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Pedley: Danica Earning Her Respect

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 19 2010
Danica Patrick's first day in NASCAR ended in smoke and rubble.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Danica Patrick's first day in NASCAR ended in smoke and rubble. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

I don’t know Danica Patrick very well at all. I’ve interviewed her a couple of times and have been in on a dozen, maybe 20, group interviews with her. I have interviewed friends and family, been to her hometown in Illinois to poke around and have read a lot about her.

But know her? Very few journalists get to really know their subjects and that’s the way it should be.

But I think I know enough about her to know this: It’s really important to Patrick that nobody hands her anything in racing. Not NASCAR, not fellow competitors and not the media.

I think last Saturday, in her NASCAR debut, two out of the three of those groups honored such a desire for Patrick.

A portion of the third, the media, most assuredly did not.

During her Nationwide drive, I did a couple of things that I do not normally do during races – I listened fairly intently to the broadcast and also kept an eye on “Twitter”. I wanted to hear and see how what was undeniably one of the big moments in racing history was treated.

It was quite evident by the end of the race that the treatment could be described as fawning at best and selectively blind at worst.

It seemed, as I watched and listened and read, that normal things which occur on race tracks were proclaimed monumental, heroic, courageous and superhuman when performed by Patrick.

(Warning: The following is an enhanced re-enactment.)

TV guy: Wow did you see the way she flipped down her visor? One-handed!

Other TV guy: Unbelievable. Not only to know that the sun was in her eyes, but then also to have the presence of mind to flip the tinted visor down with cars all around her.

And on and on it went.

Over on “Twitter”, same deal. People with extraordinary knowledge of the sport of auto racing, people whom I respect for being more knowledgeable than me, were apparently watching with their hearts and not their eyes.

One Tweet called the avoidance of the lap-eight wreck which developed in front of her a good move. She “swerved” to avoid it.

On her wreck: Nowhere to go but nearly avoided it with another swerve.

Except, not really. She simply held the wheel straight and lifted both times. One time it worked out and one it didn’t.

How do we know that, other than watching in-car replays?

Patrick said so herself in her post-race comments.

Patrick did a heck of a job in the ARCA race at Daytona and then the following week in the Nationwide race. The decision to race in the Nationwide race was a good one.

She is very much worthy of the attention she is getting and I think most in the garages think that way as well.

She is great for the sport at a time when the sport could use a shot of great washed down with a chaser of wonderful.

Despite often flippant remarks that may lead some to believe the contrary, I want her to succeed. And depending on the definition of succeed, I now think she will.

But please, let’s maintain some shred of objectivity here. Let’s call it the way we see it and not the way we want it to be.

My guess is that Danica Patrick wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 19 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Tony Osborne says:

    Totally agree. Let’s not forget though that she is learning this from scratch as Indycar is so different.
    She admits it’s all so different and that’s why shes spending two years getting used to it instead of just jumping in there and messing it up.