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(Photo: John K Harrelson / Harrelson Photography Inc.)

Danica Patrick’s Impact on NASCAR Much Greater than Results

Danica Patrick announced on Friday, Nov. 17 she was stepping away from full-time racing competition following the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 10 car finished 37th after blowing a tire, ending her tenure at Stewart-Haas Racing in flames.

It may have come to a surprise that Patrick is stepping away after rumors were running rampant around the garage of possible scenarios for the fifth-year driver.

Could she take sponsorship and go to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 27 car? What about joining boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Roush Fenway Racing? Then, there was the possibility of going to Front Row Motorsports, which many thought was a done deal.

However, Patrick stuck true to her word, as in the past she admitted when it didn’t become fun any longer, she would step away. 2017 wasn’t a fun season.

By the numbers

The No. 10 machine could never get out of the box in 2017, having five DNFs in the first 11 events. After a promising finish in the Can-Am Duels, Patrick finished 33rd in the Daytona 500, getting involved in one of the several multi-car crashes. Two weeks later at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, her engine expired, resulting in a 36th-place finish.

Following Vegas, Patrick didn’t score a top-20 finish until Richmond Raceway, placing 18th. She had back-to-back crashes at Talladega and Kansas, though no fault of her own. In fact, at Kansas Speedway, she was running around the back half of the top 10 when Joey Logano and Aric Almirola tangled, involving the No. 10 machine. And boy, did she take a hit to the outside wall.

She scored her lone top-10 finish of the season at Dover International Speedway, missing a 14-car pileup on an overtime restart. Earlier in the event, she was multiple laps down. Patrick’s season began to take a turn for the good at Kentucky Speedway, finishing 15th. The No. 10 team score four consecutive top 15s, a career-best for Patrick.

But then it was back to old ways when Patrick had five consecutive finishes outside the top 20. Her season really began to go off the hinges during the playoffs, posting four DNFs over the final seven races. During that time, her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won two stages and took the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway, also where Kurt Busch set a record qualifying time on a 1.5-mile track.

Unfortunately, Patrick’s run at NASCAR wasn’t a success, or at least as successful as she would have liked.

Sure, she won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 and ran in the top 10 the entire race, but that’s Daytona. She always had speed and was a contender at the plate races, leading 23 of her total 64 career laps led on the superspeedways.

Remember, Patrick was part of Stewart-Haas Racing.

During her five-year stint with the team, Harvick became a champion, Busch topped his career off by winning the Daytona 500 and Tony Stewart was exiting the sport as a driver, after going through trouble in 2013 and 2014.

Maybe, it wasn’t her fault, but she still had among the best equipment in the field and finished as high as 24th in the championship standings. Not good.

Yes, Patrick has at least one more Daytona 500 left in her (probably with Chip Ganassi Racing). But thus far, she has 190 Cup Series starts to her name and only seven top-10 finishes with a best effort of sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in late 2014.

Maybe she should have competed in more XFINITY Series races to have more seat time. In the past, you’ve seen drivers do that and if they have success in one series, it can likely transfer over to the big time. Since joining SHR, she has just three starts in the highest preliminary division of NASCAR, all at restrictor plate tracks. Maybe she just ran those races to have fun, not get better.

Patrick will have one last shot to become the first woman to win in the Cup Series. Never say never, but if she couldn’t get sponsorship to purchase a ride for 2018 after having GoDaddy and Nature’s Bakery leave in back-to-back seasons, it’s likely she will never have the money it takes of getting a program behind her.

Her legacy

Forget racing, Patrick’s success outside of the racecar is second to none. Whether she’s coming out with a new wine, clothing brand or recipe book, her rise to fame has not come out of nowhere. In 2013, her first full season in NASCAR, she was ranked No. 91 in the world, according to Forbes Celebrity 100. Whenever there is an awards show (ESPYs, CMA Awards, etc.) and the network needs a female athlete to be in attendance to present an award, Patrick typically gets the nod. That will probably continue.

But then there is the aspect of being a woman, driving a racecar at over 200 mph. There is no doubt that over her 13-year racing career (IndyCar 2005-2011), she is the most successful female to step foot behind a racecar. And because of that, she brought in a whole new demographic to the sport.

Patrick appeals to children, especially females. While at a sponsorship event in 2016 during the June Pocono race, the driver met a young girl, also named Danica. Obviously, she was named after the driver.

The smile on the young girl’s face was priceless, and likely a moment she will never forget. She got an autograph and picture from Patrick, as well as taking a life size cardboard cut-out home with her. Inspiring.

That’s probably the word that comes to mind when trying to explain Patrick’s significance not only in NASCAR, but all of racing.

She wanted to come to NASCAR, she came to NASCAR. She wanted to perform well at the Indy 500, and she had one great go at it in her rookie season. She broke out of the norm and brought new fans to the sport, something that higher-ups should cherish her for.

Just like anybody else, people are going to criticize Patrick. Some of the comments may come off as sexist or just plain disrespectful, but she’s always handled the backlash with class. She did things others could only dream of and did it her way.

Everyone tries to impact another life. Patrick has influenced hundreds of lives and will continue to do so following her last scheduled race at the 2018 Indy 500. She’s comfortable in her own skin, and owns a room with her presence.

Cheers Danica, it’s been a great ride.

About Dustin Albino

Dustin Albino

Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2017 marks his third full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he is currently enrolled at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. Growing up in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, he’s known since he was a little kid that he wanted to be around fast cars on the media side.

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19 comments

  1. Well Chip said no go to Danica, so now miss fluff is in a corner to either out up or shut up. Again.
    So far king Richard has 5 fully funded races for bubba, only needs 31 more suckers to jump on board with a driver who couldn’t won one xfinity race in 3 years. Danica/bubba

  2. The only thing that I can say about this article is HUH?? What part of the planet is this writer (?) living on that thinks Danica Patrick will leave a legacy? And what might that be pray tell. She did absolutely nothing for the sport but introduce her sexy self and made millions of dollars for her and others. When the novelty wore off, so did the sponsors or she would still be racing. All I hear is that little girls want to be like Danica? Why she is a self centered bi–h whose self worth is through the roof. If you have been around her in any social setting you would see for yourself. Now she wants to use Chip’s money and equipment so she can ‘drive at Daytona and Indy.” Notice I said drive, not race. Its all about self gratification and she wants to go out racing in the two biggest races for here own ego. Got a hot tip for the author and Danica, you went out at Homestead like you went out of many other races. You lost the car, hit the wall and blamed a tire for you troubles. You never took responsibility for your actions, it was always someone else. Pathetic. Legacy? Yea, Danica you were a cash cow and a driver, never a racer. Good bye.

  3. Danica was a product of the media hype . NASCAR and the media played as long as could, SHR put her a car due to the GO DADDY deal and not based on talent or race results . when Go daddy left you know her time was running out. she never showed any improvement 90% of the time ran 20- 25. no matter what SHR did, the only one on the team with out a win

  4. I have to say Danica is one tough cookie. She took a lot of really hard hits during her time racing in the Cup series. She walked away from every one of them with less whining than a lot of the guys. If you use that as a standard, I’d say Danica exceeded expectations. And maybe showed the ‘men’ how to tough it out.

  5. Patrick was a very divisive presence in Nascar, on the one hand we had all the BS spewers who had the “new fans” convinced she was the next great thing but the real hard core race fans knew she was going nowhere. That created a big problem when it became apparent she was sucking and the “new fans” left.

    Her impact was minimal at best, more along the lines of a circus sideshow. Suggesting she might have done better to stay in Xfinity is tenuous at best, Johnson did poorly in Xfinity, only 1 win in 11 years, yet look what he did in Cup. Xfinity success does not always transfer to Cup. And her success as a marketer? That one is BS as well. She’s being sponsored by a fig bar company and she promotes a competitor’s fig bar on social media? That was why Nature’s Bakery left. That doesn’t sound smart to me. Enough of the rah rah BS about her, the sport will be better off when she’s no longer a part of it and when articles like this disappear.

    • Sol,
      At least if she’d run some Xfinity races (in addition to Cup) it would have looked like she was trying to get better. In most cases more practice results in better skills. The fact that she carried herself like she was too good to run the lower series added to the disdain most fans had for her. Arrogance is not a desirable trait.

    • It won’t be better off. In fact I doubt that it will have any impact at all. What I do predict however is that it won’t be too long before Wallace gets the same treatment. Oh, the words wont be as direct, but it will be the same.

  6. Your still wrong. Danita was released from her job due to nobody wanting to sponsor her. And no owner was willing to put his own money up to hire her. She was fired more or less. She had zero day in the matter.

  7. The media continues to extol Patrick’s “impact” on NASCAR. Each point is both intangible and ethereal.

    I have yet to see a number that demonstrates how she has improved interest in NASCAR or how many young girls she has inspired and of those how many are currently pursuing racing careers. Note to the media: anecdotes are not news.

    The numbers that DO exist are her “racing” statistics and they, frankly, stink.

    92nd in “Forbes Celebrity 100”? Great for Danica, not so much for the sport.
    Were you able to site that she was 92 on some list of “World’s Greatest Race Car Drivers” THAT might have been notable.

  8. Same clueless, sexist hater comments as always. No wonder she bailed from your rapidly dying sport. You think it was tanking before? wait till next year. lol!

  9. Her image was enhanced early on by being involved in COPD Charity. Whatever happened with that.? Always complaining after continuous racing failure yet hardly any good words about anything other than herself.

  10. By mo means do Danica’s results on the track impress. As to how many people she inspired I wouldn’t presume to guess. I do think that the way she is leaving will impede rather than advance the prospects of women in Nascar going forward. Oh, there may be someone they prop up as a token, but it won’t be a serious threat.
    I do think it is an injustice to single out her lack of results. The history of nascar is littered with the names of drivers who failed to win, or come close. One multi-time sprint car champion didn’t even last out one year as I recall.
    Regardless, Danica’s gone and next year we can all applaud the successes of Bubba Wallace.

  11. Contrary to all of the hype all of her records have to do with her longevity in the sport. By any standard she is a failure in NASCAR. Without the sponsorship dollars she would have been out of a ride long before now. Why the media tried to make her into something she wasn’t has to do with NASCAR’s PR team working overtime to create a new star. She was far from successful in the Xfinity series. And in reality she was not that great in Indy Car. Keep in mind Indy Car finishes have a lot to do with attrition. Her win over there was on fuel mileage. Many felt her win was a gift to bolster fan interest in Indy Car and that Helio held back. Very few believe her pole position win at Daytona was legit. Especially since she has not even come close to winning another pole in NASCAR.

    Who really cares if she is a success in other endeavors? Is the cook book going to no. 1 on the New York Times best seller list, her clothing line going to be bigger then Under Arnour or her wine the new Dom Perignon? She wanted to be a success as an auto racer and didn’t achieve it. Dave Moody actually said on Sirius radio that she had the numbers to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Who’s he kidding? Someone also on broadcast media said she opened the floodgates for female race car drivers. Where? Of course Danica is going to get credit for every women who wants to drive a race car in the future. I do believe she was an in#piratiin to young girls and many fans in the beginning but it’s obvious that that has waned over the last couple of years. At some point you have have to prove yourself worthy of th3 admiration and she didn’t do it. Kyle Petty, who I respect, said the other night on NBC that if one women makes it in NASCAR in the next several years it will be because of Danica. Is that called opening the floodgates? I think just the opposite. I think Danica’s failure in NASCAR is going to set women’s opportunities in NASCAR back. Why you may ask? Well here was a woman who came to NASCAR with supposed impeccable credentials in a fully funded car with a top tier team and couldn’t come close to running in the top twenty consistently. Do you think Car owners are going to line up to put a woman in a car in the future? I serously doubt it.

    • Poor, poor butt-hurt Al (and all of the other so-called “men” who replied)…Danica raced in Indycar – you couldn’t. Danica raced in NASCAR – you couldn’t. She has achieved things you will only ever dream about. You will continue on with your sad, little lives hating on others who have more talent in their little pinkies than you will ever have. You are all to be pitied, and I hope you are eventually able to develop some sort of happiness in your miserable, angry lives. Danica has inspired millions with her dedication and talent, and also her ability to completely dismiss all of the haters who are nothing but dirt beneath her feet. You all can keep on hating and fearing successful females, and Danica will keep on succeeding as a role model and multi-millionaire in all endeavors of her life. Congratulations Danica. You will be missed!

  12. Another great FLUFF article extolling the virtues of how great she was and all that she accomplished and did for the sport. I could do it in a much shorter way. “She did nothing ! “

  13. Keep trying to sell it long after it’s become apparent that no one is buying it.