Friday, February 5, 2010
DANICA PATRICK ASKED FOR A CHANCE - LET HER HAVE IT
She's gone from daddy's little girl to Go Daddy's pin-up girl.
Along the way, she's excelled in a variety of forms of racing, from go-karts to Formula Fords overseas to becoming the most visible driver on the Indy Racing League open-wheel circuit.
And now on Saturday, Danica Patrick takes what potentially will be the first step on the road to the next – and perhaps biggest – phase of her racing career, when she makes her stock car racing debut in the ARCA Series/Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
There's a lot riding on how well Patrick does. She's said that if she has a good showing, she still may compete in next Saturday's Nationwide Series opener at Daytona, rather than waiting until the following week at California.
There's also the comfort level and prowess Patrick will display. Has the limited testing she's had – particularly with the late commitment that she was even coming to the stock car world – be a distraction or factor in how well she does Saturday, or how she finishes? If so, when her debut is ultimately judged, what will ultimately be a good showing – if she even finishes the race at all?
Of course, millions of eyeballs will be following her on TV, across the internet, on newspaper pages and across any other form of medium there is, including things like Twitter, Facebook and the like. She's not just part of Saturday's show, she IS the show.
Suffice to say that Patrick's debut will be among the most-watched of any driver in motorsports history. There has been nearly three years of Patrick's dancing with the NASCAR stars: would she, could she and ultimately, when would she?
Now we see not only the final product out on the dance floor, but the start of what could be a great beginning for an individual who has the potential and wherewithal to become one of the sport's most popular personalities – perhaps even rivaling Dale Earnhardt Jr., for whom she's driving in both the ARCA and Nationwide series.
Of course, Patrick could flop, as well. But having criticized her for her attitude in the past, I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt now. She's earned newfound respect because she's finally doing what she said she's wanted to do. There's no more posturing or speculating: Saturday, Danica Patrick in NASCAR is the real deal.
How will she fare? She has a very difficult task ahead of her, there's no question. It's a task that is further compounded by the fact that Patrick has chosen to make her stock car racing debut in a series that is known as much for its frequency of wrecks as it is for its racing. Let's face it, sure, there are some good drivers in ARCA, but just as many – if not more – believe they have talent levels much higher than what they've actually been graced with. Many of those same drivers run out of talent far too often, as the saying goes, drive over their heads and, usually, drive over or into a lot of other drivers on the racetrack.
There's no question Patrick has talent. She wouldn't be where she is in the racing world today if she didn't. But she's a neophyte in stock cars and for all the talent she has in other series, she may be lumped in with those same drivers that can be accused of being short on talent in the ARCA circuit – until (or if) she proves critics wrong.
I'm actually pulling for her to do well Saturday. And if she does, hopefully she'll agree to race next Saturday in the Nationwide Series opener. Patrick is good for the sport and the sport should prove to be good for her, hopefully. The last thing I, and I'm sure millions of other fans want to see is for her to do a few ARCA and Nationwide series dances, and then permanently exit stage left, much like other open-wheel stars such as Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti and Patrick Carpentier did a few years back.
Yes, it's going to be difficult for Patrick to adapt to a whole new style of racing and a much different racing community. It's a transformation that is going to be all that much harder because no sooner will she make her ARCA debut and then her first Nationwide Series start (either in Daytona or Fontana), she'll be gone as quick as she came: she'll then segue back to her regular day job with the IRL and won't see a stock car track or race from a competitive level again until June.
The last thing I want to see, or hear, is after Saturday and either next Saturday or the following Saturday after that, for someone to say, "Danica, we hardly knew 'ya."
That being said, let's just hope she has a great race on Saturday. I can easily see her finishing top-20, maybe even closing in on the top-10 (a lot of wrecks – as long as she's not part of them – might help that quest).
I guess what I'm saying, even if you don't like her, give Patrick a chance. That's all she's wanted – and now she's going to have it.
By Jerry Bonkowski at Friday, February 05, 2010