NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: Danica Patrick’s Tough Luck

Did You Notice? … Danica Patrick’s disproportionate amount of bad luck? Some have been critical of Patrick’s attitude in recent weeks, from her Kansas post-race comments to the well-publicized Pocono video in which she reacted to fans booing her.

That’s not the only problem she’s had off the track this season. There’s the small matter of primary sponsor Nature’s Bakery filing a lawsuit and ultimately reducing the races on its deal. There’s Stewart-Haas Racing talking options for Patrick as both sides explore what they’ll do beyond 2017. Needless to say, there’s plenty on her plate.

But it’s easy to forget in the midst of all this off-track drama just how much on-track bad luck has caused Patrick frustration. There have been times, like Sunday at Michigan, where her No. 10 Ford has been fast enough for a top-15 finish or even a top 10. But so many times this year she’s been wrong place, wrong time, the innocent victim of a wreck that leaves her steaming inside the garage instead of celebrating.

Let’s take a look at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series DNF leaders through 15 races. It’s no surprise who’s near the top considering the number of hard hits she’s had this year….

2017 Cup Series DNF Leaders

Jeffrey Earnhardt – 8

Danica Patrick – 6

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 4

Danica Patrick has certainly had a tough year but who knew that two Earnhardts would both be at the top of the “tough luck” list with her? (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Erik Jones – 4

Cole Whitt – 4

Five of those six DNFs for Patrick have been wrecks. Let’s examine each one briefly.

Daytona: After a solid Speedweeks, Patrick finished inside the top 10 in both stages. She was poised for perhaps a top-five effort in the Great American Race when the Big One blew up in front of her. As Jimmie Johnson got turned, Patrick was in the outside line and had no place to go. The season got started on the wrong foot and has never really recovered from there.

Las Vegas: Patrick’s lone mechanical failure came during the final 25 laps at Las Vegas. She’s the only Stewart-Haas Racing car to suffer an engine problem this year.

Bristol: This one, out of all her wrecks, you can argue was one of those racing deals. Patrick went three-wide with David Ragan and got the short end of the stick in this short track tie-up.

Talladega: Another Big One, another hard hit for Patrick. Once Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger made contact, Patrick simply got swept up in the mess. A hard hit with the front of her Ford was unpreventable due to the nature of restrictor plate racing.

Kansas: Joey Logano, with a part breaking or a tire failing entering Turn 1, loses control and slams right into Patrick while battling for position. At one of her best tracks, a place where Patrick could have earned a top 10, her Ford becomes a fireball instead. Aric Almirola fractures his T5 vertebrae in the same incident.

Michigan: Patrick, after slowly improving throughout the race, is in position for a top-15 finish down the stretch run. But a slow start by Ryan Blaney bottles up the field, causing contact that pushes the rookie Daniel Suarez right into her. Again, there’s nowhere to go and Patrick takes a hard, driver’s side hit into the inside wall.

Now, every racer experiences bad luck throughout their career. Great drivers remain calm, helping their team through the slump while remaining confident the tables will turn over the long run. But the number of hard hits Patrick has had in the series is clearly disproportionate compared to the average. Consider that Patrick’s teammates have failed to finish a total of four times among them. She’s wrecked out in five races alone.

Being able to avoid that bad luck, especially with a team that was already in sponsorship turmoil, makes a difference. Who knows what happens with Patrick from here, but any rational person can only take so much before frustration starts to overwhelm them.

Did You Notice? … There’s an uptick in road course ringers this weekend? After seeing their numbers decline in recent years, a number of back-end teams on the circuit tapped some right-turn veterans again for Sonoma.

Boris Said is back in a time when it seems like road course ringers are, as a whole, making a comeback. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

You’ve got Boris Said replacing a beleaguered Jeffrey Earnhardt in the No. 33. Billy Johnson will take a turn behind the wheel of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43. Alon Day will be making his Cup Series debut for BK Racing’s No. 23.

All of these organizations are in the same boat where making the playoffs is virtually impossible. So why not make a splash with a one-off attempt from a racing expert? While the ringers haven’t done that well in recent years there was a time they were a “must have” for teams who could use them. Ron Fellows, Said and Scott Pruett came close to upset victories throughout the last decade or two only to come up short.

For these teams, they’re battling for 30th at Sonoma with their regular drivers so why not roll the dice? It’s nice to see them take a gamble and the “ringers” come back to Cup once more.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off….

  • Kyle Busch is another one of those drivers going through incredibly bad luck. He now has more laps led (743) this season in Cup than during his entire championship year in 2015. Busch won five times in Cup that season; he has yet to win in 2017. But you figure whenever his No. 18 team turns it around, victories are going to come in bunches.
  • The more Matt Kenseth gets mentioned as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s possible replacement next year, the more it seems to make sense. Kenseth, 45, came up with Earnhardt and the two battled for Rookie of the Year in 2000. They’ve remained friends all these years and who better to hold the seat and the sponsorship until William Byron is ready to assume the throne? Kenseth doesn’t seem ready to retire quite yet.
  • Darrell Wallace Jr. had such a nice top-20 run at Michigan. But losing Sonoma to Johnson seems like a missed opportunity. Suddenly, there’s talk of Almirola back as soon as mid-July, which means Wallace has Daytona, Kentucky and… then what? A four-race audition without a top-15 finish won’t be enough of a splash, I don’t think. The pressure’s on.
  • Keep an eye out for Clint Bowyer this weekend. He’s a former Sonoma winner driving the car Tony Stewart took to victory last year. His SHR team is well aware of the opportunity this road course presents.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

OH good gosh, Tommy B. is stirring it up AGAIN as if this tired BS EXCUSE OF A TOPIC was his UNICORN FRAP AT STARBUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Bill B

Yep Danica’s biggest issue for 5 years has been bad luck.
Of course when you rely on the wave around and lucky dog to keep you on the lead lap in most races, you end up at the back of the pack a lot. Bad things (or ah, bad luck) happen when you are back there.

Bill B

Also, as I commented in another article, why hasn’t she been running Xfinity races for the last 5 years to get better? Do you have any idea Tom? Wouldn’t you think that might have been a good idea?


That’s so true – i mean – as much as we all dislike the cup guys going down a level, she actually needs it. that seat time is invaluable


This reminds me of the general reaction to Danica questioning how many more wrecks she can walk away from after the wreck at Kansas. Many in the media were acting as if she should quit if she was ‘sacred of getting hurt.’ Yet, JJ sits against the wall after his wreck, and no one questions that he was wondering the same thing. And you wonder why she feels singled out? I say she’s pretty tough to walk away from the wrecks she has.

Thomas Sparrow

Except for the fact, salb that Patrick specifically mentioned only herself while discussing her concern about injury. Not just injury in general in NASCAR or for her fellow competitors but the potential of injury for herself only.

Her comments were made while Aric Almirola was being treated for a broken back.


Sorry; not sorry! Danica creates her own Tough Luck.

I can see her finished driving this year and then the network idiots are going to hire her as a TV analyst. I can already hear her commentating; “Green flag UMMMM there going into turn one now UMMM UMMM UMMM UMMM”. Please go away period with along with the Waltrips!

Thomas Sparrow

Everybody loves to talk about Danica’s bad luck (especially Patrick herself) but few consider her GOOD luck.

She has been the recipient of at least 6 Lucky Dogs this season and innumerable “wave around”s giving her a lap back after she has been predictably been passed by the leader during the first long green flag run. In fact, her 10th place finish at Dover was mostly the result of comedy of errors and good fortune: 15 cautions, a Lucky Dog, at least 2 wave-arounds and having 6 or 7 cars wreck in front of her on the final restart.

Sure she has bad luck but on balance her good luck (both on track and the squandered opportunity of being employed by one of the best teams in Monster Cup) balance each other out. Bad Luck would be running on an underfunded team – something she has never done during her entire Indy and NASCAR “careers”.

With an average running position of 23rd for 2017 she’s hardly a contender even in the best of times.

Poor, poor Danica? I don’t think so.


Thomas Sparrow, I love how you hold her 10th place finish at Dover against her because of the cautions, wave a rounds and lucky dog, yet you don’t bring up the other 11 times that a driver has received the lucky dog but gone on to finish top 10 in a race.

In that same Dover race Larson got a lucky dog and finished 2nd, at Atlanta AND Fontana you had 3 top 10 finishers receive lucky dogs, including Kasey Kahne getting 2 at Atlanta en route to 4th, but you point out Danica’s one race of good fortune, I wonder why that is?

Bill B

All the drivers have lucky dogs and wave arounds at some point. I’d bet you $100 that out of all the drivers on top tiered teams HMS, SHR, JGR, & Penske, (RCR, RFR, Ganassi, Wood Bros, are 2nd tier teams) that she has gotten more lucky dogs and wave arounds than any of them. I could be wrong but that’s what my perception has been. Her best hope to finish on the lead lap in most races is lots of cautions. That way she either never falls off the lead lap because there aren’t any long green flag runs or lots of opportunities for wave arounds and lucky dogs. If there are very few cautions she doesn’t have a prayer (restrictor plate races excluded).

Furthermore, if you took all of the drivers on the 1st and 2nd tiered teams (4+4+4+2+3+2+2+1 = 22) I’d never be willing to wager that she’d finish better than last of those drivers on any given week. Bad luck or not her season points position for the last 5 years would bear that out.

I’d sure like to see some stats that prove me wrong.

Thomas Sparrow

In fact the number 10 team doesn’t race for the win – they race for lucky dogs and wave-arounds. The know that except for the longest tracks the will be lapped on the first long green flat run.

Their entire strategy is to try to be lucky enough to on the lead lap with at the green/white/checkers and hope for carnage in front of them on the restart(sound familiar?).

I agree with you about the first tiered teams. We never see Patrick actually racing one of them for a top five position.

Thomas Sparrow

Damon, that would be because the article is about Danica Patrick:
“Did You Notice?: Danica Patrick’s Tough Luck”

Try to stay on topic. You lame attempt at obfuscation has fallen flat.


She has the same car as Harvick. I’ll bet Chase Elliott had more laps in a stock car before he got to Cup than Danica has in total now. Morgan Shepherd and Red Farmer would do better.

Chances are next year she’ll be doing what she really wants to do.



Same car, perhaps, but not the same crew chief.

I would’ve liked to see what Danica could’ve done with someone like Rodney Childers (who got the best out of everybody at MWR) as her crew chief as opposed to guys like Daniel Knost and Billy Scott before I say definitively that her Cup struggles are 100% her fault as Tony Stewart seemed to suggest on Twitter after the race on Sunday.


Why can’t they put the same setup on both cars? If Harvick can sit on the pole with his setup shouldn’t it work for Danica? Maybe they do and she qualifies 23rd.


Is it fair to say she gets caught up in the wrecks because she is NEVER running up front?


This is what Danica is all about:

I still say racing is a distraction she is not committed to.


You are correct. I have always thought this racing gig was a bother and distraction to her. She likes the money and attention no doubt, but not racing or the actual work that is involved. I have long said if her desire was to improve she would have been in the lower series…ANY lower series working to get better! The contempt she exudes at times is shocking. She should be thanking her lucky stars every damn day! Entitled miserable beotch!


Seriously, Tom? This is what you have to write about? Danica, in a top tier car, with loads of sponsorship $ (up until this year) is a middle of the pack – at best- racer. If not for all the attention she got for reasons OTHER than being able to drive a race car, she wouldn’t be in the 10 car.

Capt Spaulding

I guess with Matt on hiatus, Tom needed to write an article to get some web traffic in the comment section……seems to have been quite sparse as of late. Next week, “It’s too bad FOX broadcast season is over for the year, will you miss the Waltrips”?


I’m not dead yet! (Oh, you will be soon. Don’t be such a baby.)


“Kansas: …………………….. At one of her best tracks”

One of her best tracks where her average finish is 23.3 if you exclude the bad luck finish this spring.
One of her best tracks where she has more DNFs (3) than laps led (2).

I’m trying to remember the race where she was running up front and encountered bad luck. I can’t because it has never happened.

Al Torney

This is a new excuse column for Danica.
Let’s take a look. Year one in Cup it was she hadn’t raced at many of the tracks and would improve on the second visit. Didn’t happen.
And then it was a new crew chief . No improvement. Then it was the new crew chief came from an engineering back ground which she had in Indy Car. No improvement.
Now she has no luck. Please give me a break.
Now the facts: Xfinity record. 61 starts; one top five; 7 top 10’s; average start 17; average finish 21; lead lap finishes 24
Cup stats: 169 races; no top 5’s ;7 top 10’s;average start 25; average finish 24; lead lap finishes 65
This is far from a stellar performance. And when you consider that this was with a fully funded race car and crew it is down right pathetic. This is ride buying at its best.
I have nothing against her. Contrary to belief she was not that successful in opn wheel where Godaddy picked up that bill.
The only thing she has proven is that she can drive fast but is not a true racer.
By the way very few even believe the pole at Daytona was legitimate since she hasn’t come close to another one since.

Scott Lynn

“Bad Luck”? Really? She’s been racing professionally since 1998 and only has 1 ore win than any of us commenting here. And we all have the same number of Top 5’s and Wins in NASCAR.

Uhhhh….That’s a lot of “bad luck”.

Tom B

This article was long over due. Regardless how you much you hate Danica, no one has taken more hard hits than her. And they were not her fault. Being a car on a championship team doesn’t mean your car is equal. Let’s compare her to Clint Boyer, driving the champions car to see the bias. I would like to see her in Xfinity again in a good car. She should insist on it. It’s obvious that Cup drivers dominate this series. If she constantly runs 25th, then she should retire, marry little Ricky, have a kid, and have a gazzilion followers watching her stay in shape.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from