The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Danica Patrick by S.D. Grady -- Wednesday January 8, 2014

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Danica Patrick

S.D. Grady · Wednesday January 8, 2014

 

2013 Ride: No. 10 Stewart/Haas Racing Chevy


Danica Patrick

2013 Primary Sponsor: GoDaddy.com

2013 Owners: Tony Stewart, Joe Custer, Gene Haas

2013 Crew Chief: Tony Gibson

Stats: 0 Top 5’s, 1 Top 10, Avg Start 30.1, Avg Finish 26.1, 5 DNF’s, 1 Pole, 5 Laps Led

Best Finish: Daytona 500: 8th She also started the season with a bang, landing the pole for the Great American Race. Then she managed to stay competitive for the entire race, hanging out with the Top 10 and even leading a lap. Things looked very rosy, indeed, for the 2013 Rookie of the Year contender. But appearances can often be misleading…

2013 Team Ranking: In Driver’s Standings, Patrick finished the season 2nd out of 3 in the Stewart/Haas team. She actually passed team owner Tony Stewart, as he was laid up with a fractured leg for nearly half the season. Patrick pegged 27th and Stewart 29th. Newman enjoyed Top Dog completing 2013 in 11th.

However, it behooves the NASCAR fan to check out the Owner’s Points Chart in this case. Danica’s No. 10 completed the year in 28th, while the boss-man’s No. 14 machine snagged an impressive 18th after handing the wheel off to a multitude of substitute drivers—including a raw rookie, Austin Dillon.

High Point: If there’s one thing Danica Patrick does exceedingly well, that is marketing her personal brand. All that effort paid off at the All-star race in May. Patrick was the driver voted into the race by the fans. However, the No. 10 Godaddy.com Chevrolet was never really competitive and finished 20th out of a 22 car field, albeit still on the lead lap.

Low Point: Hollywood Casino 400 (Fall Kansas Race) Patrick took the green flag, but in the middle of Turns 1 & 2, her pink GoDaddy machine got loose. Before she hit the outer wall head-on, she collected David Reutimann. She finished 43rd, never returning to the track. The wreck had all the earmarks of an aero-loose incident, typical of the current car.

Summary: There’s no denying that Danica Patrick has brought a huge amount of positive media attention to NASCAR, and has single-handedly broken the “men’s only” sign that used to hang outside this gentleman’s club. However, if there was ever a hope that she might be the first female Sprint Cup champion, her rookie season in the series may have put a bullet in it.

While her opening laps of the year looked impressive, the ensuing races were not. And shortly it was shown that she would run consistently, but consistently in the lower 20’s and 30’s in position. While her teammates continued to strut their stuff and land in the Chase, at no point was the No. 10 ever in contention for the playoffs. Or even in position to snag the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award away from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

It took only a few races into 2013 for the media to finally bow to NASCAR fandom’s wishes and reduce Danica mentions to a mandatory check-in once or twice a race.

However, with the power of the all-might dollar running everything and everyone in our sport, at no time should Ms. Patrick’s achievements in auto racing be undermined. Every time she appears in TV, the multi-billion dollar establishiments take notice. Her rankings are followed by Forbes and mainstream media outlets, which cannot be said of the 2012 Champ, Brad Keselowski. In her rookie year, she received more votes than the prodigal son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the All-star race. She is scheduled to appear in yet another Superbowl ad.

Perhaps Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career is not something that should be compared to other competitors. It seems she belongs on a different pedestal that exists in the world of major American brands like McDonald’s and Walmart.

However, she is going to achieve that fame by driving a car at 170 mph, in a 43-car pack, in front of millions of raving fans who buy more of her t-shirts than any other driver and talk about her outside of the closeted NASCAR world. Maybe the collateral benefits of having Miss Patrick amongst our chosen few isn’t such a bad thing.

2014 Outlook: Since Danica, her crew chief Tony Gibson and her sponsor are all returning for 2014, we can expect the No. 10 team to perform slightly better next year. Patrick has shown improvement over her years preparing for her NASCAR career, but never the meteoric kind. The only drawback to be seen might be at the hands of the shuffling of other team members. I have a hard time believing Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch will engender a positive, stress-free workplace environment. Explosive chemistry may be the applicable word at the Stewart/Haas garage in 2014.

2013 Frontstretch Grade: C-.

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Mike S.
01/08/2014 05:03 PM
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1. She won the All-Star fan vote last year? Not according to several friends of mine who had a Sprint app that was monitoring the fan vote. They told me that with less than 5 minutes of voting time left, Truex, Jr. had a double-digit lead in the voting. Her “winning the fan vote” was another bogus attempt by NASCAR to push her down fans’ throats.

2. More fans buy her t-shirt than any other driver? I have to call BS on that one, too. I only attended three races last year (the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, and the fall Talladega race) and I made a point of counting how many of her t-shirts I saw on fans at each of those races. Of the thousands and thousands of fans I saw up close at each race, I saw fewer than 25 fans wearing her t-shirt or hat, and that was a total for the three races. Her merchandise trailer wasn’t exactly doing a booming business, either. Where are all of the rest of these t-shirts being worn, on the couch on race day? I doubt it.

Jack
01/08/2014 09:45 PM
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“…It took only a few races into 2013 for the media to finally bow to NASCAR fandom’s wishes and reduce Danica mentions to a mandatory check-in once or twice a race.”
Really? Lots of people wish this were true. Did you ever watch a race? NASCAR’s shills, especially the idiot DW spent the entire half season blabbering about Danica. When they changed networks, we had a whole new crew doing the same thing. She received lots more coverage than anybody running in the 27th position ever did.