Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: What Happens If Danica Patrick Wins the Daytona 500?

The NASCAR season is finally here. Yeah, it took long enough; it’s been nearly three months since the conclusion to the 2017 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But now, 2018 has arrived. In what was an unusually busy offseason for teams, featuring many last-minute changes, the time has finally come for stock car racing to hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.

But as the stories change with the start of the season, there is still one that is constant across the sport: Danica Patrick’s retirement, which is rapidly approaching.

For the sport’s lone female driver, the Daytona 500 will mark the end of a roller coaster NASCAR career. Patrick will always be remembered as being a marketing mogul away from the track, and it has helped her become more prepared for life after racing.

Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is looking to get back his restrictor plate magic from 2017. With his first two triumphs coming last year, he enters the Daytona 500 as a favorite for the win. But there are a few folks who might be able to perform just as well — if not better than he did — in the four plate races this year.

Have a question for next week’s NASCAR Mailbox? Tweet me at @JosephNASCAR or email me at Joseph.Wolkin@gmail.com!

Q: What will happen if Danica Patrick wins the Daytona 500? – Jennifer R., Charlotte

A: For starters, NASCAR would probably receive more attention than it has in a long, long time.

The Internet will explode if Patrick wins the Great American Race. It would follow that not only could a female racer be successful in NASCAR, but also that her career would culminate with a triumph in NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.

Let’s take into consideration the equipment that she is in. Patrick is competing in the No. 7 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports, partnering with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who last worked with Michael Waltrip in the 2013 Daytona 500.

Waltrip himself ran his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in last year’s Daytona 500, also piloting a car for Premium Motorsports. He managed to finish eighth, capping off a roller coaster career of his own. Waltrip’s top 10 remains Premium Motorsports’ lone result in the top portion of the field to this date.

Thanks to the equalizer of the restrictor plate, combined with Patrick’s respectable ability at Daytona, she could very well be fighting for the win come Sunday. In 11 starts at Daytona, she has a pair of top 10s.

Should Patrick triumph, it would go down as one of the most storybook endings to a NASCAR career in recent history. Imagine if this woman, who is essentially being forced to retire due to a lack of a quality team and sponsor being able to come together, wins at this track. Imagine the raw emotion we would see from her, especially since she is being backed by GoDaddy for what she is calling the “Danica Double,” in which she will also compete one last time in the Indianapolis 500.

It would raise the question of whether or not she should be retiring to begin with. Her national (and to an extent international) stardom could be enough to keep her around for at least the plate races going forward.

It would also make her ask herself how and why a win didn’t come sooner. There will be so many questions that are raised if she wins the sport’s biggest event.

But for now, her eyes are on Thursday’s second of two Can-Am Duels. She’ll start 14th in the 20-car field, hoping to put herself in a solid starting spot for her final NASCAR race.

Q: Who can stand out on the plate tracks like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did in 2017? – Billy A.

A: Stenhouse’s pair of plate wins last year certainly took the sport by surprise. He put himself into a prime position entering the playoffs, and he re-established Roush Fenway Racing as one of NASCAR’s strongest restrictor plate organizations.

Could the same thing happen this year? Well, the No. 17 team will certainly be a force to be reckoned with once again. Stenhouse’s average finish at Daytona is 18th, but he has a pair of top fives, including the win, over his last three contests at the 2.5-mile oval.

Another driver who can surprise is Paul Menard, who begins his stint with Wood Brothers Racing this weekend. He ran strong throughout the duration of both of last year’s races at Daytona, resulting in a pair of top fives. Combine Menard’s prowess at plate tracks with Ford’s impressive 2017 season at the superspeedways and he could become a two-time Cup winner.

JTG-Daugherty Racing also has a reputation of running strong at Daytona over the years. The two-car organization is gearing up for the 2018 season, hoping to perform better than it did last year. It was a miserable 36 races, expansion dragging down the success of both programs as the team struggled to adapt.

But growing pains didn’t stop JTG from running well at Daytona in 2017. Lead driver AJ Allmendinger finished third in last year’s season-opener and eighth in the second Daytona event, with Chris Buescher also earning a top 10 in the July race.

With Allmendinger continuing to lead the way, this team could sneak up and bring home a Sunday win to lock itself into the 2018 playoffs.


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Bill B

April fools day isn’t for another 6 weeks (it’s also Easter this year).
I thought there was a weekly column dedicated to fantasy leagues.
Seriously, while there is a high crapshoot factor involved in the finishing order of any RP race, I think most would see it for what it is, an underdog team backed into a win by virtue of the randomness of RP racing. BTW, a pair of top tens in 11 races isn’t that noteworthy.


Poor Bill gets so upset at the prospect of a woman winning the race. However, if any man wins he more than likely “earned” the victory, right Bill? Negative dinosaurs like you need to become extinct as soon as possible!

Bill B

You don’t know me. You are making assumptions and being a blind fan that neglects to look at reality and ignores facts. Forget about what gender the driver of the #9 will be. Just looking at the driver of the number 9 car’s stats, what conclusion would you reach (once again, assuming that you put your obvious blind fandom on the side). Explain to me, based solely on statistics, why you think the driver of the #9 car will win.
And finally,,, effew and the horse you road in on.


But the author missed the obvious ultimate fantasy finish; Bubba and DP running 1, 2… who will win??!


While it is unlikely to happen, Patrick’s winning the Daytona 500 would be an extraordinary boost for the sport. Would it move ESPN and the like to start talking bout Nascar? Probably not, but it would probably open a few peoples eyes and at least get them to check it out.
Lets hope it happens.

Bill B

…and let us also hope that we all hit the lottery this year!

Any bump that the sport would receive would be minimal and short lived.


which will apply even more if anyone else wins it.

Ed C.

Put this right at the very top of things you don’t need to worry about.


She definitely has a good chance to win if all the others crash. Seriously, if it wasn’t for her Sugar Daddies, Letterman and Go Daddy she would still be riding around in go carts. She would have alot more fans if it wasn’t for her selfish, entitled and arrogant attitude. Anyone who follows racing closely knows that she is a rotten bitch who can’t drive fast enough to catch cold.


well stranger things have happened in racing….derrick cope is a daytona 500 champion.

i seriously doubt she’ll win.

i’m really trying to figure out what an honorary official is, this is what’s being reported chipper jones will be on sunday for the 500.

Bill B

I thought the same thing Janice. My conclusion was, if there is a major celebrity in an field willing to participate in NASCAR’s marketing of the Daytona 500, they will find a place and title for them.

What’s funny is that to real fans that watch all the races, none of those celebrities even matter. To me it’s all background noise. I don’t care who is driving the pace car, giving the command to start, waving the green flag or performing before the race. I suppose those things may matter to people who aren’t fans and maybe a few will tune in for a few minutes.


yeah na$car needs all the help they can get to keep the tv on.

i mean, they could have had chipper jones the next weekend at ams.

Tom B

What would it mean if an almost all black #3 Camaro wins the Daytona 500?


nothing to anyone that isn’t a long term fan. Remember its been 17 years.

The Mad Man

Danica winning the Daytona 500? I think I busted a rib laughing so hard. Seriously? The odds are slim to none and Slim done left town. She said she’d only drive for a competitive team and Premium hasn’t exactly been competitive. So a bit of hypocrisy on her part. If she was driving say one of Johnson’s plate cars with full HMS support, I might give her odds for a possible Top 10, providing she hasn’t wrecked out (self-induced or otherwise) or blown an engine (insert juvenile humor remarks here). Based on past full-season stats for both the team and the driver, there’s a better chance of NA$CAR’S fearless leader reaching full sobriety than there is of Danican’t winning the Daytona 500. I know the trolls and Fanicas will light into me for that but I don’t give a rat’s a$$. Remember what they say about opinions and human anatomy.


i came from humble regional short track roots. Ability over money but now it’s all about marketing. One doesn’t see an untalented football player in the Superbowl. Nascar doesnt respect the shorttrackers anymore. Those racers have much more talent and dedication than her. By far.

The Mad Man

I remember when drivers were hired for their driving abilities and not what sponsor they had in their wallets. How many of the drivers from the 50’s thru the early 70’s would’ve gotten hired if it was based solely on sponsorship. Rex White, Red Byron, Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, and a host of others would never have turned Lap 1 on the track. I guess it’s the era of money, manufactured excitement, and mediocrity versus skill, talent, and genuine excitement.

Tom B

How does Brian France stay out of the negative story narrative on his personal life? Poor McClure gets a negative write up after being out of the sport for a couple of years and a perennial back marker.

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