Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick: Media Darlings for Wrong Reasons

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMay 29, 2010

MOORESVILLE, NC - DECEMBER 17:  Danica Patrica (L), driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet speaks as team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R), looks on at JR Motorsports on December 17, 2009 in Mooresville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Two drivers, both known as media darlings, find themselves languishing 16th in the points standings for their respective series.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. secured a starting position of 24th in his National Guard/Amp Energy No. 88 Chevrolet going into to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Danica Patrick will start the Indy 500 from 23rd position in her No. 7 GoDaddy.com Dallara-Honda.

In an odd twist of racing fate, the once-high expectations for these two drivers have taken a turn for the worse.

For the upcoming Memorial Day weekend races, both of these drivers not only qualified poorly, but in practice session after practice session, they maintained status quo.

Neither Patrick nor Earnhardt Jr. showed improvement after adjustments to their cars.  Despite comments to the contrary, both drivers say they are working with their crew chiefs and teams to better their performance.

In a bit of a fit due to frustration from qualifying poorly, Danica slammed her team for giving her a terrible car.

Junior brought his car to the garage before final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte and the team was to make major adjustments before he went back out, as the dejected driver stood in front of the car.

The No. 88 returned to the track appearing to run even slower.

Patrick was booed by fans after her qualifying session at Indy, a sure sign her popularity with the IndyCar crowd is diminishing.

For Earnhardt Jr., his fans continue to rally and hope to see a turnaround.  It is just a matter of time when Jr. Nation will expect a poor showing, get one and all the fanfare will decline for him as well.

It is ironic that these two popular drivers have an even deeper connection that has yet to play out.

Danica Patrick is bringing her commercial popularity and open-wheel talent to JR Motorsports to drive a NASCAR Nationwide car.  The attention she garners is good for NASCAR and certainly JR Motorsports.

Once again, expectations are perhaps higher than she can reach for her venture in stock car racing.  It is commonly known, that she may be planning a move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series if she can do reasonably well in the Nationwide series.

It appears Patrick's time is coming to an end in the open-wheel car though she remains under contract with Andretti Autosport.  She cannot be effective in both series and perhaps the time she has spent with NASCAR has already proven a distraction.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer smiles or has his hat on backwards before a race.  All the amateur psychologists have written reports on the reasons he is floundering at Hendrick Motorsports.

He has admitted fault with diagnosing problems in Dover when he lost seven laps with a mystery steering problem.  He insists he is working well with Lance McGrew and his team.

It is indeed disheartening to see Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. becoming the attention of media as always, but now for all the wrong reasons.

Once again, we hope the Memorial Day races will show the Danica-Maniacs and Jr. Nation, as well as all the naysayers how wrong they are about predicting mediocre runs at best from these two drivers.

It really is all about expectations and we expect so much more from Patrick and Earnhardt Jr.  The drivers themselves expect to do better and both want to win.

Time will show how the future of these drivers will play out.  As they say, the higher you climb, the further you fall. 

We want these drivers to meet our expectations and once again and be media darlings for all the right reasons.