Danica Patrick's Nationwide Presence Overplayed
For years now, NASCAR fans have been anticipating the arrival of Danica Patrick, but I'm not sure that anyone expected what has become of it. Since finishing in sixth place in her stock car debut last weekend in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, the first ARCA race of the year, Patrick has announced that she will run in this weekends Nationwide race at Daytona, the Drive4COPD 300.
After the announcement came earlier this week that Patrick will driving the #7 GoDaddy.com car, led by crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and JR Motorsports, the media has been covering her every move. ESPN has continued to run articles about her practice runs just to add to the hype for this weekend's festivities.
While all of the fame has been warranted up until this point, not for being consistently good, but for being a competitive female in a male dominated sport, it's starting to get a little out of hand. It's obvious that the hype is coming because she is a female, not a really good rookie driver.
In fact, Joey Logano, who raced in a handful of Nationwide races in 2008, made a big jump to racing with the big boys last year and proved to be one of the best drivers, especially in the second half of the season. Even though he was able to win a Sprint Cup race at Kansas and perform as one of the best Nationwide drivers, he's never come close to getting this much media attention.
It's a great story, but fans need to be realistic, unlike the media has proved to be. Patrick finished 26th in yesterday's practice session, however, they are making it out to be no big deal. Unfortunately, those who truly understand the sport of stock car racing and are familiar with the Nationwide series know that this race will not be easy for her at all.
The main problem ahead of Patrick is the likely hood of failure in her first race. The first Nationwide race of the year always features many of NASCAR's best drivers, and they often come out on top. The big boys will just add to the typical competition that Patrick will have to get used to in her future with stock cars, and will likely put her outside of the top 15 this weekend.
While it is certainly possible for Patrick to cross the finish line in the top ten, it is highly unlikely due to the toughness of the competition, the unfamiliarity with the track and the car, and the pressure that has been placed upon her.
When it comes down to it, she has started 81 races in the IRL, with only one win which came in 2008. There is little evidence that Patrick will be a successful NASCAR driver at this point in time, and until she proves herself in the Nationwide Series, the attention is being overblown.
ESPN is going to continue to take advantage of Patrick's sex appeal and mildly successful career and bring fans to the sport, but they will soon learn after watching the NASCAR circuit, that she is not just a step below, rather she is a whole staircase below the competition.
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