Is Danica Patrick Getting In Over Her Head?

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Danica Patrick plans to make her way into NASCAR’s top series but is she going about it the right way? Is it too soon?

Danica Patrick is scheduled to drive her first full Sprint Cup season in 2013 with Stewart Haas Racing. This will be after ten Sprint Cup races and her first full season in the Nationwide series in 2012. Some would say Patrick is moving up to quickly.

Oct 20, 2012; Kansas City, KS, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (10) takes practice laps for the Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Danica Patrick entered the NASCAR Nationwide series in 2010 with JR Motorsports. She drove a limited schedule her first two seasons in Nationwide. That included a total of 25 races. In the first two seasons she had a average finishing position of 17.4 in 2011. Patrick’s first two season’s included only three top tens and one top five.

In 2012, Danica Patrick started her first full season in the Nationwide series. If anything, her stats have declined. 30 races into the 2012 season Patrick has a average finishing position of 19.4. That is two positions worse than 2011. With over 30 more starts this year she has only matched a career best three top ten finishes. She has not had a top five finish all year.

Solely based off statistics, Danica Patrick does not seem ready to race in the Sprint Cup. More seat time in the Nationwide series would be helpful to Patrick’s long-term career as she gets comfortable with each track.

What stats can’t tell us is the progression of Danica Patrick’s confidence behind the race car. While watching her for the past three years, it is obvious that Patrick is still learning how stock cars drive and getting more comfortable inside the car. Many times during a post-race interview she talks about logging laps and learning more about the car. At this point in her NASCAR career, she should be spending more time on gaining points being competitive rather than learning about the car.

She has had nearly two seasons of experience and there seems to be little to no gain in confidence for Patrick when she gets behind the wheel. This is the biggest sign that leads me to believe she is not ready for the Sprint Cup series.

One more aspect to consider is sponsorship. It is no secret that sponsorship drives the sport of NASCAR. No one can have a competitive ride without the backing of sponsorship money. Danica Patrick has had the same sponsor since her days in IRL. GoDaddy, a web hosting site, followed Patrick when she made her NASCAR debut. GoDaddy will continue follow her as she prepares for her first full Sprint Cup season.

With a multiyear deal signed with GoDaddy and more money to be made in Sprint Cup, it makes the decision to move up to the Sprint Cup level an easier one.

Sep 15, 2012; Joliet, IL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (10) during qualifying for the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

Based off her career statistics and lack of confidence inside a stock car, I do not think she is ready for the Sprint Cup. She needs to get comfortable inside a Nationwide car before she enters the Cup series. The Sprint Cup cars have more horse power and more talented drivers. If she can’t compete on a weekly basis with Nationwide drivers how is she going to compete with Sprint Cup drivers?

Although Danica Patrick’s rise to the Sprint Cup in 2013 is all but inevitable, I think Stewart Haas Racing and Patrick should reconsider the decision for her to race in the Sprint Cup series. More experience and seat time in the Nationwide series would only help her career.

One example Patrick should follow is that of Austin Dillon. Dillon is also in his first Nationwide series season but has also won a Camping World truck series championship in 2011. He is also competing for a Nationwide tile this season. Dillon plans to run another season in Nationwide next year to gain more experience.

Danica Patrick is taking the path that she feels is the best for her. Whether it is right or not, we will find out in 2013. Patrick will have some of the best equipment and resources behind her at Stewart Haas Racing so the opportunity to succeed is there. It will be up to her to prove positive results on the race track.