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Pedley: Did Patrick Make the Grade?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 7 2010
You have got to give Danica Patrick an "A" for ability to attract a crowd. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

You have got to give Danica Patrick an "A" for ability to attract a crowd. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It’s report card day for Danica Patrick.

She has put in her first weekend of stock car racing, the smoke (literal and figurative) has cleared and it’s time to send her home to her people with the news. And here is the news:

Punctuality. A+. She showed up for all her meetings with the public, media and the racing series. She made all press conferences and even had a couple that were not originally on the schedule.

Social Skills. B. She smiled a lot, did not hiss back at some air-headed questions – some of which were of local-TV-station/daily newspaper quality. Most importantly, she did not brusquely leave any pressers in a huff, as she did last year at Auto Club Speedway.

Posture. D. Remarking on in-car camera shots, television announcers kept saying she looked very focused in the car and heaped grand praise on her for that. To me, she looked tense, freaked. She sawed away at the wheel of what I have to believe was a pretty conservatively set-up race car.

History. F. She said in a press conference that she did not know that ARCA races at Daytona almost always turned into festivals of smoking tires and crunching metal. You don’t have to be David McCullough to be aware of that little historical tidbit.

Geography. C. The plan was obviously to stay on the bottom of the track. You can only get into trouble from three sides down there. It is a nice, conservative, relatively secure place to spend three hours on race day. Unless you want to win.

Phy Ed. B+. She handled the big, heavy ARCA Series cars sans problems. Though she did look quite small sitting in that seat: Perspective made it look like she was driving a school bus.

Math. B. She started 12th and finished sixth. Finishing ahead of where you start is good in racing. She had a great car. Probably the best car in the field as she showed by working her way through the field after spinning her way to the rear of the lead-lap cars. But, sixth is better than 12th.

Poise. B+. She came through a scary, spining, lawn-mowing wreck looking fresh as a 10 a.m. Cinnabon. Give an assist to her crew chief, personal-favorite Tony Eury Jr., on that one, though.

Vocabulary. D. She used open-wheel jargon a couple of times during a stock car event. Let’s work on that, shall we? At least she didn’t refer to fuel as petrol.

Cheerleading. A+. The crowd for an ARCA event was quite good. From the sound of it, most those in the grandstands and many in the garages were pulling for her. And TV? Those guys slobbered over her like St. Bernard on free steak night at Ruth Chris. She had them in the palm of her Nomex glove.

Extra Curricular Activities. F. The soft-core Go Daddy commercials have set back human dignity, what, about 40 years? Or is it ahead 40 years? The next time I hear her say she just wants to be known as a driver, it will be spew-city.

Art. C. Not a fan of day-glo paint jobs and day-glo apparel. It was all the rage back when I was a ski bum…in the ‘80s! But, if Jeff Gordon can pull off the flames thing on his car, then day-glo is passable.

Luck. A++. Not generally on part of the curriculum, it must be considered here. Racing on a plate track in ARCA is all about luck. Ayrton Senna could not have made it through a 50-mile ARCA race at Daytona were he in the wrong place at the right time. The field is filled with drivers who have mixed skills and who almost all have something to prove. Qualification for entering can be just the ability to attract sponsorship. The Daytona track was mine field last night and Danica picked her way through and wound up only with minor flesh wounds.

Congeniality. C. Banging on the door of Ricky Carmichael on the way to the finish line probably won her praise in some quarters but probably cost her at least one friend. Dale Earnhardt and even Brad Keselowski can get away with that. The new girl? We shall see. And Patrick, remember, has stormed up pit road looking for street justice post-race herself in the IRL for lesser offenses.

Recess. Incomplete. We shall see how long it lasts and what happens over the next couple of days.

Overall grade. B. Drove within herself and finished top 10. Probably did little to ward off her critics and enough to keep her choir singing.

Remarks: I have a feeling they may rush her into a Nationwide Series car so she can drive in next Saturday’s event at Daytona. I think a wiser choice would be to stick with the plan. Let her think about what happened over the weekend. Let her prep for another week. Let her carry the clipboard next weekend. Turn her loose on big, wide, relatively friendly Auto Club Speedway in two weeks.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 7 2010


  • Racefan4ever says:

    Anyone who watched that ARCA race, the spin, the recovery, and the charge back through the pack, and STILL doesn’t think this young lady can drive a stock car, doesn’t know JACK about racing and should look for work in another field.

    …If the shoe fits……

  • Linda says:

    A little more realistic than much of what has been published. While she might very well be the second coming, don’t think that has been proved yet.

  • Patricia says:

    Danica did well. All drivers making the move to stock cars will need a learning curve. Give her a break. You don’t pick on the male drivers making the move…Don’t do it to her. Constructive criticism ok..otherwise give her the break you give to all the other drivers. We’re with you Danica…Prayers and support for a great 1st season in Nationwide!

  • ANM says:

    All this over one ARCA race? An ARCA race?
    Wow has racing as a whole ever fallen over the last decade.
    If AOW was where it was twenty years ago none of this would be much more than a boring third tier reality with the like of Danica looking in from the outside.

    Danica is good looking? LOL Palin book o’ beauty or that young asian boy thing again?

    Alli Owens is being overshadowed by this hype? Last time I looked she was earning her way in.

    Jim, some just don’t get tongue in cheek in any degree and never will.

    Color Danica over her head next.

  • Linda Wllareth says:

    First time reader–a St. Louis reader suggested I read your remarks. Having known Danica since her youth, I can tell you she definiately had fun in that ARCA race and she was definitely happy with the outcome–personally, I wish they had kept her in ARCA for an entire year–like Scott Speed–I only hope she is just as happy at the conclusion of the Daytona Nationwide event. It will be a rough one! The “Big Boys” don’t like a 100 pound female stealing all the limelight–they will ready to show her what stock car racing is all about!

  • Doug says:

    If you based it on the difference in my work place on Monday morning. Danica Patrick has made a huge I mean huge impact. A lot of people at my work totally quit racing after Dale Sr. tragic accident. Being a life long R.Petty fan I have stayed in it. Well so far today I have been stopped by one person after another asking me questions about Danica. Asking me about the race. No one ever watches ARCA and I think half the females in this building did Saturday. Nothing like someone that can sell a ticket. I think that ARCA crew chief for another team said it best this weekend. “You would think Elvis is in the garage area”

  • Terrell Davis says:

    Geeze, Pedley, boy did you open a can of worms.
    Just a note to you guru writin’ dude….the next time you want a story like this done, assign it to the master….Woody. He can pull something like this off (usually). Obviously, you can’t….or didn’t.
    You are a master racing writer. Stick to that corner of the newsroom. And the cut on daily newspapers….where the heck did the majority of your Racin’ Today writers come from….not TV….from the daily’s before the net smacked them to their knees and forced some of the best writers in the business to “computer up”!

  • lydia says:

    Geezzz…I am so glad I didn’t have Pedley as a teacher in high school..I would have flunked!! BUT…I have to say…if he would have written a piece just about how good Danica drove..there wouldn’t be one comment from a reader…So Kudos…you are getting your column hits and reactions. How do I think she did? In a series known for it’s crashes..whether Daytona or ANY track Arca races on..there is ALWAYS numerous wrecks…it’s the nature of the beast..of new and inexperienced drivers mixed with veterans…over their head and sometimes “out of their head”….I think she did quite well…She did more then just “bring the steering wheel home” … she had the “wreckers or checkers” attitude at the end…what more could you ask for?

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  • Bruce says:

    Mr Pedley ,

    In my opinion, you are a complete Dumb A__! Your comments show me, that you know nothing about racing and just love to rune your mouth. !

    You couldn’t make it around the track at half the speed nor come anywhere close to doing what Ms Patrick did on Saturday, yet you set behind your computer and BLAST HER!

    You don’t evwn deserve to watch her nuch less comment on her abilities!

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  • steve-o says:

    I think she should spend a year in ARCA. When she gets to racing with Nascar she will find out that she will not be competitive because of her inexperience with “stock cars” and the technical issues. Nascar drivers have thousands of laps of experience in this type of racing. Danica has a snowballs chance in hell to have success there. Besides, her record in the IRL is mediocre. This indicates to me that she ain’t going very far.

  • headache says:

    OK Pedley, lets see, hmmm, what was your finish the first time you ever drove in a Daytona race? I can’t find it anywhere on the net. Well, how did you do in any stock car event? I can’t find that either…

    I am having a rough time knowing where you earned your credentials for grading anyone driving a car. They just give them out for setting on your butt at a desk and looking at selected You Tube selections of the race, I guess…

    “Social skills=B”. And what do the others (top star dudes) in the sport get for their social skills? They are a bunch of testosterone-driven males who trash each other on a regular basis! (BTW, I am a testosterone-driven male as well, but I’m not stupid.) Oh, but she walked away from a bunch of “pressers” over a year ago ( who were asking airhead questions designed only to foment controversy that didn’t exist before your crowd of gossip mongers slithered into the room)so you grade her life because of that long gone event about which you still hold a vengeful grudge.

    This is February, 2010, dude! “News”, by definition should mean something new. You were supposed to be grading her on what she did now, not using yesterday’s news, and your preset interpretation (read: opinion) of today as seen through the eyes of a disgruntled “presser”, to simply take a shot at someone (an evil woman, no less) who took the racing sport to a new revived level, amidst all the hype and brouhaha of you “pressers” (who wanted her to fail). Curious. What do you grade yourself in social skills?

    “Posture=D”. Wtf? Since when do race cars drivers get graded on how they fit in a seat? She is about a hundred pounds less and two feet shorter than the guys, so she must have poor posture…doh. Bizarre, you are, dude

    And she gets minus points for being alert and into the moment! Wow…Pedley thinks she should…What? Be texting her friends about the race while she drives with her knees? And you think she is in a “conservatively set-up race car”. PHWAAAAHHHH! Then, if so, all the more power to her skills that she could come back from last place to fifth in just twenty laps!

    “History=F”. You know, some times one must get into the event before you really understand what it is like. Before I went to Viet-Nam, I thought it was a completely different thing, until I got there and saw what a miserable lie was told to us before we went. I took Danica’s comment to mean the same revelation about the dangers of ARCA Daytona was hers.

    Geography=C. As I watched the race, it seems like she was not the only one who favored the low line. It was single file down there with about 3/4 of the field with everyone planning the same breakout move when the race got down to twenty laps or so. The same agenda as every ARCA Daytona

    “PhysEd=B+”. You have to grade her great on that. She can whup your butt in a street fight, bro. And I have to shake my head at the “(She looked) like she was driving a school bus” (like every good little girlie who wants to drive something big and powerful should be doing…). That king of comment of yours is called “planting an invidious image” isn’t it? A National Enquirer “presser” technique.

    “Math=B” She started 12th, true. But she made her run to sixth starting from setting in the infield in last place of the lead lap, and she did it in just twenty laps. The hardest and most competitive twenty laps of the race!

    And of course you think it wasn’t her. She had “the best car in the race”!!! This is just a few sentences from the “conservatively set-up race car” remark. You are a real hoot, bro.

    “Poise-B+” Any grade less that A+++ is a ludicrous slam at one of the most stalwart performances under the gun I have ever witnessed in stock car racing.

    And I watched the race on car cam during the spin and I did not see Ted Eury,Jr. reaching over her shoulder and grabbing the wheel and pulling that car into the straight line and then coming back to the track (where most guys would take a few laps just to get used to peeing their suits) and digging in for a fantastic run back to the front cars in just twenty laps.

    But you can’t have it be just her doing, can you? You need to think a guy did it all. Bro, you need some attitude adjustment. This is the twenty-first century. Maybe you need to move to China where the women wear hurting shoes and follow ten paces behind the man. Actually, I think that even China has gotten over that attitude for the most part…

    “Vocabulary=D” Dude, she has been in open wheel for the majority of her life. The is a new experience. She might have some carry over from her “day job”. Just like you have lingering prejudices from your former life as a…what? sweatshop boss honcho-ing fifty women at sewing machines in some sweltering back street warehouse in the garment district?

    “Cheerleading=A+” Yes she did a great job at handling the pressure of not only driving a monster race in a muscle car, but taking the time out from learning an important and dangerous new job to accommodate the “pressers” clamoring for more of her time than they deserved, and fattening their wallets with her charisma and talent.

    Good on you, Ms. Patrick, good on you.

    “Extra Curricular Activities=F” O M G! You, an obvious paragon of Chauvinism, a last bastion of male dominion, commenting on her job as spokesperson for a company that is (it seems to me) satirizing attitudes like yours with a funny add campaign which also has, I believe, Dale Jr. working at the same thing…yet, you don’t mention Dale…hmmm. Pretty invidious imaging. National Enquirer stuff…

    “Art=C” I don’t believe she painted that car, Pedley. Nor did she even select the colors for the sponsor, Pedley. How dare you assert that: a) she chose the colors, and B) she painted the car?

    Wow, you really have it in for her, don’t you?

    “Luck=A++ Yes, she had some luck. You have to get lucky to win in a sport that has so many “outside your control” influences in the determining of the victorious. I play poker and it takes luck to win as well. But the same people show up at the final table. Do they just always get lucky? I think not. I think skill puts you in the right place for luck to hit you. She has some serious skills… I bet she could play good poker.

    Congeniality=C DUDE! Here you go again! Pontificating your reoccurring theme of bias and prejudice! She is not going to win any friends bumping back on a driver who tries to intimidate her by doing the same thing. Of course, You believe that Earnhardt Jr. and any “guy” can do it and it is kewl, but “THE NEW GIRL?”. Jeeze bro, how do you keep your job?

    And she did not “storm up pit row” fo a lesser offense. She took the walk and then did the talk about a very serious maneuver taken by another driver.

    In conclusion, it seems to me that you are very jealous because Danica gets the attention, she does her job well, she has a unique image that is setting the racing world up a few levels, and she is boldly going where mostly men have gone before, and she is successful at it.

    You need to catch up with the rest of the world, Pedley, and don’t be so quick to diss someone because they can full on drive a car, of any kind, and look nice doing it, in a little black cocktail dress if the powers would allow it.

    Or, you need another job. The Enquirer probably would snap you up in a New York Minute…


  • Mike Kelly says:

    Criticism, there should not be any. The commentators were complimentary.
    She brought the car home in one piece. The other drivers had trouble even holding a line. Her first showing was far better than several drivers from Grand Prix and Indy cars have done.

    My only gripe was the “You know” valley girl speak. She should have that mastered by now.

  • bfree says:

    Oh,Pedley…..I get it, you’re a purist, you value tradition and respect for you sport…NEWSFLASH..no sport has been a bigger sell out than NASCAR over the last ten years. I don’t have a problem with it but your comments about Danica are rife with contempt for this over celebrated hack of a driver who, without the right curves and beauty would never have this chance….poor buck toothed, acne faced billy bob from Tupilo should be driving that car. Right? Come on, you know that’s what you are really thinking.

    NASCAR is entertainment first and foremost. We’re Americans, we love the underdog, especially the good looking ones who are willing to roll up their sleeves and go toe to toe with anyone, even at 90 lbs….BECAUSE..she truly is passionate about the sport.

    Patrick is the best thing to happen to NASCAR since …..let’s just say she’s the best thing that’s happened to NASCAR in some time.

  • CC Labant says:

    Oh C’mon…Posture D–are you kidding me, she looked focused, and she esp looked cool and calm after her ride thru the grass..and sawing on the wheel–duh, you’re running a superspeedway with lotsa wind, again duh..Luck A-luck plays a part is every race everywhere. Extra Curricular-hey, why not she’s good lookin and can drive a race car, I’m a woman, and it doesn’t bother me at all..more power to her, if it was me, hell yeah, I’d be doing it too. And another thing, give her credit will ya….do you think you really could drive a car, an Indy car over 200 MPH down the front stretch of IMS and then make a left turn w/o having to change your panties…Yeah, I don’t think so…if I’m a little tough on you its b/c you’re being a little tough. Go Danica!