Whether you love her or hate her, at this point it’s becoming clear that with the Nationwide series more than halfway over, Danica Patrick is highly overrated.
Especially for a driver set to enter the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2013.
With the recent Nationwide race at Indianapolis that saw Danica spin out Reed Sorenson, the actions of which would come back to haunt her, how can we consider Danica even on the same level as some of the other drivers?
While she may sit 10th in Nationwide standings, Danica is 252 points behind Elliot Sadler, and has only had one top 10 finish so far this season.
What exactly though, makes Danica overrated? Several reasons make Danica all hype and have her receive more credit than she actually deserves.
Sponsorship Over Racing Ability
One issue with Patrick is how she shows one of NASCAR's biggest weaknesses:
Sponsorship dictates how far a racer can go.
Before even proving herself in the Nationwide series Danica already had a full time sponsor. CEO and founder of GoDaddy.com Bob Parsons was ready to sponsor Danica wherever she went, even before it was announced that she would be running a full time Nationwide schedule in 2012 and a full time Sprint Cup series schedule in 2013.
Last year he was quoted over at ESPN.com by Terry Blount as saying:
"As long as I can stroke the check. I tell you what, she doesn't exactly work for minimum wage. I usually don't get into that too much until the decision's been made. But I've told her I would sponsor her if she started ice skating."
Of course sponsoring Danica has its benefits. She helps GoDaddy, and her newer sponsor, Coca-Cola, earn more revenue because of her large fan base. Bob Parsons was also quoted by Terry Blount via ESPN.com as saying:
"It would be good for us. The races she's in now in Nationwide, whether in front or in the back, it's still fantastic for us. I've had people tell me, 'I'm going to start watching NASCAR to see Danica.' She is the one person that America roots for. America loves her."
It doesn't matter how good of a driver she is. Danica could come in last place, but as long as she generates money for her sponsorships, they will continue to support her.
What about other drivers who are constantly worried about sponsors? Danica has yet to prove herself in the Nationwide series, but she has nothing to worry about, sponsorship wise. The support of big sponsors will also play a role into her shift to the Sprint Cup series in 2013.
Danica has a ride, and nothing to worry about regardless of the fact that she only has one top 10 finish. Is she really worth the money GoDaddy and Coca-Cola are putting into her and her team?
With such big sponsors, one would think Danica was a good race car driver who had already proven herself. Unfortunately her looks are more important to a sponsor then her actual driving ability.
Does NASCAR want Danica to succeed? Of course they do. Having another successful driver, after all, would only add to the excitement of NASCAR.
The problem with NASCAR though, lies in how Danica always seems to be the center of attention, no matter what she does. Why does NASCAR focus on Danica? She hasn't done anything impressive, and in her limited Sprint Cup Series races, she just rode around the tracks and "gained experience".
Why even mention Danica until she does something worthwhile? Other drivers race better than her on a consistent basis, yet it always seems to come back to Danica and how well she does, regardless of if she finishes 12th or 30th.
There are other issues with Danica besides being the focal point of NASCAR announcers.
Remember when Patrick put Hornish Jr. into the wall after the Talladega Aaron's 312 race? She thought he was blocking her, but he had a tire going down. In retaliation she bumped him into the wall.
NASCAR didn't punish either driver, but should they have done something for Patrick's actions? She was clearly frustrated with Hornish Jr., but should her reaction have been considered acceptable?
She's also had a problem avoiding accidents. Recently at the Indiana 250, we saw Danica tap Reed Sorenson, and either intentionally or unintentionally tried to spin him out. The end result was Reed turning sideways and Patrick slamming into him.
Should NASCAR have looked into this recent accident a little more? Why would Patrick tap Sorenson’s left side bumper unless she was trying to get him out of the way? Would another driver end up in the NASCAR hauler if they had done what Patrick did?
It's hard to see how a driver who can't even manage to get out of her own way can last when she moves into the Sprint Cup Series full time next year.
Before Danica even entered into NASCAR full time she was already overrated. What did she do in the Indy series? She managed one win at Motegi, but besides that she was no better than the other drivers.
She did have a best career IndyCar point’s finish of 5th in 2009, but why do we make such a big deal about her as a driver?
Back in 2010, Kyle Petty was quoted by ESPN.com as saying:
"She's not Dario Franchitti and she's not Tony Stewart. She's not really shown over there [in the Indy Racing League] and won races and done stuff over there numbers-wise. She's just a marketing machine. Let's look at the facts and be blunt about it."
Just looking at Danica as a driver, she really did nothing special in the Indy series.
Her real popularity came from her looks, and her GoDaddy.com commercials. Is this the image NASCAR needs?
In the end, Danica has yet to prove herself as a driver. She still has a lot to learn, and has not shown any real improvement in the Natiowide series to justify a Sprint Cup series run. Does one top ten make a Nationwide rookie good enough to race with the bigger drivers?
She has full sponsorship simply because she generates money, not because she is a good driver. Add that to the fact that she is on one of the more well-funded Nationwide teams, JR Motorsports, and it’s time to wonder if Danica will truly deliver as a driver or remain a publicity tool.
How can a driver who has yet to prove anything, but still manages to be the focus of cameras, not be considered overly hyped?
Danica is highly overrated. She is more about marketing than being a driver.
When she enters the Sprint Cup Series next year, there will be no more excuses for the overly praised GoDaddy girl.