Race Weekend Central

10th Place is Pretty Good for Patrick…or Not

*Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat*

*Kansas:* NNS in the No. 7 Tissot/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
*Qualified:* 13th
*Finished:* 10th (running, lead lap)
*Points Position:* 10th

Okay boys and girls, it’s time. I did my job. I let Miss Patrick run her season without comment, and now we get to see just where it got us. She sits 10th in the drivers points for the Nationwide Series, and has remained there for the vast majority of the season, which over in Cupland will get you seated on stage in Vegas. But this isn’t Cup and there aren’t a herd of drivers competing for points in the NNS. Only 13 have started all 30 races thus far into the season, and Danica has earned 10th.

On paper it looks pretty good. In reality, it’s less than a stunning result. Her teammate, Cole Whitt, running in the trademarked No. 88 sits in 7th in the driver rankings, having earned 171 more points than the much discussed female. Cole has been appearing pretty stout throughout the year, and yet I don’t hear any Cup teams knocking down his doors with plans for instant elevation to the premiere series. And that’s because he’s not amazing. Not yet.

Now, there is one running the “A”-level series who will make his debut in the Cup series in 2013, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and with one series trophy under his belt and a second quite possible ere the year ends, it is easily understood how he can be expected to rocket to stardom. Stenhouse has the chops, has shown us his talent and taken home the hardware to prove it. He has earned his rookie spot in the Roush No. 17 for next year, and I do expect great things from him.

Danica Patrick remains, in my opinion, mostly where she began the year. She is adequate, but not stellar. The much discussed learning curve is not a steep one, but rather a lazy slope. While she brings needed sponsor dollars with her, I can’t see her lasting in the Sprint Cup series or even NASCAR, for that matter. If Stewart-Haas Racing wants a back of the pack machine representing their stable, all should be happy. However, with the No. 14 and No. 39 more than competitive, I just don’t see mediocrity as something Mr. Stewart will settle for.

She will have a two-year grace period in Cup: one for her “rookie” year and a second to see if there will be improvement. After 2014, I expect Danica to be able to attract rides in the second or third tier teams who are willing to sell ad space on their machines in exchange for a seat. She may yet win a race, on one of those odd fuel mileage shuffles or skirting past the “Big One” at Daytona. But that is all.

I’m still glad to see the fairer sex making its way into the sport, and love hearing the girls mix it up in all the series I watch. I just want fair expectations to be set for all competitors and allow the fan base of auto racing to call an elephant an elephant when it walks across the street.

After spending eight years in the national spotlight piloting either open wheel or stock cars, Danica Patrick has proven she can run with the pack, just not lead it.

Look for that glowing GoDaddy No. 10 on the track at your favorite Sprint Cup event in 2013. It will be there with the world’s most recognizable poster girl behind the wheel. Just don’t go looking for her in Victory Lane.

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