One of the most controversial topics today in NASCAR is that of Danica Patrick. Patrick is hands down the most polarizing driver in the sport today. Although at times her detractors may be the loudest; her over 1 million Twitter followers proves that she has just as many supporters. I think that it’s fair to say Patrick has talent, heck she wouldn’t have gotten this far if she didn’t. Where things become dicey is when people try to pinpoint the level of talent that she has.
The video below is a compilation of the majority of Patrick’s wrecks and it opens with Kyle Petty talking about Patrick. In the video Petty describes her in the following way:
She can go fast and I have seen her go fast. She can drive the wheels off of it when she is going fast but she is not a racecar driver. Lots of drivers can drive fast but very few drivers can race. She can go very fast but she cannot race. I think she has come a long way but she is not a racecar driver and I don’t think she will ever become a racecar driver because it’s too late to learn.
Whether or not you agree with Petty, he presents his opinion with logic. Patrick can handle a fast car, she showed the world that in 2013 by taking the pole at the Daytona 500 and finishing the race in the eighth position. NASCAR isn’t just about speed though and he seems to think that she is lacking in those other areas and that it’s too late in the game for her to learn those other things. Petty’s opinion aside, let’s looks at facts. Below is a table showing all of Patrick’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide finishes.
Worse than 30th
Lead Lap Finishes
For starters, Patrick has only finished 1/3 (33 percent) of her career races on the lead lap. Those numbers shrink down to 26 percent when factoring only Sprint Cup races into the equation. Aside from the fact that she has never won or finished in the top-5; Patrick has finished outside of the top-20 in 60 percent of her career starts. When it comes to Sprint Cup, she has finished outside of the top-20 in a staggering 78 percent of starts. Competing at the Nationwide level has definitely inflated some of her stats because her Sprint Cup numbers are worse than her Nationwide numbers across the board, sans her top-10 at Daytona.
Now the above are numbers, just numbers. The contributing factors into those numbers are endless and many people can see many things from the same set of numbers. Below is the video with all of her career wrecks from Sprint Cup and Nationwide leading up to the 2014 season. The only wrecks missing from this video are the wreck that ended the Coke zero 400 and the Nationwide wreck from Talladega where Kyle Larson got tangled up with her.
The great thing about the video is that it breaks some of her wrecks down. Not all of these wrecks were her fault but there are plenty of examples in the wrecks where she was at fault. So you have to ask yourself whether these are growing pains or signs of a driver not being skilled enough to excel at this level. Thus far 2014 has been much of the same for Patrick who has wrecked a couple of times already in the first four races and once during practice.
Many fans make the issue with Patrick about her gender or about how she looks. Let’s pretend for a moment that Patrick was a male driver. If you’re a supporter of Patrick would you say that a male driver with her statistics has been successful thus far in NASCAR? With the exception of a few retired or part-time drivers, nobody has really rocked the boat when it comes to Patrick and her NASCAR career. Generally speaking current drivers are politically correct when asked about her by the media, although alone in their cars they tend to speak more openly about her.
At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because winning and success will silence all critics. For Patrick, she has yet to find the recipe to success but that doesn’t mean that she won’t. Until then all we have are the worlds opinions and more importantly the facts about her career.