Pedley: Did Patrick Make the Grade?
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 email@example.com Comments