Say what you want about Danica Patrick. Yeah she gets a lot of press. Some say more than her performance deserves, but she has single-handedly generated more column inches of copy than the other five Nationwide Series drivers combined. The reason? Behind the lip gloss and glamour, Danica Patrick is a real racecar driver.
That fact sticks in the craw of many of her competitors. Take her performances in the past two weeks at Watkins Glen and Montreal, as examples.
She was headed for a great finish at The Glen when an overbearing Canadian took her out. A week later the bright green “Go Daddy” Chevy shared the second row with its newest antagonist.
It was no fluke as Danica proceeded to lead several laps and was a legitimate contender to score her first win when a “not so cute” shoe was hurled onto the track. While TV announcers thought it might have damaged her car, post-race analysis proved otherwise.
Ricky Craven noted that gremlins like this, often imaginary, sap concentration—especially when leading. Quickly, Danica regained her composure and was able to keep Villeneuve at bay until the real trouble struck: a rear axle snapped. She returned to the track, but finished a dismal 27th.
Retrospectively, Danica has had the same rookie blues as the guys before her—the mistakes from inexperience, the wrecks, and the consequent frustrations thwarting the burning desire to do well.
She has had several sit-downs with team owners Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. Both have unwavering faith that things will “come good,” as Danica said after the Montreal race. She has a continuing dialog with veteran crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who has coached her to balance the inner fire with several measures of patience.
These lessons have already proved successful. Danica’s recent troubles were simply not her doing. The railbirds figured Danica might be gearing up for a payback with Villeneueve on the Montreal streets. Nope, she said. “I’m going to run my race.” She did say if it got down to the end and she was in a fight for the win, she would “take care of business.”
Unfortunately she didn’t get the chance, but Justin Allgaier did. He bumped the sputtering No. 22 out of the way to win the green-white-checker finish. Villeneueve stopped on the track to express his displeasure and Allgaier simply burned a donut around the former World Champion. Call it karmic justice.
When the burnout smoke cleared, Danica didn’t whine or have a snit fit. She simply hoped her luck would change for the better. Look out when it does, because it’s likely to be the first of many solid finishes and, yes, wins for her.
That’s not pie-in-the-sky talk either. Tony Stewart is convinced Danica has the right stuff. Former IndyCar competitor and phenom Will Power recently commented on a race last year when he approached Danica and attempted to lap her. “Not so fast buster,” she must have been thinking—as she drove away and out of reach.
That’s what real racecar drivers do. Expect more of the same from Danica Patrick.