Not politics, but an awesome story. I want to give a shout out to Danica Patrick's successful foray into stock car racing Saturday afternoon at Daytona in the ARCA event. As I mentioned in an earlier article, the ARCA series is the "Double AA" of stock car racing. It's the first stop for drivers who've been driving around your local tracks for a few years. If you don't tear up too many cars and look like you've got what it takes, hopefully an owner in the Nationwide Series will give you a call. There are several drivers on the circuit who've made careers out of it as well. Maybe they weren't good enough to move up the NASCAR bracket, but it's got to beat working at Wal-Mart. It's also a place for drivers from other racing series to get their feet wet. The Daytona ARCA race is notorious for its frequent and spectacular crashes. Earlier in the week,driver Scott Speed said, “You need to wear a helmet if you watch it from the stands,” - and this year’s race was no exception. The first wreck of the race came only a few laps in when maybe a half dozen cars got tangled up...but that wasn't even the worst part, 4 others who were probably still on the other side of the track when it began, piled into them as well. I don't think those guys will be getting any calls.
The big question after her impressive debut is whether she'll run next week in the Nationwide Series event. According to team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., "It's totally her decision, I don't know if one race is gonna put it in the bucket for her so she's going to have to think about that. She probably, right now, would be like 'Hell yes, let's go' because she's beaming with excitement. But take the night to think about it." Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. added "I would love for her to come back here and run next week. I think she can do it. I mean, are you going to come out here and run top-five in a Nationwide race? You'd have to have a lot of luck. But to come down here and get experience—I think she showed right there at the end that she's very capable of knowing how to draft and how to do it." Co-owner Kelley Earnhardt-Elledge remarked, "I'm ecstatic, I think she showed us she was able to drive, definitely. One time I seen her up on the high side, and then she pulled down low and I'm thinking 'come on, let's pull off an Earnhardt and pass 18 cars in three laps and win this thing.' "But she did fantastic for her first stock car race. She was aggressive, didn't back out of it and we brought home a good finish. The team did a great job and the communication was there, she was asking a lot of questions and learning a lot." I'm fairly certain that we'll be watching a black and green #7 GoDaddy.com Chevy Impala Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Very nice job, Danica!
While fellow competitors had nothing but kind words to say, reading various racing blogs, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of men out there who must be pretty insecure in their masculinity to say she got lucky, it's only ARCA or it was the Hendrick car. Sexism is alive and well! Lucky? She's the only one in the race who got bumped, went sliding through the grass, corrected the car and brought it home in one piece. She was running 11th at that time because of a poor passing decision a few laps earlier. She had been running in the top 5 all day. She restarted the race with 16 laps to go in the 23rd spot. According to her team, she never raised her voice, never screamed a question, never had a bit of doubt. It's only ARCA? Yes, 185 mph running door handle to door handle with guys who had no business being in those retired "Sprint Cup" cars. Hendrick car? Funny that it's ok when Jeff, Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch were all given superior equipment right from the start of their careers. Sorry boys, the girl outdrove all but five cars. The winner was Bobby Gerhart, a five-time ARCA Daytona winner. The fourth place car with James Buescher won it last year. 2nd place Mark Thompson has 81 starts, 3rd place John Wes Townley is starting his second season and 5th place Patrick Sheltra is in his 5th year. Get it? Everyone who finished ahead of her is experienced in this series. The video below is a compilation of her days' highlights.
Evidently, all the Petty's are petty. Kyle Petty was noticably pouting after the race. Evidently the apple didn't roll far from the family tree. Last month, the failure of the stock car racing Petty family had a few things to say: "Obviously, open wheel built what the sport it is now off of her because it was a floundering sport. They took her and that marketing machine that she is and they went there.If she gets in that car and doesn't win races it's not the car, it's not the engines, it's not the team. They only changed one thing. Initially, she'll have an impact on the sport. If she's successful, she'll have a huge long-term impact on the sport,""But if she's not successful the only impact she'll have on the sport is she wasted two or three years on a car that a good driver could have been in and could have been developing."WOW! That's quite an statement. Is that an implication she's not a good enough driver to be developed? "...she's not Juan Montoya, she's not Dario Franchitti and she's not Tony Stewart. She's not really shown over there [in the IRL] 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."
Man, I hope she has success in this series. I so want guys like this to eat crow. For all my issues with Darrell Waltrip, I think he was genuinely excited and kind of rooting for her yesterday. It's kind of interesting noticing people in the racing world who have daughters. They believe a woman can do this. The good ol' boys that only made boys don't...or at least haven't outgrown the fear of getting beat by a girl.
UPDATE: Feb. 8 - At 12:39PM today, nascar.com reported that Danica Patrick will make her Nationwide Series debut Saturday at Daytona. A statement by Kelley Earnhardt-Elledge read, in part, "I think Danica proved to everyone that she can compete in stock cars at a high level, and right now seat time is extremely important,""She has worked extremely hard during the past two months for this opportunity. Her dedication and work ethic is infectious."