Kurt Busch who?
The driver everyone wants to see running the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day is Danica Patrick. Both auto racing and Patrick herself need this to happen.
While Kurt Busch was recently off testing in IndyCars and getting himself sanctioned to possibly give Double Duty a try (he's ultimately not going to try this year), Patrick was muddling through her first full-time season in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in predictable fashion.
Did anyone really think Patrick was going to take the Sprint Cup Series by storm? Did anyone really expect her to take down the likes of five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and so many others who have been racing stock cars at the highest level for years?
If so, they were foolish.
Patrick is trying to speed up an incredibly steep learning curve. That means she keeps getting thumped by hard lessons, like the one she was handed at the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After failing to race her way into the main event, she got voted into it by fans.
Again, that was predictable. And so was what happened next.
She finished last.
“I’m not going to lie; I didn’t feel very good after we ended the All-Star Race last weekend,” Patrick told reporters, per Philly.com. “I’m not necessarily optimistic right now about the (600).”
No question, this is not the year for Patrick to attempt running both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s longest race. She will be running in only her second 600, having started 40th and finished 30th last year while completing 395 of 400 laps.
But next year? Someone ought to step up and offer her a huge bonus just to attempt running both races.
Let’s face it: interest in auto racing is down. It’s been sagging in IndyCars for years. And NASCAR, once the surging titan of the sport, is struggling to hold onto the market share it has and grab hold of younger demographics.
Patrick's driving reputation could use a boost, too. She finished fourth in the 2005 Indy 500, when she became the first woman to lead a lap in the historic race. That was no small feat, but it was important that she follow it up with more success.
She did, but not to the extent she or anyone else envisioning her to inject life into a struggling series would have hoped. She won only one race in 115 IndyCar starts over seven years, before making the switch to NASCAR full time last year—when she ran a full schedule in the Nationwide Series and finished 10th in the point standings without a single top five in 33 starts.
That has brought her under scrutiny in an entirely different light. Is she tough enough to mix it up with the stock-car boys? Can she withstand the grind of a longer season? Quite simply, is she good enough to succeed?
Well, the one thing she has succeeded at in racing and in life, above all else, is in marketing herself. Why not do it one more time and give IndyCar and NASCAR a shot of publicity they both could use next season by announcing she will become the first driver since Robby Gordon in 2004 to attempt the Indy 500-Coca Cola 600 double?
Who wouldn't tune in to see if she could actually do it? Only Patrick's current car owner Tony Stewart has completed all 1,100 miles in both races on the same day—when he finished sixth at Indy and third in the 600 in 2001 and needed two liters of IV fluid in between.
If Danica could come even close to duplicating that, it would be incredible and give both IndyCar and NASCAR a ratings boost. Not only that, but Patrick would likely gain much-needed respect in the Sprint Cup garage for even attempting it.
As long as she has a relief driver standing by in Charlotte to avoid any health and safety issues, it would be a win-win for Danica and auto racing.
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