There have been several times over the last two months that I’ve started writing a post about Danica Patrick and her prospects for the future. Once, I even wrote a full post before deleting it after a conversation with Journo on it’s content. I, like many, believe she is no where near ready to jump into a full Cup schedule. And I find it extremely difficult to believe she will ever have what I would consider a successful career. But the more I’ve thought about her situation, the more I wonder if maybe it doesn’t matter.
Toward the end of the season, in both the Nationwide and Cup cars, I thought Danica showed some measure of improvement. She stopped wrecking Dale Jr’s NNS cars, and her Cup results showed us there is some hope that she could be more than just a back marker next season. Whether it was because of the crew chief changes, or actual personal progress, at least she showed us something. Even so, I don’t believe Danica will ever be a real contender for wins and championships.
I believe there is this feeling out there that at some point Danica will break out and that all the hype surrounding her all of these years will somehow be justified. The mainstream media is just waiting for the moment when they can celebrate her achievements. This is a fool’s errand.
This constant anticipation of success is very similar to what we saw in her IndyCar days. Each new season that approached was trumpeted as “Danica’s year.” But she was never able to live up to the expectations. Even while her teammates were winning races, she never managed more than average results. Her foray into NASCAR won’t be any different.
Why it doesn’t matter though, is because at the end of the day, Danica is good for NASCAR. As long as she can put together respectable runs, I don’t believe her marketability and attractiveness to sponsors will dwindle. The media will continue trumpeting her because she is an oddity, and when she does have better than mediocre performances, NASCAR will gain even more exposure.
In a perfect world, I would much rather that when the green flag flew on Sundays, we were witnessing the top 43 drivers the sport could find. The world isn’t perfect though, and in this universe I would much rather have the most funded cars possible. It means a healthier sport and more families supported by racing jobs. And if it means watching Danica never run better than 15th each week, I’m okay with that.