Recently, Kyle Petty has been telling anyone that would listen that Danica Patrick is not a race car driver. As she is a media darling and is used by NASCAR to bring in more fans, when one does not speak the orthodoxy, one must explain themselves. Kyle has explained it several times. She can go fast, she just can’t race. Give Patrick’s middle-of-the-pack average start and finishing positions, the fast portion may be in question.
Many fans wonder from where Kyle feels he can make such statements. After all, he has no championships and nowhere near the 200 wins of his father. Many state that he road the coattails of his father Richard into NASCAR. Who is he to be so critical? Who is he to question whether Danica Patrick is a racer or not?
Win one for the “takes one to know one” point of view.
Kyle Petty is qualified to speak of Danica Patrick in such ways precisely due to his lackluster record. Sure, he may never have had the best equipment like Danica does, but that is more a lame excuse. In nearly every racing serious, drivers who do well and show promise in inferior equipment will get the attention of better teams. Kyle rarely did.
Same for Danica.
She entered the IRL in 2005 racing for Rahal Letterman Racing. While not one of the top teams, they were no slouch. The team coached her into racing with the “big boys” when open wheel racing in America was still split due to Tony George’s ego. This left a wide talent gap in the IRL and Danica was promoted into it. During her first two seasons, she showed much promise. She lead the Indy 500. She was a buzz. This lady may finally break through the barrier that others like Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher could not. The world may finally have a good female racer in open wheel. But she never won and the questions started.
Finally, on April 30, 2008, Danica finally did it. On a rain shortened and fuel starved race, Danica passed Helio Castroneves when his car sputtered for fuel with two laps to go. She went on to win over him by nearly 6 seconds. The monkey was finally off her back.
She would never win again.
Despite being with a good team and have good equipment, Danica never again stood on the top podium. Her popularity, however, increased and eventually GoDaddy came a knocking. The media machine has been in overdrive ever since.
It cannot be overlooked though, that no matter which series. No matter IRL. No matter NASCAR Nationwide. No matter NASCAR Spring Cup. Danica Patrick has never shown the killer instinct that makes for a good race car driver. She has lots of talent, but none for getting the feel of the car. She will gripe and complain that the car is too loose or pushes too much. The team will adjust it. Then she will complain it is too slow. On the radio, she is 100% in complaint mode. She does not seem to have the desire to learn. Nor does she have the time with the commercials and personal appearances her sponsor requires.
Danica Patrick may get lucky one year and win another economy race, but in NASCAR those kind of races are extremely rare. She’s a middle-of-the-packer, just like Kyle Petty. He can speak to this, since he is one of them. He can speak about Danica not being a racer, as he is the same.