Danica Patrick has certainly not set the world on fire with her entry into NASCAR's Sprint Cup division. In her first three attempts, her qualifying and finishes leave much to be desired. She has an average start of 36th and average finish of 33rd.
Her most recent run at Charlotte saw a 40th place qualifying and a five-lap-down 31st place finish with many laps during the race among the slowest. If her mission was to finish the race with all four fenders on the car, mission accomplished....no more, no less.
The upcoming lengthy break from Cup competition can't help her racing prowess as the more seat time, the better.
Had Stewart-Haas Racing not merged their 10 race plan for Patrick with Tommy Baldwin Racing, she would not have qualified for any Cup race to date. I do not like the ability of teams to buy and swap points like they're a commodity. I and many others would like to see drivers enter races on their own merit rather some conjectured guarantee.
Patrick has had every break in the book, including getting away with walling Sam Hornish Jr. after the checkered flag in a recent Nationwide race. Other than being called to the NASCAR hauler, no fines, probation or otherwise were implemented. A similar incident between Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday netted numerous fines and suspensions in the truck series.
Danica does currently sits ninth in the Nationwide points, earning one top ten finish earlier in the season, but with only 15 full-time Nationwide drivers, the talent pool is lean after the top ten.
By comparison with other newbees, Danica has 36 Nationwide starts; Current fifth place runner Cole Whitt has only 14 starts with an average start of 14.6 and finish of 14th, two top fives and five top tens. Current third place driver Austin Dillon has had 22 starts with eight top fives and 12 top tens this season alongside an average start of 11th and finish of 12th. Both drivers stats are very impressive with a win not too far off.
Patrick's latest plans for 2013 include an attempt at running both Memorial Day big races, those being the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. I suppose if she's interested in just motoring around both events, that could be accomplished. But to actually run in a competitive mode, that would be unrealistic for someone to be out of Indy competition for nearly two years and expect to knock the socks off the competition and do anything resembling a top 20 finish in the 600 would also be unrealistic.
When Patrick can start to qualify on her own and net a top 10 finish in either NASCAR division will she earn the respect of true race fans. Until then, she will just be a marketing darling with a pretty face and promoted ad nauseam.