I did some surfing today during lunch and was astounded to see how many negative articles and comments there were in regards to the success of Danica Patrick over the weekend at LasVegas Motor Speedway.
During Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Danica overcame a rough start and an ill timed caution that combined to see her down two laps and ended up with a fuel mileage run and a 4th place finish.
Danica went down a lap early to Kyle Busch after starting towards the rear of the field. Later in the run, she pitted under green for tires and fuel. Shortly after her pit stop the caution flag flew trapping her down 2 laps. She took a wave around when the leaders took to the pits under caution to restart at the rear of the field still one lap down. Danica missed a couple of opportunities, but eventually fought her way into the lucky dog position which put her back on the lead lap. In what ended up being a fuel mileage race where many of the leaders were forced to pit for fuel, Danica had enough to see her through to a forth place finish.
Many of Danica's detractors claim that she only got the finish she did because of fuel mileage and if it weren't for that then she would not have finished as high as she did. They claim that she only has a ride because of her marketing potential, and that the JR Motorsports team that fields her #7 Go Daddy.com Chevrolet Impala in NASCAR's Nationwide Series favours her equipment and that anyone could end up with similar results if put in the same situation.
Firstly, it could easily be said that if only the drivers who had to pit for fuel would have had enough to get to the finish they wouldn't have finished as poorly as they did. Frankly that is a dumb argument. Danica fought back from a tough situation being down two laps and was able to put herself in a position where they didn't need to stop for fuel while other drivers did.
It also merits mention Danica would not have made it through all the feeder series to reach the IRL or NASCAR if she didn't have talent, desire and opportunity just like every other driver out there. I would argue she has been afforded opportunities similar to any of the other 42 drivers on the track over the thousands of drivers that run regional series throughout North America. Danica has talent and desire, she happens to be marketable, and was therefore given opportunity and she appears to be making the most of it, just like every other driver on the track. Danica wants to be successful and she wants to win races and championships. If you doubt that, look no further than her post race comments after Saturday's race when she was asked what it means to her to have set a record achieving the highest finish ever for a woman in NASCAR. Danica's response? 'It really isn't that big of a deal to me, I'm hoping to do a lot more'.
As for the argument that the #7 car is favoured over the #88 car, I seem to remember a number of drivers take the wheel of the #7 car last year when Danica wasn't running, and I don't remember their results being that much better than what Danica was achieving.
In two weeks Danica will be making her first start at a track less than 1 mile in length at Bristol Motor Speedway. Given that it is her first visit to this track, or anything resembling this type of track, I fully expect Danica to struggle and finish a number of laps down to the leader, however should Danica decide to continue running in NASCAR, I fully expect her to be much improved on her second visit to the track.
She has shown a commitment to improving herself as a driver, patience behind the wheel and the ability to learn from her mistakes. Not to mention she isn't afraid to stick up for herself should she get rubbed the wrong way out on the track.
I think we should give some credit where credit is due. Not only did she overcome adversity on Saturday, but she has also been good enough through 3 races to be scored 4th overall in the Nationwide Series standings. Good on Danica for keeping with it and showing improvement despite all of her detractors, and I wish her good luck at Bristol.