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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Is Danica Done?

ONE: The All-Star Race

I’m not going to lie here, I had no idea what the 2017 All-Star race format was for this go around until I looked it up just now. And I’m someone who writes a weekly column, watches every race, reads the press coverage vociferously and loves me some NASCAR Twitter — so therefore I should have at least a modicum of knowledge on this topic. But like I say, I don’t. To be honest even after reading the rules I was still a little confused but after a second reading, to paraphrase a line from that classic Tom Cruise late eighties movie Cocktail: Light dawned on Marblehead. Look, on one level, I suppose I should not be surprised. They’ve been futzing with the format on this extra-curricular race for some time now; why should this year be any different? But it would be really great if a quick glance at the format was all that was needed. Truth is, I’ll probably still be wondering what the rules are midway through Saturday evening’s extravaganza. Formats aside, what really needs to change for the All-Star race is the location. I get that it’s great for teams to have time at their home base (well, except for the Colorado based Furniture Row team) but this race would be so much better served by spreading the wealth as far as venue goes. What about Martinsville under the (newly installed) lights? Or, something completely different like a visit to Road America or even a tilt on the dirt at Eldora Speedway. Either way, something needs to change and a four hundredth new format is not the answer. I hope fervently to be proved completely wrong but I’ve got no great expectations for Saturday night. We’ll see what happens.

TWO: Get Well Soon, Aric

Thoughts and more importantly prayers are with Aric Almirola this week as he begins what will likely be a lengthy journey back to full health. The Richard Petty Motorsports veteran suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra; a result of a fiery three-car wreck on lap 199 of this past Saturday evening’s race at Kansas Speedway. Also caught up in the wreck were Joey Logano, who triggered the wreck through no fault of his own with a right front parts failure — a second straight vicious hit after his wreck at Talladega Super Speedway the previous weekend. The other unwitting participant was Danica Patrick and more on her below. Denny Hamlin, who himself suffered a wreck induced back injury – an L1 compression fracture – back in 2013 at Auto Club Speedway, took to Twitter to give his thoughts:

Almirola is currently listed as being out indefinitely and the likelihood is that this injury will see the driver of the #43 Ford miss all on-track action for several months. We wish him the best with his recovery and look forward to seeing him grace the track again sooner rather than later.

THREE: Staged Out

2017 Kansas I CUP Martin Truex Jr Nigel Kinrade NKP
Martin Truex Jr. made a mockery of the field during last year’s Coca-Cola 600. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

So a quick perusal of the latest and greatest NASCAR news this (Monday) morning reveals yet more format tomfoolery. This time around NASCAR is adding an additional stage to the Coca-Cola 600 and I quote directly from the press release: “[bringing] an update that will provide fans with yet another opportunity for a memorable moment in a season already filled with them.” Right then. Simply put, this is a move that smacks just a little of desperation. Yes, we all know last year’s 600-miler was the definition of a snoozer with Martin Truex, Jr., eviscerating the field leading 392 of the 400 total laps. Okay, sure for Truex it wasn’t boring, but for the rest of us it was like slugging a double dose of Ambien. But is another stage really what we need here? And why announce it now? Surely this wasn’t something the powers that be came up with on a cocktail napkin in the bar after the Kansas race? One of the major criticisms from longtime fans is the raft of endless changes. This just adds copious fuel to an already combustible mix. One final thought here: what if someone dominates again like Truex did this time last year. Could those extra stage win points make a difference at the sharp end of the season? And would that be fair? We’ll see, I guess is the answer here, but I for one am not a fan of this new move. Not a fan at all.

FOUR: Is Danica Done?

There was, to put it politely, a fair bit of reaction to Danica Patrick’s post-wreck media interview at Kansas Speedway with Jamie Little of Fox Sports. “I feel absolutely horrible, I just don’t understand why so much bad luck happens,” said Danica. “I was having a really good night and that’s what makes me most mad. Every time I’m doing better something stupid happens. And…it’s just killing me.” It was, to be fair, a candid, forthright interview conducted before she really had a chance to debrief on what actually happened on the track but it’s indicative of her mindset and also perhaps of her results. All told, Danica has no wins, no top-5’s, a measly six top-10 runs and just 57 laps led in 165 races across six seasons. Put another way, her results don’t match her level of equipment – not by any stretch of the imagination. “One of these times these accidents aren’t going to go good for me,” continued Danica. “They are all big. I’ve been very fortunate so far. But one of these times it’s not going to go well.” My overwhelming takeaway to what was, to be fair, a “heat of the moment” response? This will be her last season. She already has sponsorship issues and given her average finish this year is 28.1 – compared to 28.3 in her first ten Cup races – you have to say she hasn’t shown any real sign of improvement. At some point, it’s better to just walk away and for Danica that time might come at the end of the 2017 season.

FIVE: The 2017 Champion?

Another week and another win for Martin Truex, Jr. – his second in just eleven races in 2017 so far. Truex has begun the season in fine fashion with two wins, three top-5’s, seven top-10’s, a series best 536 laps led and an average finish of 10.5. Truex sits second in the overall standings, 44 markers behind Kyle Larson but if I was a betting man (which I’m not) I’d be putting some serious coin on money on the Mayetta, NJ native for the title this season. Truex won twice early in the Chase and was for many the favorite (the first race at Chicagoland Speedway and the third at Dover International Speedway) but was eliminated at the second cut following a 40th place blown engine at Talladega Superspeedway. Of course we all know anything can happen in the Chase but with a smidgeon of luck at the right time Truex could pick up an inaugural title in 2017. He’ll be one to watch every step of the way, that’s for sure.

About the author

Danny starts his 12th year with Frontstretch in 2018, writing the Tuesday signature column 5 Points To Ponder. An English transplant living in San Francisco, by way of New York City, he’s had an award-winning marketing career with some of the biggest companies sponsoring sports. Working with racers all over the country, his freelance writing has even reached outside the world of racing to include movie screenplays.

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21 thoughts on “5 Points to Ponder: Is Danica Done?”

  1. To state is “Danica done” implies that she was an actual “was”. She was never anything.

    And please for the love of Mary and all that is Holy stop with the lame ass narrative that she was not briefed before she had her nasty mug in front of the cameras. Bullshit, just bullshit. She knew, because only when Jamie Little mentioned ARIC at the end of the interview…as an afterthought she said she “hoped” he was o.k. If she did not know, she would have had the element of surprise for all us to see and her statement would have been more like..”why, what happened to Aric..he did not get out of his car”? Or something to that effect. But it is always about her! And for the sake of fantasy she “did not know”, let us look at how Logano started his interview and ended his. That’s all a sane person needs to know.

    • it was an awful interview – and to be prompted by Jamie Little is just insane. I really thought she was going to start off by saying “i hope Aric is ok…” but no, just awful to see her reaction compared to Joey’s – and even Joey’s in car audio, his immediate concern for a fellow competitor. She just showed that it’s all about her, and that’s just not what it’s all about. Maybe that’s why she’s only got that 28.1 avg finish. Who knows – i know that Kevin, Clint and Kurt would love a teammate that actually adds value each weekend.

      • I thought Joey showed a lot of class in his first radio comments being “Is Danica OK”.

        Sadly, she didn’t show the same class.

  2. The all-star race is a joke. No one cares what format they use. People inclined to watch it will watch it regardless. No one is going to tune in as a result of some convoluted, BS, whacky format. I agree, holding at a track that they don’t race on during the regular season might be the only thing that would move the needle.

    Typical NASCAR. Changing the rules two weeks before the race in mid-season. No other serious sport would do that unless it was a reaction to some safety issue.

    Danica. What a waste of a car. She was over-hyped from the beginning and everyone knew it. She should have been out after 3 seasons when there was no improvement in her results. And her interview on Saturday night given the situation, showed no class, no empathy and no perspective. And even if she hadn’t of wrecked, I would have bet she’d fall back into the mid-20’s by race end so she’s not as big of a victim as she suggested.

  3. Whether Danica retires from Nascar is an interesting question. She’s probably right that sooner or later the odds will catch up with her and why not leave before that happens? On the other hand, can Ford and SHR find a sponsor or hire another driver driver who brings in sponsorship. After all SHR is in it to make money, if you can get a win thats a bonus.
    Should be interesting.

  4. NASCAR and TV have kissed her pampered and entitled ass since she started in NASCAR with her moneybags Sugar Go Daddy. Her presence has singlehandedly diminished the sport of stock car racing. NASCAR has milked this cow ad nauseum.i will miss her like I would miss a bleeding hemorrhoid .

  5. The only driver, besides Danica, who could still have a ride with her stats would be Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Granted, Danica has suffered some setbacks not of her own making. However, she has proven that, even with the best equipment, she is unable to compete at the Cup Level.

    There are some young, up and coming, talents who would love to have the opportunity to compete in the quality of equipment that Danica has.

    So, is Danica finished? She should be and SHR should put a different talent in that seat.

  6. Interesting article, can’t disagree with any of the points made, in fact I’d say it’s spot on. And the commenters have pretty much got it right as well.

    These two “events” (I can’t bring myself to call them races) are going to be unwatchable. I likely will watch the start of the 600, but no way I’ll sit through 4 or 5 hours of cookie cutter boredom, watching the inside of my eyelids will be more exciting and time better spent. And this weekend’s thing is just not of interest at all, regardless of whatever the promoters do to try to hype it up. Definitely it needs to move around. Dirt sounds good!

  7. C’mon…. Danica Patrick is an All-Star! She was voted into the All-Star race in 2013 by the fans, and fans know an All-Star when they see one. And that vote was NOT rigged. No sir-ee, she won that vote fair and square. What does dumb old Kyle Petty know about race car drivers anyway? And I know she’s going to turn it around and become a force to be reckoned with on the track… When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. A cricket once said that, and crickets are pretty smart.

  8. Thanks for the laughs everyone. Gotta hate on someone or something all time I guess.

    1st Danica is a mediocre driver and never billed herself as a champion (you all are aware she only lucked into one indy win in Japan because of fuel mileage … she did have one indy 500 where she ran in the top five) … so I’ve always considered her mediocre but nonetheless talented … not everyone can be a multi-winner and champion.

    2nd, when interviewed before coming to Nascar part-time in the Busch (now Xfinity) series she opening admitted the most important thing to her was to “build her brand.” After that interview I never followed her because she made clear to EVERYONE her primary intention was to make money not to be a winner or even a champion.

    Guess what, she built her brand and is a rich lady so the egg is in all of your faces lol.

    But instead of ripping her a new one how about acknowledging the one positive thing she did for Nascar … she brought in new fans … specifically young females and gave them a role model.

    Sure she gets a little whiny but wouldn’t you get whiny if you wanted to win bad, knew you had good equipment but couldn’t close the deal.

    Is it her time to quit .. I don’t know and I couldn’t care less. 80% of the cup drivers (over history) have never won a cup race. There are a lot of drivers out there you over the years that have stretched their careers and were out there racing way after their prime … don’t see you all bitching about all the other back markers.

    • So none of have any valid points huh? We are just haters with no basis to justify our negativity.

      Sounds like something a PC snowflake would say…. not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      As for bringing in new fans (apparently not enough judging by the ratings and attendance), what does that have to do with debating her worthiness to occupy a top tier ride for 5 years with no success. I’d bet if Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian was put in a car there’d be a hell of bump in young female interest but NASCAR is supposed to be a sport. Hell, Tim Tebow would have generated interest in the NFL but you didn’t see anyone compromise what it takes to be a quarterback in the NFL by putting him on a team to generate interest. That why the NFL is revered by true sports fans and NASCAR is ridiculed.

      And how has her building her brand by undermining the integrity of NASCAR (like there aren’t already enough things undermining that) mean that I have egg on my face. I’m fine. It’s the “sport” that has egg on it’s face now.

      One last point. Most of those 80% that haven’t won a race didn’t occupy a top tier ride for 5 years with nothing to show for it. Apples to oranges.

      • yeah Bill B you are right the egg is on Nascar’s face not any of the fans. BTW: Kim K wouldn’t fit in a car.

        Everyone should be mad at the people that gave her a ride: first it was Dale Jr. and then Tony Stewart.

        and yes you had some valid points .. she sucks .. just seemed like everyone was piling on but I couldn’t care less (but feel free to come back and bitch at what I POS I am)

        keep it coming

        PC snowflake lol … far from it

        • Nah, it’s over. Especially with the “Kim K wouldn’t fit in a car” line. Can’t argue with that. LOL

    • I’ve complained about back markers, front markers, and all the markers in between. Some drivers have been the subject of my derision more than others… I’ve given poor Ricky Stenhouse so much grief over his career that I’m surprised I didn’t get a “How do you like me now!” card from him last week. Still, a major part of today’s column was about whether Danica Patrick should hang it up, so that what many of these comments focus on. As for the fans Danica has brought in, I’m betting that they leave when she leaves, taking their Hello Kitty lunchboxes with them. However, I will give Danica her due… my 80 year-old mom likes her, and mom doesn’t like anyone except Elvis and Richard Petty.

  9. Ricky sure has a Jewell doesn’t he lol. Miss class act never mentioned Rickys win after that Sunday night. Are you sure about this Ricky or are you just along for an old ride. Caution Ricky. If she quits racing she for sure won’t be around every week to support you, remember, all she knows is me me me.

  10. Patrick started out as a brilliant marketing program. Made buckets of money for her and Stewart Haas. Then finally reality has set in, not a racer, loss of sponsor, poor results and all the hype in the world will not rescue her. Another NASCAR bs program that did not help save the series. So sad that a racing series that was successful has turned into a cheap circus.

  11. Regarding the added stage to the Coca-Cola 600, it’s not as if the last decade of Charlotte races before last year’s Truex beat down were on the edge your seat, eyes glued to the TV thrillers either.
    Let’s face it, the racing at Charlotte has sucked for years, probably worse than Fontana or Pocono back in the day.
    The All-Star Race should be moved……off the schedule.
    There’s only so much lipstick in the world to put on this pig.

  12. Danica is an idiot right off the bat she blamed Joey for taking her out without seeing the tape and talking about her bad luck she is having this year name me a driver that hasn’t had a bad year and to top it all off seems she was not worried about Aric just the damn car so SHR let her ass go

  13. I think Danica is done for. I honestly thought she was going to be done for back in 2015 after GoDaddy.com dropped her and it coincidentally happened during her contract expiration year too. She was at the point in her career where she was starting to lose that media spotlight when she wasn’t producing the results especially for someone their third year into the Cup Series and nobody wants to sponsor a team who isn’t going to get too much attention. After she lost her sponsorship, at the rate everyone was hyping her up, I thought she would get another sponsor right away, but that didn’t happen. Then Tony was dragging his feet on extending her contract. Now for someone who is supposedly bringing all that money to the team, why didn’t he sign her right of the bat despite her primary sponsor leaving? She was “Ms. Big Shot Lady Driver”, wasn’t she?

    Then a virtually unknown company picks her up by the name of Nature’s Bakery which didn’t even have that much money picks her up. Seven whole months went by before anyone picked her up and that speaks volumes right there. One would have thought that a larger company would have picked the media darling up if she were that great or popular. That is also how long it took SHR to finally relent and resign her too. I could tell her butt was on the line too the way she spased out on Denny for accidentally spinning her out to the point where she barely made it into the 2015 Daytona 500-she knew if she didn’t get into that big event, her goose would have definitely been cooked by SHR. Nature’s Bakery drops her after only one year-I wonder why? The cameras are no longer trained on her during the race, nor is the media hyping her up like they used to, so why waste money on marketing when they are barely in the spotlight. Cameras are now trained on the front of the pack, not the 15th or worse drivers so of course they won’t get airtime. Once again, no big sponsors flocked her way and her secondary sponsors had to step in. When Nature’s Bakery dropped her the way they did, Ford promised that they would make sure she stays on the track, but I don’t see them giving her any money to do that. Aspen Dental and Tax Act are doing those and she still has a few races she still need sponsors for. I don’t see a major corporation coming around itching to sponsor her and it’s been 3 months now. I don’t think she’s going to have anyone really sponsoring her for next year and I think after this year, she’s going to be done.

    Tony has had 6 years worth of information now that it wasn’t even worth the contract extension. He even got rid of one of his best drivers for the likes of her. I think he’s had enough too. She’s regressing and not progressing. I know that these last few accidents weren’t her fault, but she hasn’t been doing so hot in the other races she didn’t wreck out in.

  14. The real question is – when was she even relevant? She started in Indycars in 2005 and spent her years there doing less with more – then she moved to NASCAR and has done even less with more. Her gender is her only “qualification” to race, and there is NO evidence she has brought any relevant number of new fans to racing – exactly the opposite seems to be the case. The sooner she is removed from racing, the better for the sport.

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