By now it has been established that Danica Patrick's pole-winning run around the Daytona International Speedway was historic, both in the Sprint Cup sense and in the Daytona 500 sense. It is another accolade to add to her already considerable list. But is it a accurate indicator of how her rookie season will turn out?
Let's take a look back out how she's fared since coming to NASCAR in 2010. When she came onto the Nationwide scene that year, the best word to describe her performance was disastrous. It seemed that every other race she was in her No. 7 Chevy was crinkled up or wasted in one way or another.
2011 was a bit easier on her, if only a little bit. She was a little more consistent, posting a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas to record the highest finish for a woman in any of NASCAR's top three touring series. She'd go on to gain a few more top tens that year before running full-time in 2012.
2012 was a roller coaster ride for her. She won the pole for the season opener at Daytona, but in a familiar scene, her No. 7 Chevy was wrecked at the bottom of turns three and four. She did post some top tens, but she also wrecked a few more JR Motorsports hot rods.
Did her finishes translate into her initial foray in the Sprint Cup series in 2012? No.
All too much like her 2010 season, her No. 10 Chevrolets were wadded up in one way or another. Many reasons can be attributed as to why this was so.
Her aggression level is a good place to start. It is only natural for a driver to want to be the best and perform their best week in and week out. In this case, she cannot be blamed. However, another asset that many successful drivers have is patience.
Patrick, although fierce, lacks patience. To do well she must learn to control her aggression. The fact that she has already visited many of the tracks on the circuit should help her in this case.
Another factor that can be attributed to her tendency to not get the finishes she desires is her intent to prove herself. Racing cars in general is a tough sport so the need to put herself out there as formidable and not to be messed with has been there since her days in IndyCar.
Her list of drivers she has had run ins with have run the gamut from Dan Wheldon, Ryan Briscoe and Milka Duno to Regan Smith, Morgan Shepard and Ryan Truex. In an entertaining spot from late in 2012, Patrick and Landon Cassill had a run in at Kansas Speedway.
What seemed to be a minor case of trading paint turned into yet another wrecked Chevy for Patrick as her attempt to get revenge ended up with Cassill's Toyota spinning harmlessly while she ended up in the wall. She can't keep doing that if she wants to get results.
If her performance during her three seasons in Nationwide competition is any indicator, she should be fine if she just keeps her head on straight. Don't expect her to take Rookie of the Year honors from Ricky Stenhouse and the Roush-Fenway camp, but do expect her to make some highlights in the positive sense. She's got great equipment in the Stewart-Haas camp with support from Hendrick Motorsports. Put that with her natural ability and she'll at least place in the top-20 at season's end.