It is no secret that Danica Patrick’s venture into NASCAR has not gone as well as anticipated. There are those who have criticized her not only her approach, but even her mere participation.
However, there may be hope at the end of the line for us all. Danica may be getting a coach who can help change her fortunes.
Patrick’s coach going forward could be NASCAR veteran Mark Martin.
"It would be nice if somebody could help me, whoever it is -- I would take any help," Patrick said on ESPN.com. "Like he [Martin] said, you need somebody to get in the car and say this is the setup, go drive it after they've driven it. It's one thing to say drive this line, do this or that, but when you don't have maybe the car that can do that, it's just words, so it would be nice for someone to throw me in a car after they've driven it so I get a real feel for it."
Patrick has spoken to Martin on two separate occasions. They spoke for about an hour when they first met at Phoenix Raceway in 2006 and then again following her wreck at Dover International Speedway, a couple weeks ago.
She says she’d be welcome to Martin’s advice, if he can fit it in his schedule.
"He's incredibly busy, obviously, with a full season and I would take anything he'd be willing to give," she said.
For Patrick, having a veteran driver to help her find the feel of the race car would be a good start. It would allow her to observe what she needs to find in the car and be more competitive. It was said that during a test, Kelly Bires set up the car. Afterwards, she drove the car and ran lap times around his.
However, this could be seen as a scapegoat for Patrick. Part of the learning process for a stock car driver, is being able to find the feel of the car via the seat of their pants. Then they must apply the right changes necessary to fit the driving style. One of the requirements for success is to have the best set-up. By allowing Patrick to skip this critical step, could this hurt her process in that part of the development?
Despite the foregoing negativity, having Martin as a coach would be a good thing. She could use Martin’s experience to discuss potential problems in future races and receive advice.
Considering she had no stock car experience before running the Nationwide Series, Patrick is doing well. A lot of drivers already have that feel prior to finding it at the short track ranks. Therefore, having to go through the process at a higher degree of competition will make the issues more apparent.
She also showed improvement during her race at the Auto Club Speedway, running in the top 15, before being taken out.
There’s also been talk that running both series has hindered her ability to find that feel, which could be true due to using differing driving styles. These next two months running the weekly Nationwide, could either prove or disprove that theory.
However, it could also show her growth as a driver and the fact that she is finding the feel through hard work.