The Latest Big News from Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick sets the NASCAR standard for gradual ascent. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

Danica Patrick sets the NASCAR standard for gradual ascent. (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 30, 2015, 11:45 a.m.

Last week someone on social media – I forget whether it was Twitter, or Facebook, or Google+ — asked a question I hear from time to time. It went – and goes – something like this:

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

How many times are there really big stories that never get told?

What’s [insert name] really like?

Apparently my readers think I’m guilty of knowing more than I let on. I’m sure this belief about writers has been spread by writers who reply to such queries with knowing glances and arched eyebrows, thus hinting at self-aggrandizement.

I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.

There’s a certain mystery in being coy, but usually this mystery is comprised of hocus-pocus.

For the record, I let you know everything I responsibly can, unless I just don’t care enough to be concerned with something I don’t deem important. In regard to NASCAR, I don’t go to the track anymore. Writing about NASCAR still brings in a little, but I don’t cover the races like the dew covers Dixie. I write more what I like because I no longer have any obligation to write what I don’t.

Oddly enough, Danica Patrick's No. 10 wasn't green at Martinsville.  (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Oddly enough, Danica Patrick’s No. 10 wasn’t green at Martinsville. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

I don’t particularly like writing the weekly recitation on Danica Patrick, not because I don’t like her. Though some readers will scoff at this notion, I do like her. I’d like to see her do well. What I like and what happens are different things. She finished seventh on Sunday in her 88th Sprint Cup race, and it was her first top-10 finish of the season. Earlier this year, I wrote a story about Patrick, and I did my damned-level best to be fair, and one of the reasons this was a chore is that I don’t think many people have a fair view of her. To some, her every wrong is a right. To others, her rights all add up to wrongs. Here’s that story, written before the season started (February 17) at Bleacher Report:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2362005-no-end-in-sight-for-danica-patricks-search-for-sprint-cup-success

At some point – and 88 Sprint Cup races is a valid one – Patrick must be judged as a race driver, not a woman. I can’t imagine her differing with that assessment. What that means, at this stage, is, the fact she finished seventh at Martinsville is impressive, but it’s not as impressive as David Ragan finishing fifth because, well, fifth is better than seventh.

On Sunday, when someone else pointed out that Patrick’s fifth career top-10 finish tied her with Janet Guthrie for the all-time record for such finishes by a woman, I merely pointed out that Guthrie had compiled five top 10s in 33 career races, and it took Patrick 55 more. One gentleman took great exception to his bit of information and took the mere citing of a fact as the most inexcusable of editorial observations, and I replied that it was merely a fact, which, by definition, was not an expression of opinion at all.

So, to summarize, here I am writing about Danica Patrick, who finished seventh, instead of David Ragan, who finished fifth. If there is a problem, I am part of it.

At the moment, Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick are tied in Sprint Cup points. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing)

At the moment, Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick are tied in Sprint Cup points. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing)

One must concede that that more factors are in play. Regardless of how unspectacular the record is, people like to read about Patrick. Some of the same people who go nuts over the notion that they are tired of reading about Patrick … read about Patrick. It’s the same way that some readers point out that they are through with NASCAR, and they probably won’t watch any races at all, and yet they still care enough about it to read what I write, not to mention many others, apparently just so they can declare how they don’t care a bit about it anymore. It’s quite a compliment that they will read my writing about that which they no longer enjoy.

I think.

Patrick finished higher than her three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates. Kevin Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, finished eighth, Kurt Busch 14th, and Tony Stewart 20th. It was a good day for her, but comparing her to her teammates on her best day of the season to date is sort of grading on a curve. For the season, she ranks 17th in the standings, 115 points behind Harvick, who has 263, but ahead of Kurt Busch, who has taken part in only half the races, and Stewart, who is off to the poorest start of his career and almost anyone else’s.

So far, Tony Stewart is down and Danica Patrick up. (John Clark photo)

So far, Tony Stewart is down and Danica Patrick up. (John Clark photo)

Harvick, Busch, and Stewart are all champions. Stewart has won three. He’s 61 points behind Patrick right now. Six races have been won. I’d bet, and I think most people would, that, by season’s end, Stewart will have more points than Patrick, as will Jeff Gordon, with whom she is tied, and Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer, both of whom she leads. In part, this is because Patrick is about where she figures to be. She ranks 17th. Her best-ever points finish is 27th, so she has exceeded expectations based on her past. It is, however, only six races into a season of 36. The others have arrows that have not fired as straight and true as in the past.

It’s encouraging, but six races do not a season make. She has a new crew chief, Daniel Knost, which by itself isn’t anything new because personnel around her has been shuffled before, but, she said afterwards, “I think that we’re on our way, and we’re learning what changes I feel and the best way to communicate.”

As noted earlier, I like her. It was difficult to get to know her back when I was on the beat, and my access was limited to the same contact-by-media-conference that email affords me now.

“The car has to be good, or I can’t go fast,” Patrick said, “and the first half of [Sunday’s] race was a perfect example of that. When the car is right, you can go fast, but if the driver is making mistakes and not doing a good job and crashing or getting off line, that won’t have you get a good result, and, then, overall, we can’t do well. I can’t do well if the team doesn’t provide the people and equipment that I need to perform.

Has she gotten the hang of it, or is it just too soon to tell? (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

Has she gotten the hang of it, or is it just too soon to tell? (HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo for Chevrolet)

“A couple years ago, if you had asked how we all felt everything was going on the team, there probably wouldn’t have been a lot of positive things to say, but that’s an example of an organization digging deep and finding ways, and, by all means, the last couple of years here, we’ve been much stronger, and it makes it much more fun out there. The team has to provide what they need to, to do well.”

To the extent that Patrick has climbed, it has been excruciatingly slow, but modest progress beats none. The story linked above notes my interest in whether or not Patrick, as a result of being the object of patience rare by NASCAR owners, can actually become successful by a slow, gradual ascent. Few of her predecessors have ever gotten the luxury of being able to run 88 races without ever finishing better than sixth.

Danica Patrick’s ceiling hasn’t been explored. No one knows where her potential has its limit or where she levels off, if she hasn’t already. Most NASCAR stars have been fast learners. In fact, I can’t remember one who wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In spite of all the attention that accompanies every two steps forward, and every one step back, Patrick’s future remains a bit of a mystery. She has gone 88 races without coming close to winning one, and that is uncharted territory. No one else who has gone this far before has enjoyed the benefit of top-flight equipment.

My hunch is that Danica Patrick is never going to win a Cup race, never going to make a Cup Chase, and while, one day, a woman is going to blossom into a NASCAR champion, that woman is not she.

I can’t say, though, because I have no precedent to cite. NASCAR has never seen a career that matches Patrick’s, and it’s difficult to derive insight from the mere numbers she has posted.

You can find me by name on Facebook, and by @montedutton on Twitter, and I appreciate you following my non-fiction writing here, my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and my books that are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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26 Responses to The Latest Big News from Danica Patrick

  1. Al Torney says:

    It’s uncanny the way we think Mr. Dutton. The first hing I did when they started spouting the record event was to look up Guthrie to see how many races it took for her to achieve 5 top tens. Secondly everyone but me and you has her in 16th place. She’s tied with Gordon and Edwards for 16th but Jeff gets the tie breaker with 3 top tens. Oh well. We know the game.

    Finally she got a lucky dog and that alone kills it for me.

    She is practicing and qualifying better this year which tells me she is a decent driver but she is not a racer and that’s what counts in the end.

    You mentioned Danica’s equipment which is obviously far superior to the underfunded cars Janet drove.

  2. Danica's#1Fan says:

    DANICA IS A BETTER DRIVER THAN MR. DUTTON AND ANY OF U FUCKING HATERS WILL EVER BE. WHILE SHE IS RACING AND GETTING PAID ALL U HATERS ARE LIVING IN YOUR MOM’S BASEMENT. SO HAVE IN YOUR MOMS BASEMENT WATCHING DANICA WINNING AND GETTING PAID. TO QUOTE TAYLOR SWIFT HATERS GONNA HATE.

  3. Thomas says:

    After reading this article, I see a sperned writer out for revenge and I want no part of it.
    Take me off your list now. I do not want to recieve any of your articles.

    Thanks, Thomas

  4. Tommy says:

    Damn, Monte. Telling it like it is brings the idiots to the bullhorn, don’t it? Haters gonna hate, alright. Bottom line is, if she weren’t a she this article would not have been necessary. No other lackluster driver gets this kind of attention.

    Still, I have to wonder; if Beth Morganthol had similar recourses, what would Shawna Robinson have been capable of? We’ll never know because Robinson wasn’t a cute little adorable girl. She was just a race car driver. Just like a ton of other race car drivers who made it to the big show but never made a big showing.

  5. Anne says:

    Sorry to see two uttering stupid comments above, they truly are the fans she deserves, because they sure as hell are not fans of reality, racing or common sense. Monte, you have been more than fair to Danica in this article, I am still amazed that some idiots swear up and down that they don’t want her to be judged as a female (Danica included) but it is very clear that they want praise and adulation because she is a woman. Danica included. Just look at her little temper tantrum with Hamlin who she pushed in the chest, and then whined. Yup, double standards abound, if her name as was Dan..she would have been gone long ago. Stupid sheep. And her words at the media center (which in reality she had no business there) was very telling, snippy as usual, entitled and throwing people under the bus. It’s always somebody else’s fault, or the equipment etc. I love when I hear stories how the guys and gals in the other series just laugh at Nascar courting her. And they do not want her back, they can’t stand her from all accounts heard and read. Who can blame them. I look forward to same break of post race protocol with the next race 7th place winner. Oh and uh..Janet Guthrie did this in 33 races as you know..why the hoopla over 87 races that include wave arounds and lucky dogs? People are desperate. It is actually an insult to Janet, have her name even in the same stratosphere as this person. She could not and will not wipe Janet’s boots.

  6. Andy D says:

    Erin Crocker is only a year older than Danica, maybe we can get her back in NASCAR. The sad part of all this is that Courtney Force is delivering on all that Danica promises and hardly anyone is paying attention.

  7. russ says:

    One of the most reasonable articles I’ve seen regarding Ms. Patrick.

  8. MarkM says:

    I just “love” the comments by the two above taking you to task for beng fair, honest & balanced. You know you can’t explain things to idiots using facts, as that merely confuses them.

    On Danica: label me a “hater” & proud of it, & not because of her gender per se. It’s because her gender, (& the fact that she’s reasonably attractive to the male populace), is the only reason she has that ride & sponsor after all this time. As was said by Anne. (& as I’ve said myself before), if her name were Dan with her lack of success, Go Daddy would have become “Gone Daddy” long ago & she would have been removed from SHR, relegated to the dust bin of racing history, or at best, driving for a lesser team. Those of us that can see the forest for the trees are so tired of the hype, the BS & the “smoke & mirrors” used to validate her meager accomplishments, & you covered every aspect of that well Monte.

    As to readers being through with NASCAR, I am pretty much at that level now. I watched the Daytona 500, & that’s been it so far, in part due to my work schedule, but largely due to the fact that it no longer holds much interest to me, for a variety of reasons. Most of the time this year, when I haven’t worked, I also haven’t given much thought, if any, to the races being on TV, unlike the many years before, when I scheduled my Sundays/Saturdays around the Cup &/or Xfinity races. It’s far better to read about it afterwards & avoid DW, Chris Meyers, the Waltrip brothers, Larry Mac, DW, the poorly shown “racing”, “boogity-boogity-boogity”, the non-stop hype, DW, the inane chatter, the explaining of the sport to us every single weekend, DW, getting the explaining of the sport to us wrong every week, & did I mention DW?

  9. Bill B says:

    The most important thing is that she’s real purdy.

    BTW… what idiot quotes Taylor Swift.

  10. Tim Welchance says:

    Danica’s #1 fan is wearing some rose colored glasses and not Reading the article very objectively!

  11. Chris Fiegler says:

    I Just Have a Feeling that Danica Patrick Will win a Sprint Cup Series Race in 2015 Where? I am Not Sure.

  12. Monte says:

    Well, I’m sorry I spurned you. As I don’t know you, I doubt I’ll ever be able to read your mind, so, reluctantly, I will stick with what I think. I didn’t put you on “my list,” and I really don’t know how to take you off. My guess you’ll have to sign out where you signed up.
    You have a right to your opinion, though I doubt the “thanks” was genuine.

  13. Monte says:

    I find this ironic. You seem to be a hater of haters.
    My mom doesn’t have a basement, but she does live a short distance away.
    The issue is not whether Danica Patrick can drive better than I. Nor is it whether I can write better than her.

  14. Monte says:

    I mean this as a reply to everyone.
    I appreciate you reading what I write, and in particular, I appreciate those who respect my opinions even when they disagree with them.
    I want to know what you think. Really. It actually helps me. I think the perspective of watching from afar, and mingling here in my local community, keeps me in tune with what fans and former fans are thinking.
    If you violently disagree with me, that’s OK. I would appreciate a bit of civility. I thought about trashing comments that were in poor taste, but I decided to let it go because it reflects on the person who wrote it, both in terms of opinion and taste.
    Let freedom ring instead of burn.

  15. Al Torney says:

    I think it is extremely important for a writer to know what his readers think. It opens horizons on thoughts and ideas for future endeavors. I also think constructive criticism is important. Hate mail is not constructive in any form. I read various articleson Jayski and the one item I notice is that many of the writers do not have their columns set up to receive readers comments. These people are missing the boat.

    I became a Monte Dutton fan years ago when he wrote for Area Auto Racing News. He remains my favorite motorsports writer. I look forward to his articles. Over the years I have found him to be very objective and fair. Many of his thoughts coincide with mine. He has never been a NASCAR puppet like so many others.
    I look for honesty and integrity in an author. Monte fits this perfectly. He knows NASCAR from its roots to its present. That’s important. Many current writers can’t say that.

    This is not a patronizing letter. I was the first to respond to this column. So I guess the hate mail applied to me too. I read it and shrugged it off. It had no substance. I don’t hate any driver. I would have written the same things about one of many drivers that are in Danica’s talent range if they were being lauded for some trivial accomplishment like 5 top tens in 88 races. A top ten once in every 19 starts just doesn’t ring my bell. I don’t care who the driver is.

    I’ d like to close this with something that has been totally ignored by just about everyone. Take a look at all of the CART-IRL drivers that have attempted Sprint Cup and Infinity. Montoya, Hornish Jr. Robbie Gordon, Franchitti, Patrick and a few others. Then take the road racers: Said, Fellows and others. Not one has enjoyed anywhers near the success in NASCAR that they had in other forms of motorsports. So why anyone entertained the thought that Danica, who was an average driver in open wheel, was going to come to NASCAR and set the series on fire I beyond me. One only has to look at race results to get the picture.

  16. Monte says:

    Thanks for the kind remarks.
    The issue of IndyCar and road racing and the difficulty of adapting to NASCAR from those disciplines has fascinated me for years, and I’ve written about it a number of times, but most were back a decade or more, and at some point, I grew tired of belaboring the point.

  17. fan4jm says:

    the only reason she got this ride is because she’s a she & she brought a big dollar sponsor & whores herself out for a buck. As a follower on Indycar – she was a mid-packer there too. She may have won a race but then again – so did Derick Cope. Does that make her good. She may have finished around 10 place in the standing but there are usually only around 20-25 cars in a race & they’re not all full time drivers. While her stats may sound good in Indycar you can’t compare apples to oranges stat wise between Indy & Nascar. Also you notice she hasn’t been asked back to drive the 500? They would rather have someone whose never driven an Indycar than her.

  18. Dave in Ohio says:

    I do not classify myself as a Danica hater. I would probably classify myself as a hater of all those in the Na$car press that stumble all over themselves trying to grasp for some reason to write a favorable story about this particular driver. I am a hater of the perception that Na$car must somehow have a female driver to do well in the name of diversity and retaining the female fan base. I suspect that female Na$car fans are just like male Na$car fans, in that we all just want to see the best 43 drivers compete every week and put on a good show. They are all the same inside the helmet going around the track, be they female, male, white, mixed race, latino, whatever, they are all ultimately just race car drivers, and that should be the only standard. We don’t really care if Bubba gets the first win a minority driver, or if Danica gets the first win as a female driver, it would just be good for them to get their first win as a driver. Period. Shouldn’t that be enough? Be proud of their accomplishments as a driver, not as a (fill in the blank) driver.

    Don’t you think it just underscores the mediocrity of any driver when the big news hitting all the Na$car press is that she finished in the top ten? Big deal. Nine other drivers finish in the top ten every week. That’s 380 (counting non-points races) top ten drivers this year alone. 880 top ten drivers in those 88 races she has been in. So it is big news that Danica makes it into this very elite (tongue in cheek) group once in a very great while? That just goes to show how poorly she usually finishes that a top ten is big, big news in the Na$car press.

    I just rank Danica with a handful of other mediocre drivers with a bought ride like Brendan Gaughan, Paul Menard and John Wes Townley, the only difference being those 3 and Danica is she has the additional marketing gimmick of being female, but you don’t hear much press on them or others like them. Just the “girl”. It is the press discriminating here, not the fans.

  19. scott says:

    The type of “nascar fan” like Danica’s#1Fan seems to be the type of fan nascar seems interested in attracting…. They don’t need stats or facts and are quick to insult those that do….
    I’d even say that it’s unfair to compare Danica to Janet…
    Where Janet had to drive actual modified stock cars… Danica drives a purpose built spec race car… Janet never got to benefit by getting a convenient debris caution every time she was about to be lapped…. Or by being the “lucky dog” every time she did go a lap down,multiple times in a race….. Janet achieved her stats by actual racing…. Danica just drives around waiting to attrition… Sunday when she went from 2’nd to 31’st in two laps shows her real “skill” or lack of it…

  20. Jeff says:

    I must admit that I love Danica Patrick. Not for any of the reasons you may think, rather I lover her because she’s Kurt & Kyle Busch. She’s The Intimidator and Wonder Boy. She’s Jimmie Johnson winning six championships or Bad Brad doing what Bad Brad does best.

    She’s as polarizing a driver as there has ever been.

    But the most amazing thing about her is that she does it all driving in the middle of the pack. She does it without ever laying the bumper to anyone.
    Fascinating how SHE is able to pull that off. Wonder what it is about HER that makes such a thing possible?

  21. TIM KRANTZ says:

    I know she is the best looking fulltime NA$CAR driver in a bikini, although some ladies on pit road and in the booth………. Hey, I watch FOX also!!

  22. Andy D says:

    I here we see why so much attention is paid to Danica. Her story is interesting. The polarization of fans is intriguing. She brings readers to an article and those readers leave comments when they otherwise might not. I suppose her story has elements of Chicago Cubs fanaticism – “Will this be the year she overcomes her mediocrity?”

    Many of the feelings I have about Danica were previously directed at Junior. He’s no superstar, why do they keep writing articles about him? Danica has talent, more than most of us. She probably doesn’t have the talent to be a winner on her own merits. She’s great at pacing herself and saving the car (when she doesn’t hit someone). She’s good on speedways like Indianapolis and Daytona, regardless of the quirks of restrictor plate racing.

    If she left SHR, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her do a two year stint at Penske before retiring. Roger is great at finding and holding sponsors and marketing his teams. Danica photogenic and media savvy. No team owner expects greatness from her at this point, but she has non-driving talents that have increased value in the sport today.

  23. dawg says:

    Monte,
    I’d say this was a “fair, & balanced” article. If that particular phrase hadn’t been drug through the mud. In short, in top equipment, she’s a middle of the pack driver, with the ocassional good run.
    In the type rides she’d be in if it weren’t for Go Daddy. Her finishes would be in the 30’s, with anything in the low 20’s being a breakout day. I would love to see what Johanna Long could do with the 10 car, & crew.
    I’m not a “hater” just a long time fan that believes respect must be earned, & she’s earned very little.
    Was listening to some Ray Wylie H. today, & remembered why I like him so much.
    Keep up the good work.

    dawg

  24. John Irby says:

    Excuse me for coming in late.

    I’ll add this: 2015 is Danica’s contract year, both with SHR and Go Daddy. Go Daddy got their money’s worth from Danica, but I would be surprised if Go Daddy renews for 2016 and beyond. The SHR team sponsorship is likely north of $20M a year, but reaches a narrow audience. While trying to please Wall Street analysts, renewing this sponsorship would be tough to sell for the CEO of the newly-public company. But hopefully Go Daddy will be cutting her into the upcoming IPO, which will make her even (personally) wealthier than she is today.

    As for her NASCAR driving career, maybe a win at one of the plate tracks is within the realm of probability. If she does win, SHR might be able to get a replacement for Go Daddy in 2016.

  25. Dave Fulton says:

    I hate to see fan4jm comparing Danica Patrick to Derrike (the correct spelling) Cope. Having brought Derrike to his first east coast Cup race in 1984 and having sponsored him for two years in Winston West, I need to correct his win total, too, for fan4jm.

    Derrike has 2 Cup wins, 1 Xfinity Series win, 4 Winston West wins and was also the winner of the 1996 Pennzoil Challenge at Miami.

    Before coming east, Derrike was 1984 NASCAR Winston West Rookie of the Year and came within 4 points of winning the Championship. He was also building his own motors, something I suspect might be too dirty for Danica.

    Derrike also won numerous NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model races and Northwest Tour races.

    I can only imagine what his NASCAR Cup record might have been had he stepped into the sort of equipment wheeled by Danica.

    Oh, when we took Derrike to Martinsville for the first time in 1986 with Rabanco Racing, he was running 5th in his rookie attempt until a brand new air gun failed. Still, he managed a Martinsville top-10 (9th) in his rookie attempt. Much better than either Danica or Chase Elliott. Please don’t compare Danica to Derrike.

  26. fan4jm says:

    to Dave Fulton – my apologies to you & Derrick. He was the 1st name that came to mind when saying she won by luck not skill so maybe this was a bad comparison. No insult intended because there were a lot of others who ‘snuck in the back door’ to win like she did.
    sorry…

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