500 and a championship she could have been a breakout star in Indycar, but because she couldn’t break into the top tier she peaked in Indycar.
Any fair assessment of Danica’s career has to include “The Split,” the divisive labor dispute that caused two open wheel series and destroyed much of the sport’s credibility and popular appeal. When Danica reached the IRL in 2005 only 15 drivers ran the full schedule, and that was arguably Patrick’s best year, she scored three poles (her only poles to date) and ran a memorable fourth in the Indy 500. Racing from 2005 to 2007 was not a high point for depth of field in the IRL. For example in the first Iowa Corn 250 in 2007 Dario Franchitti finished 77 laps behind the field but still scored a top 10 finish. Danica Patrick finished 13th in that race by the way.
In seven years she finished on the podium seven times. Her average finish was 10th, which is a little better than the statistical average, and if we’re honest, below expectations. Her average finish in the Nationwide Series this year was 20, which is a little better than the statistical average, and again below expectations. Given that during the first three years of her Indycar career there were only seven or eight competitive cars, and she had one of them, her average should be around six or seven, at a minimum.
Given her ride at JR Motorsport is one of the better cars in the Nationwide series she should have been competing for wins, instead she only garnered four top tens in a series that has half the Cup regulars that it used to. She looked impressive at times, but couldn’t transform that into wins or top 5s.
Since she’s left Indycar has a new car, a new aero package, new teams and probably the deepest field of talent it’s had since at least 1995. If Danica were to get into a car for Indy it would gather media attention, but little else. If she follows true to form she’d finish around 10th.
What would happen is she would overshadow every other story for the month of May. Indycar has a growing number of storylines and “Danicamania” would overshadow all of that. There wouldn’t be a single report coming out of the speedway that didn’t include Patrick in some way, even if her speeds didn’t justify any coverage.
Yes, she might could provide a ratings pop for the 500, but she’d be the only thing the average fan would remember about the Indy 500, and she won’t be racing at Detroit the following week so what good what it do?
Beyond that, James Hinchliffe is better looking and has a better personality.