I’m having a tough time with Stewart-Haas racing’s decision to give Danica Patrick a full time ride at the Sprint Cup level in the GoDaddy Chevrolet for the 2013 season. Her progress at the Nationwide level wasn’t sufficient to warrant a trip to the big league, and there are some very good young drivers in the minor leagues who do deserve a shot. Then of course, they don’t have the power of a wealthy sponsor like GoDaddy in their corner.
After 10 starts at the Cup level in 2012, Danica’s average starting position was 36.1 and her average finish was 28.3. You might say that at least she improved in most of her starts, but let’s not forget that in Sprint Cup, there are between 10 and 12 start and park drivers each and every weekend who also don’t usually qualify well, but are off the track after a couple of laps. Of course she is going to pick up spots just through attrition.
Her best finish was her last race at the AdvoCare 500 in Phoenix. She was the beneficiary of the late race crash that took everyone out where she went up to 13th place for a few laps, but fell back on the restart to a 17th place finish, one lap down. She did finish 16th at Twin 150′s in Daytona, but that isn’t an official points race. She started 17th, and picked up one position.
Her performance in the Nationwide Series was not much better. She had a 14.9 average start, to go along with an 18.8 average finish. The Nationwide races have many more wrecks because the talent level is not as good as at the Cup level, so if you stay out of trouble early in the races, your chances of survival is better. Danica doesn’t get involved in early door to door racing, so she stays out of trouble. She will need to get more aggressive if she wants to compete with the worlds best drivers.
Her only pole was at the Drive4COPD in Daytona(wink wink) where she was wrecked by teammate Cole Witt on lap 72. It looked to me like he was just trying to bump draft with her, and did it at the wrong time. Never the less, she wound up in the inside wall, and out of the race, getting a 38th place finish.
Her best finishes of the year were an 8th place finish at Texas in April, and a 9th at Bristol in August. After the Bristol race, she went on a nice run to finish the season, her average start and finish in the last 10 races went to 14.9 and 14.2 respectfully. In fact, in the last five races, her average start went to 12.0 and her average finish got to a season high 11.6. She has made some progress, but is by far ready for a full time Sprint Cup gig.
There are some good young drivers who are at the top of the Nationwide Series that need good seats in the Cup series. I feel like Justin Allgaier, and Michael Annett both deserve a shot ahead of Danica. Sam Hornish Jr. has had some success, and Austin Dillon will get an opportunity with his granddad at RCR soon.
Joey Logano is an example of a driver who wasn’t ready for Cup, and was brought up way too early, before he got some confidence at the lower levels. He tore up the Nationwide this year when he raced, and that is exactly what he needs to build some confidence for the Cup level.
At the end of the day, due to Nascar, GoDaddy, and SHR bringing Danica Patrick up before she is ready to race with the Big Boys, has all the ingredients for a huge mistake. The interest in Danica has waned this season. When she first came to Nascar, she drew a bunch of attention, but people are gettin off the band wagon because she isn’t doing the one thing race fans demand from their heroes, that’s running out front, and winning races. In all sports, winning cures most evils.
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