Before I get into the logistics of this piece, I just want to make something clear. This article is based on research and fact, not strictly opinion. Am I a fan of Danica Patrick? Yes, I have been for many years and will continue to be for many more to come.
My point for this article isn’t to point out her accomplishments or failures, but to prove that she isn’t to blame for everything, even though many people seem to think of her as the easy scapegoat. So, on to the article.
Many times this season, the driver of the No.10 GoDaddy Chevrolet has been involved in an accident of some sort. Have they all been caused by said driver? No. Not even close. Has said driver caused wrecks this season that took out others? Yes, but which driver hasn’t?
Let us start from the beginning of 2013.
March 2013: Phoenix
Just the second race of the season and Patrick earns her first DNF after a hard wreck at Phoenix International Raceway. Take a look at the video from NASCAR of the wreck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN50p45hPDM Listening to the broadcasters and the in-car camera, Patrick blew a right-front tire coming out of turn 4 which sent her straight into the wall, bouncing her off and into the oncoming car of David Ragan. A similar incident happened to Patrick’s teammate, Ryan Newman. He also blew a tire during the race, but hit at a different angle (Click here for the video). Was this wreck Patrick’s fault? Not entirely. Blowing a tire while traveling at high speeds is going to lead to a wreck and Ragan just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Could Patrick have stopped her car from rolling down the track? Possibly, but the way her car hit would have made it extremely difficult for even the most experienced driver.
April 2013: Martinsville
This one isn’t necessarily a wreck, but it did bring out a caution. Patrick, after starting in the back after an engine change, is fighting her way up through the field only to be turned by Ken Schrader (watch it here). This is more than likely due to the fact that this was her first start at Martinsville and she was still learning how to race the track. In the end, she gets back on the lead lap and surprises everyone with a top-12 finish. Will I call the spin her fault? No, it’s Martinsville. Everyone has isues at some point or another at Martinsville.
May 2013: Talladega
Like most of the drivers in the field, Danica Patrick was caught up in the “big one” with just a handful of laps to go. With her pole-winning Daytona car, Patrick was on her way to another respectable plate track finish when a wreck, triggered by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JJ Yeley, caused the field to crash and scatter. Looking at the video caught by the Goodyear blimp (which you can watch here), Patrick is riding around in the middle of the track when the wreck starts in front of her. She slides up the track to avoid being caught up in it, only to run right into Terry Labonte, causing them to both hit the wall. A Rookie mistake or just a split-second reaction? It’s both but the fact of the matter is, she may have made it through this one with little to no damage if she wouldn’t have slid so far up the track. I will put this one as a draw.
May 2013: Charlotte
So this one is a little harder to determine who is at fault. Seven cars were racing for the Lucky Dog position and were all racing hard. Two of those cars, the No.2 of Brad Keselowski and the No.10 of Patrick plus the No.17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. decide to take it three-wide going into turn-3. Looking at NASCAR’s video of the wreck (here), it looks like Stenhouse slid up the track just a bit, but enough to make Patrick slide up as well, right into Keselowski’s left rear quarter panel. We will hand the start of this wreck to Stenhouse.
July 2013: Loudon
The one that landed her on the couch that night. Patrick, racing hard with boyfriend Stenhouse and Travis Kvapil, misses her braking point going into the turn and runs right in to the side of Stenhouse. Stenhouse loses control from the contact with Patrick and takes out Kvapil (watch the video here). This one falls solely on the shoulders of Patrick.
August 2013: Pocono
Patrick drives it hard going into the turn and her car loses grip. She chased it up the track but went right into the No.93 of Kvapil.
Patrick spins, collecting Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. This one, once again, falls on Patrick. Would this have happened if she had more experience driving these cars? Probably not. This one is definitely a Rookie mistake, but a mistake at that.
October 2013: Kansas
I was actually here for this one…and it wasn’t pretty. Patrick had been having a reasonable weekend with practice and qualifying but a very cold day led to very interesting track temperatures and conditions. At the green flag, Patrick makes a big mistake; she slides up to the middle of the track. With cold temperatures and cold tires, the car had little to no grip at the start of the race. She slid to the middle of the track before going in to turn-1 and lost control. Her car slides around and slides up the track, ending her day. (Watch the video here).
November 2013: Phoenix
The most recent incident Patrick was involved in was one not of her own making. Lap 146 at Phoenix saw Patrick colliding with former JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt along with David Reutimann and Justin Allgaier after Reutimann was spun out by the No.43 of Aric Almirola. Patrick and Allgaier both slowed to avoid the wreck ahead of them only to be run into by the No.30 of Whitt. This was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So my point for all of these is this; each and every one of the incidents, whether started by Patrick or not, led to a stream of hate and blame on social networks and fan sites. My question to you is; why always blame Patrick? Yes, she has caused a few wrecks this season but can name a driver who hasn’t? Patrick seems to be the scapegoat for NASCAR fans and drivers to blame when she is involved in an issue out on the track when she isn’t necessarily the one at fault. There have even been times where she hasn’t been involved, yet someone throws the blame her way.
Whether you are a fan of Danica Patrick or not, you have to remember that she is a Rookie, or at least will be for one more race, and is going to make mistakes. Even seasoned drivers make mistakes that cause carnage and big wrecks. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and even the 5-time (probably soon to be 6-time) champion Jimmie Johnson have caused a wreck recently.
Love her or hate her, Danica Patrick is here to stay.
NOTE: Racing-Reference.info was used to collect a majority of the race data as well as DanicaRacing.com and NASCAR.com