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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

5 Points To Ponder: Thank You, Danica Patrick

ONE: Thanks, Danica

In the end, it was not the glorious finish Danica Patrick would have scripted to end her long and trailblazing racing career. An unexpected spin and wreck on lap 68 saw her final race, the 102nd running of the Indy 500, end with a violent collision in the outer wall.

“I’m not really sure what happened,” said Patrick post-race. “Today was really disappointing for what we were hoping for and what you want for your last race, but I’m grateful for all of it. Wish I could have finished stronger.” 

And so that’s that for Danica as she moves on to a life post-racing – a life in which I’ve no doubt she’ll succeed. The final tally in 2018, her last two races, will note a 35th-place, wreck-induced finish in the Daytona 500 and a 30th-place DNF in the Indy 500. As she said herself, that’s not how Danica would have written it up. But results alone don’t tell the story of a hugely important role she has played in both open-wheel racing and also in NASCAR.

All told, Danica finishes as the only woman ever to start the Daytona 500 on the pole (2013) and lead laps on two separate occasions (five in 2013, two in 2014). She also owns the highest ever finish in the 500 (eighth in 2013), a record number of Cup top 10s (seven) and a career-best effort of sixth (Atlanta, 2014). That sixth place stands as the second-best finish in NASCAR history for a woman and the best in the sport’s modern era.

In fact, that run is bettered only by a fifth place secured by Sara Christian in a 23-car field at Heidelberg Raceway, the seventh race of the 1949 season – just NASCAR’s second year. In addition, Danica is the only woman ever to lead laps in the Indy 500, secure seven podium finishes, and the only woman to win an IndyCar race, doing so at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi Superspeedway in 2008.   

This past week, none other than Bob Pockrass wrote an article suggesting Danica could be a potential Hall of Fame candidate and it got me thinking. Yes, there is a case for Danica being in the Hall of Fame given the record-breaking marks she has hit as a female driver. But the real legacy for Patrick might just be in the next generation of female racers her efforts will undoubtedly have inspired.

Despite those successes, rarely have I seen an athlete like Danica get bashed as much as she does in the vicious cauldron of social media. The countless negative nicknames and the vituperative abuse has rained down from all sides to the point that it’s hard to hold a neutral point of view about the Roscoe, Ill. native. So often in life, it’s easy to be the critic – the tormentor. To point out failure in others while ignoring the faults in our own lives. The Bible notes to worry about the plank in your own eye before the speck in your brother’s eye, yet it’s a model rarely followed with Danica. 

Despite that negativity, somewhere out there today, I’ll be willing to bet there’s a young girl promising herself she’ll win a MENCS race, multiple races, a MENCS title and the Indy 500. Danica, plain and simple, will be the reason why. We might not be able to quantify it yet but rest assured we’ll be hearing about her impact in Victory Lane one day soon.

Best of luck with what comes next, Danica. You made your mark.

TWO: Power’s Raw Emotion

Congratulations IndyCar veteran Will Power on a massive victory in the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – the Indy 500. The raw and practically explosive emotion from Power on the radio post-race, pulling into Victory Circle, and then between Power and his wife Liz when they see each other for the first time, told you everything you need to know about what it means to win this most illustrious of races.

“I just screamed like I’ve never screamed before. It was just amazing. The last two laps, the last lap, seeing the white flag, the checkered, I mean, you can’t explain it,” said Power of his win.

Before the drop of the green flag, I wrote down four names to keep an eye on: Helio Castroneves, Danica, Marco Andretti and Power. In the end, it was the final name that got it done, prevailing during a difficult day to pass. Pit strategy reigned supreme while wrecks claimed some of the sport’s biggest stars. Now, perhaps Power will get the credit he’s due after an outstanding career which had been missing this one large spot on the resume.

“It’s what I needed so badly, what I wanted so badly, and it came true,” said Power. “Anyone here knows how that would feel. You want something so much, it comes through to you through hard work and determination.”

THREE: A Sluggish Summer

With thirteen races in the books, we’re halfway to the NASCAR Playoffs. Thus far, Kyle Busch (four) and Kevin Harvick (five) have vacuumed up 70 percent of the race wins.

And as we head into the warm summer months, chances are those respective win totals will tick inexorably upward. In short, we might be looking at something of a tedious summer – a long, hot, predictable slog toward the start of the playoffs.

So much for the coming of the youth moment that was so heavily touted coming into the new season. In fact, we’ve seen barely a whimper from the new kids on the block as veterans have dominated nearly all of the statistical categories.

Could that change this weekend? A year ago, the first Pocono race saw a memorable first Cup victory for Ryan Blaney.  Sadly, judging by the evidence this year, so far it doesn’t seem likely. Perhaps the stability at the top of NASCAR’s ladder might be causing some of the recent ratings declines.

FOUR: Next Up, Pocono

Next up, it’s Cup race number 81 at picturesque Pocono Raceway and the first of two trips in 2018 to the Tricky Triangle. The 2.5-mile flat track is one of the few independently held circuits, run by the family-owned Mattco, Inc. which was started by track founders Dr. Joseph and Rose Mattioli.

Amongst active drivers, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads the way with four wins. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch have three apiece while Kasey Kahne has a pair. Brad Keselowski has the best average finish (minimum five starts) among active drivers at 10.5 while Johnson has led the most laps (738).

Since 2012, the two Pocono races have been 400 miles long (and not 500 miles). In 2017, the two races were won by Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch.

FIVE: Ricciardo’s Redemption Victory

Finally this week, it wasn’t quite the statistically perfect weekend for the 28-year-old Daniel Ricciardo. But in every other aspect, it was a redemptive win a long two years in the making.

The Red Bull Racing wheelman, in a milestone 250th Grand Prix for the team, led the way in Monaco. He captured all three practices, all three rounds of qualifying and every lap of the race for his second win in the first six races.

The only thing he didn’t manage was running the fastest lap. Back in 2016, a botched pit stop cost Ricciardo the victory. But on Sunday on the streets of Monaco, he wasn’t to be denied. You’re never owed anything in racing; plenty of drivers can attest to victories that slipped away, never to be recaptured.

That said, there was a huge element of redemption for the amiable Australian wheelman in this victory. His post-race dive into the swimming pool proved to be a picture perfect photographic moment.

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About Danny Peters

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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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20 comments

  1. Avatar

    She was always just a driver, never a racer. Now Fox, Nascar, and the Waltrip brothers are pushing bubba down our throats. I can’t ever remember the media interviewing the race winner and the 16th place finished after a race then signing off. Danica couldn’t win in xfinity not in cup. Bubba never won in xfinity, may never win in cup. Difference is, bubba can be called African American despite his father being white. DW says look at bubba go.

  2. Avatar

    I am a woman, offended by her “success” the media tells us, because she is a woman! Hopefully she is gone for good in the motorsport world. The media are stooges and lie, lie, lie, lie. There are other people in motorsports, who happen to be women, and are much more successful. But because of her “exposure”, she was deemed a “success” because of what is between her legs. It is maddening from my point of view. Have seen so much mediocrity disguised as success, because of old fashioned binary gender or skin color. What a world. Total crap.

  3. Avatar

    You could tell where this was heading when she was in the XFinity Series in good JR Motorsports equipment. Every week she’d finish behind Johanna Long who had sub- par equipment. Didn’t take long for her to get Tony Eury Jr & his whole team fired – maybe half a season.

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      Actually Eury Jr. quit because he had arguments Kelly over buying everything thru HMS. His opinion was that HMS charged top dollar for every component and he didn’t feel as if (say a transmission) was worth the price. The big components he agreed but the smaller ones was where he had an issue. He thought spending the extra money was going to bankrupt JR Motorsports in the long run. Eury and Danica are very good friends and he always stood up for her when we spoke.

  4. Avatar

    I think JT has some accurate insight into Danicant’s future. She’s about to spread her wings and become a regular TV celebrity. Maybe it will help her to sell her $185 bottles of whine.

  5. Avatar

    The Danica Double; crash out at Daytona and crash out at Indy.

  6. Avatar

    The Danica Double; crashed out at Daytona and crashed out of Indy.

  7. Avatar

    She sold her little butt in exchange for fame and fortune. Tens, probably hundreds of millions in sponsorships propelled her into a Crash Test Dummy. Let’s hope she doesn’t eventually become a vetgdtable due to numerous concussions. The “sport” of auto racing needs more talent. After all, there aren’t any bums in the SuperBowl by comparison.

    • Avatar

      “Steven May 29, 2018 at 5:59 pm
      She sold her little butt in exchange for fame and fortune.”

      Yeah but what a nice little butt!

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      At the same time the ranks of nascar drivers are. Being filled with family members, and little juniors ( not Earnhardt Jr.) Who are there because of daddy’s money. Most of them will have no more success than Danica did.

  8. Avatar

    Bill B about summed it up, Now days one of the first things the media wants to push down our throats is “Diversity” whether it be gender or race. Danica was even a bigger failure considering she was privileged with a big money sponsor and SHR equipment and still failed as a NASCAR “driver”. No need to use any gender pronouns. Just another driver, no more and no less.

  9. Avatar

    In the end I suppose Danica had a career that while it didn’t match the hype was about average. While many don’t want to admit it she did bring interest to the sport, and that can only be a positive. Perhaps she was a few years too soon as that interest will be sorely needed going forward. But she will probably do well for herself, evidently she has acquired some sound businesses and can build off of that.

  10. Avatar

    I’m glad Danica got through Indy safely. Those new cars with the low-downforce aero package had me concerned.

    As for her future, it is highly unlikely she will go back to racing. Starting with her hosting the ESPY’s she will enter the entertainment business. It is almost a slam-dunk that she will appear on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”. She may even get to star for a season in one of her fave shows, “The Bachelorette”. ESPN will experiment with her as a “lifestyle” reporter. A cable cooking show is another gimme for Danica. But I don’t see her as a race color announcer for NASCAR, or Indycar unless ESPN/ABC gets back into airing motorsports.

    As for the NASCAR HOF, give it 5 years, or so and see if the powers-that-be would even nominate her. I’m predicting this may not happen.

  11. Avatar

    As long as every accomplishment needs to be qualified with “for a woman” there isn’t much to talk about. If you make it to the top level of any sport you should be able to compete without needing qualifiers. The day when a female competitor can be looked at as just another competitor is the day I will jump on this gender diversity band wagon.
    Actually, I’d say her biggest impediment to being accepted as just another driver was the media. The more you all put her on a pedestal the more backlash there was. People don’t like it when they are sold something by the media that just isn’t true. I don’t remember as much negativity when Shawna Robinson was racing at the cup level. Both the media and fans treated her like just another driver trying to carve out a career in racing. On the other hand, Danica was jammed down the fans’ throat as a star, treated like a star by the media where they constantly tried to legitimize the fact that she was a star and embellish her accomplishments. That really worked against her in the long run with respect to the respect she got from fans. I could have said the same about Joey Logano after his first couple of years in cup. Being billed as “the greatest thing since sliced bread” before you even run a lap just results in undue pressure put on the driver and fan ridicule when those lofty promises are not met. The difference was, eventually, Joey started winning and getting good finishes and becoming a contender, Danica never showed that improvement. And ever after it was clear that she wasn’t improving and would never be a contender the media still kept treating her like a star and making excuses for her sucky stats.
    So if all you media types want to see who was to blame for the ridicule Danica received from the fans, all yo need to do is look in the mirror. You built that monster, you set her up to be thought of negatively by overhyping her. All the fans did was call you on your bullshit overhyping. Unfortunately, fans aren’t going to attack the writer with their ire, they are going to go after the person being jammed down their throat, the know celebrity.

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      Right on the money….remember her first race when DW bent our ears on how she released the steering wheel during her first crash…..little did we know, she became quite good at it.

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      Bill B you sure hit the nail on the head with this comment. Much more so she lived and died by the undeserved hype. No matter how the media built her up she consistently fell short on performance. Now that same media wants to come down on those race fans that saw through it all. When she accepted the hype and then failed to live up to it well it had to be understood that the negativity would follow and she and the media needed to accept that as well. Then add her attitude of others not doing enough for her and that was the reason she was failing sure didn’t help her in the eyes of real fans and real racers. The bottom line is that she really is not important in the grand scheme of things. There are true racers out here that are female without Danica. These are racers that struggle with little to no funding, they get their hands dirty actually working on their cars, they survive without the golden horse shoe that Danica was given, they not Danica are the real racers. Were they better known they would be much better role models for young females than Ms Patrick ever could be. Yes she could flat foot a fast car but she couldn’t race one. Soon she’ll slip into obscurity with only her stats to forge her legacy and they will not show her to be a racer, just a mid level talent at best.

    • Avatar

      Add me to those who totally agree with Bill B. Danica was a media creation from the first. She used her body to get attention with her soft porn advertising for GoDaddy and her yoga videos and the media never called her on it, because she was something easy to write about. Now you same media shills have the nerve to BLAME THE FANS for the negative reaction to the false hype you tried to sell us.

      As a woman, I am not inspired by her story, but embarrassed by it. She used her looks to get the best opportunities and did nothing with those opportunities but complain that they weren’t enough. I admire women who actually work their way to the top. And also as a woman, I am disgusted by the male-dominated media who continue to hype sexuality over athletic performance.

  12. Avatar

    Maybe it’s just me, but I thought Danica could drive fast if it was foot-to-the-floor but she couldn’t race.

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      Don’t think it was just you…think the King said it early in her first season.