Danica Patrick vs. Travis Pastrana: The Race Is On
Travis Pastrana's impressive NASCAR debut at the Toyota All-Star Showdown at the Irwindale Speedway last weekend has set his marketing machine into overdrive as everyone anticipates his first NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance at O'Reilly Raceway Park in July.
Danica Patrick has taken a different route into the NASCAR system and she has paid the price with poor showings and torn up equipment racing under the JR Motorsports shield.
Patrick has found the learning curve from Indy Racing League to NASCAR Nationwide Series is an abrupt curve that has caused her to spin off course since beginning her career.
Is it fair to compare Travis Pastrana and Danica Patrick's early NASCAR careers at this point of their journeys? It does make for great conversation and just a little controversy.
Danica Patrick vs. Travis Pastrana: Coming Out Announcements
Danica Patrick's coming out announcement to NASCAR involved a press conference at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. The press conference was well attended but tame compared to extreme action star Travis Pastrana's coming out party.
Travis Pastrana staged his announcement of an ownership deal with Michael Waltrip at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles.
Pastrana, in conjunction with Red Bull, staged a star-studded and well-attended event the week before his first race. Pastrana introduced his sponsor Boost Mobile and announced the team would be dubbed Pastrana Waltrip Racing.
Danica Patrick's Debut in ARCA Results in a Sixth Place Finish
Danica Patrick and JR Motorsports chose to begin Danica's stock car career with an ARCA appearance at Daytona International Speedway. She ran well, dodged several accidents and spun through the infield after an altercation with Nelson Piquet Jr.
Patrick raced back through the field after the incident and finished sixth after running as high as ninth. Danica was excited after her first stock race and exhilarated by the heavy contact and bump drafting, prompting her to exclaim after emerging from her first race.
"It was a lot of fun," Patrick said. "I bumped from the side. I bumped from the front. I got bumped from the back. I learned a lot, and I had so much fun in a race car today. So I can't wait to do it again."
Travis Pastrana Debut Results in Sixth Place at Toyota All-Star Showdown
Travis Pastrana was ninth with nine laps to go after a restart following a crash, but he finished sixth in the 225-lap race, which was split into three segments.
"This sport is so much fun, it's super competitive, but I have so much to learn," Pastrana told Speed after the race.
"If this is our starting point—hopefully it's our starting point, then we'll continue to learn from here."
Danica Patrick Struggles To Achieve Respect in NASCAR Nationwide Garage
Danica Patrick's crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was pushing her to retaliate after several drivers took advantage of her during the Phoenix NASCAR Nationwide race in November. Eury Jr. was furious during the race when two drivers, Tony Raines and Alex Kennedy, both appeared to move her out of the way during the race.
Raines later apologized during the race on his headset, but Patrick gave Kennedy some payback. This prompted Tony Eury Jr. to applaud his new driver after the race.
“That’s what she’s got to do,” crew chief Tony Eury Jr. said afterward. “It’s a give-and-take out there and the only way she’s going to get respect from other guys is [for them] to know she’s going to retaliate and she’s not going to take it."
It will be interesting to see how Danica Patrick evolves this season as she attempts to climb into the higher echelon of NASCAR's Nationwide Series.
Travis Pastrana's Next Race Is February 24 in Phoenix
Travis Pastrana's first foray into NASCAR racing with the feeder division, NASCAR's K&N Pro Series, was a great place for him to start. The drivers in the series are a good mix of young, up-and-coming drivers and solid veterans.
Pastrana used the first three quarters of the race to earn the respect of his fellow 39 competitors and the last quarter of the race to show everyone what he had learned.
Pastrana showed a national television audience on Speed and the best short-track drivers in the K&N Pro, Canadian, Mexican and Euro NASCAR series that he will make a smooth transition from Rally Car champion to NASCAR driver quickly.
Travis Pastrana has also just announced his next race will be in less than a month. He will compete in the 3 Amigos Organic Blanco 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-W race on the Phoenix mile on February 24.
Travis vs. Danica: Who Wins?
Who will succeed first between Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana? If Pastrana's first race is any indication, my vote is for Travis Pastrana at this point of both of their careers. Pastrana has the thicker skin and he has been through some amazing trials in his storied career.
Will Danica Patrick fail? She has the some of the best equipment in the NASCAR garage. The cars she is driving are owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., but, remember, they are also in a partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. Danica will be fine but her progression will be a longer and more pronounced climb up the ladder than Travis Pastrana.
Pastrana can only do things in one speed: overdrive. Pastrana is a bundle of energy outside the car, but his Rally Car experience has taught him control while behind the wheel—not only controlling himself, but also tremendous car control. Pastrana managed to drive 225 laps around Irwindale Speedway in his debut and bring home his car with only a few minor scuffs.
Although Pastrana will be the better of he and Danica early on, one thing is clear. With these two transcendent personalities on the NASCAR scene, the winner is NASCAR and their fans. It will be fun to watch both of them climb the ladder at their own pace.