Danica Patrick: NASCAR and IndyCar Driving Ability Questioned

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2010

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 26:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy.com Dallara Honda, prepares to drive during practice for the IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 26, 2010 in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Danica Patrick, the NASCAR novelty, is now in her sixth season of IndyCar racing.

During those 83 races she has established a fan base remarkably enamored with the fact she is an attractive female who happens to race cars.

This attraction to her femininity carried over to her NASCAR adventures earlier this year.

A new group of fans followed her every move, as she attempted to learn the technique of driving stock cars.

The media focused on each word Patrick uttered and photographed her at every opportunity.

This weekend she is racing in the second Izod IndyCar race of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

She has made no secret of the fact circuitous tracks are not her forte.

Danica commented that she hoped for a top-ten finish.

There seems to be a consistency with her contentment at finishing mid-pack.

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She claims she wants to win the Indy 500 and undoubtedly, she does.  So far she has won a race in Japan because the leader ran out of gas. 

We all know a win counts no matter how it comes, but her years of racing open-wheel cars should have more than a singular win.

Danica also made another familiar comment regarding the Honda Grand Prix in St. Petersburg.  She stated she "needed more seat time."

Now call me a doubter if you must, but exactly how many years does she need seat time in a particular series of racing before she is truly competitive?

Patrick also commented on the fact IndyCars "are too similar, making it difficult to pass in the tight constraints of a street course."

Such a remark about similarity of cars makes one wonder what her opinion would be of NASCAR's COT.

For that matter, did she not notice Nationwide cars are amazingly similar except some display badges indicating Ford, Chevy, Toyota or maybe Dodge?

The hot topic relating to Danica on local Tampa Bay news outlets was whether her dislike of street courses would motivate her to move more quickly to NASCAR.

Danica said of her NASCAR experience, "everything's very unfamiliar and new, and there's so much to learn."

Once again I have to wonder if she can ever adapt to NASCAR or be a consistent contender for wins in IndyCar.

It appears in her sixth year of open-wheel racing, she is still in the mid-point of her learning curve at best.

Transitioning to stock cars from IndyCars has not gone well for many who have tried.

Dario Franchitti gave stock cars his best shot in 2008, but did poorly.  He returned to open-wheel racing and became the 2009 IndyCar champion.

Tony Stewart adapted well to stock cars like other NASCAR drivers and enjoys racing the fenderless cars because it gives them another opportunity to race.

Now back to Danica Patrick and her prowess as a race car driver.  So far, it remains unproven.

Should she continue down the NASCAR path, her sponsors would get more bang for their buck.

Certainly the popularity with fans would be more evident in NASCAR.

During practice day in St. Petersburg for the IndyCar race she spoke to the issue of the IRL needing to increase it's popularity.  She suggested more racing on oval tracks.

So the saga will continue with Danica.  There is a dichotomy prevalent in all she does in the world of auto racing.

In June she will return to the NASCAR Nationwide series. 

The Indy 500 will be history and what will the record books show as her finish in the "big" race?

I predict for Danica, mediocrity with short bursts of racing talent to be reflected in her driving stats regardless of the racing venue.

If her success is defined by marketability, she perhaps has found her true niche.