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What Danica Patrick's Nationwide Result at Gateway Means

Brian Shannon@bshannon15Correspondent IOctober 24, 2010

MADISON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet stands on the grid as waits for qualifying run for the NASCAR 5-hour Energy 250 at Gateway International Raceway on October 23, 2010 in Madison, Illinois.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

Danica Patrick did nothing to quiet her NASCAR critics on Saturday with her Nationwide performance at Gateway.

Patrick followed up her career-best 21st place finish last week with a 22nd place finish this week, finishing 17 laps off the lead.

The 28-year-old has had a rough go of it in her first year in NASCAR, finishing 30th or worse in six of her 10 starts this season. Patrick has one win on the IndyCar circuit, where she has spent most of her time racing, but she has come nowhere close to visiting victory lane on the Nationwide circuit.

Patrick has at least been able to hold her own on the IndyCar circuit, so you would have to believe that the more experience she gains in NASCAR, the more successful she will become.

If Patrick is unable to attain success on the NASCAR circuit, she will likely be looked at similarly to former tennis pro Anna Kournikova—that is, better known for her looks than her athletic success.

The fact that she is attractive does not do her any favors in a sport that is dominated by men, just like it didn't do Kournikova any favors in tennis. Unlike Kournikova, Patrick has won in her sport, but she has yet to come even close to winning on the Nationwide circuit.

Patrick's success could pave the way for future women drivers in NASCAR, but if she continues to struggle it could have the opposite effect and make things more difficult for aspiring female racers.

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The GoDaddy.com driver has always managed to finish her races running, though. She set the IndyCar record by finishing 33 straight races running.

Unfortunately for Patrick, that's not going to cut it in NASCAR. She needs to start finishing in the top half of the field on the Nationwide Series if she wants to be taken seriously. 

Patrick appears to have the talent it takes to be competitive, having finished in the top 10 of the Indy 500 five times, so there is no doubt that she can race on the IndyCar circuit.

The question now is whether or not she can race in NASCAR and be competitive at it. As to the answer, only time will tell.

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