Did Danica Patrick Make the Jump to the Sprint Cup Series Too Early?

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2013

DARLINGTON, SC - MAY 10:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 10, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Danica Patrick is struggling.

Is the reason for her struggles related to her jump to the Sprint Cup Series, though?

Any race fan, whether you like Patrick or think she’s just a publicity stunt, could have seen this coming. After all, she is a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, and she has only been in the sport for two full-time seasons so far.

Her move to NASCAR's top circuit could be looked at as a bad move, as it puts Patrick against the sport’s top drivers—drivers who literally seem to run circles around her at almost every track. If she had stayed in the Nationwide Series, she would have at least been competing against other drivers who were trying to gain experience before making the big move to the premier circuit.

At the same time, though, Patrick's jump to the Sprint Cup Series this year is enabling the rookie driver to gain a lot of experience by competing with top drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Danica's struggles aren’t because of the series she is in, but rather her ability as a NASCAR driver.

Struggles In The Nationwide Series

Many fans who look at how Danica is running now believe the rookie driver needed to stay in the Nationwide Series to compete with other drivers who were still adjusting to stock car racing at the NASCAR level.

Unfortunately, though, Patrick would still have struggled there as well.

Her first full-time Nationwide run was lackluster, to say the least. She did manage to finish the season in 10th place, but her average finish was 19th. She didn’t win a race, never finished in the top five and only had four top-10 finishes.

Would she really have been able to improve this year if she stayed in the Nationwide Series?

Her current boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won the Nationwide championship two years in a row, and even he seems to be struggling in the Sprint Cup Series.

Danica's struggles so far this year shouldn't reflect on the decision to bring her up to the Sprint Cup Series, but instead should show how she is still adjusting to stock car racing. And if she stayed in the Nationwide Series, Patrick would still be dealing with the same struggles.

Into The Fire

Danica's move to the Sprint Cup Series was the best choice for the driver. Not only is she driving for one of the top teams in the sport, it's the best way for her to gain experience.

The Nationwide Series could only mask her problems, but now that she is being thrown into the fire of the top circuit in NASCAR and is going up against top drivers, Stewart-Haas Racing can work with her and try to help her improve along the way.

Danica's shift to the Sprint Cup Series shouldn't be viewed as Stewart-Haas Racing believing she will be a huge success this year, but instead that the organization clearly believes that the best way for her to gain experience is to race a full season in the Sprint Cup Series.

Her Ability As A Driver

Danica is struggling because of her ability as a driver, not because she is in the Sprint Cup Series.

She ran well at Daytona this year and managed to land on the pole. She had previously won the pole for the Nationwide Daytona race back in 2012, and if she hadn't crashed during the Nationwide Daytona race, she more than likely would have finished well like she did this year.

Patrick runs decent on the superspeedway tracks, and after running well during the Nationwide road course race last year, expect her to be a factor at Watkins Glen and Sonoma.

Unfortunately for her, however, she continues to struggle at other types of tracks. Regardless of if she were racing in the Nationwide or Sprint Cup, she would run into the same struggles.

What The Fans Wanted

Not everyone is a huge fan of Danica Patrick, but there is no denying that she has a huge fan following. She did manage to win the most popular driver in the Nationwide Series last year, and she is also one of NASCAR's highest-paid drivers.

Fans of Patrick wanted to see her race full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, and NASCAR gave those fans what they wanted.

Unlike other drivers, Danica had major sponsorship that moved with her when she made the transition, so with nothing holding her back, why would she stay in the Nationwide Series?

NASCAR fans may argue that the driver should gain more experience and that she would have been better prepared to enter the Sprint Cup Series by staying a year or two longer in the Nationwide Series. But isn't she gaining even more experience now by competing with the top drivers in the sport? Danica had the sponsorship and the ride to move up to the Sprint Cup Series.

Making the move to the top circuit in NASCAR was the right move, and it now gives Patrick plenty of time to adjust to her new team and new organization.

Michael Guadalupe is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @The_Guada.


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