After a brief stint in the "minors" of NASCAR racing, Danica Patrick is going to run in this year's Daytona 500. Why the folks that oversee NASCAR put their "Super Bowl" first on the schedule has always been a mystery to me, but then again, they call it "stock car" racing, and I doubt if a single part on any of those cars is a stock item at your local auto parts store or dealership. Go figure.
At any rate, Danica's going to be piloting the #10 car, as they say, and it will be green. How will she do? Hard to tell.
Patrick has an Indy car racing background, so the NASCAR speeds are certainly no big deal to her. Her car will have to have the "rookie stripe" across it's back bumper, so the others will know, but that's really unnecessary. Every other racer will know full well who's driving the green car.
At Indianapolis, legend had it that the color green was taboo, though I don't know why. It was probably a silly myth, but Danica never really came close to winning there either, even though she had top-notch equipment. Sure, she would always lead a lap or two here and there, her uninformed fans in the stands would roar, and the talking heads on TV hype it to the max -- but that was usually when her crew left her out on the track while the superior cars and drivers had came into the pits. Once things all got sorted out, she never really came close to taking the checkered flag. In all her years of Indy car racing, to my knowledge, Danica only won one obscure race over in Japan somewhere. Yet the endorsements poured in.
It probably should have been no great surprise. After all, Indy car racing had gone through a years long feud amongst those that wished to rule the sport and, in the end, they had basically destroyed it. Fans were no longer interested. The Indy car people needed a face to put the sport back on the map. And no doubt, Danica was well-spoken and had a pretty face. Yes, she could be moody and throw hissy fits, but ask yourself this -- if Dario Franchitti, or Scott Dixon, both former winners of the Indy 500 sat down next to you -- would you recognize them?
In Indy's glory years of old, no doubt they would have scoffed at Danica advertising beauty products and the like, but those were desperate times, from which they've never completely recovered, and likely never will. I suppose a cynic might say Danica could have endorsed a plywood company from the neck down, but that would be counter-productive.
Now she's jumping in with the "big boys". Whether they respect that or not remains to be seen. They can accept that and let her race fair and square, or they can make it impossible for her. I hope it's the former.
Danica was OK as an Indy car driver, but that was polite racing. Even though the speeds were vastly superior to anything she'll ever see in NASCAR, no contact was allowed. You bump another car, you both wreck, and probably take others with you. Despite all the safety features, at well over 200 MPH this is not a laughing matter. People can get airborne, and even die. RIP Dan Wheldon, a world-class racer and multiple Indy 500 champion, that got caught up in such an incident, in Las Vegas, a scant few months ago.
Chances are, Patrick is going to get bumped a lot in the Daytona 500. Yes, she's raced that type of car a few times before and experienced some of that already, but this is the big race in the big leagues. As a comparison, just because she got a hit here and there against a really good Triple A minor league pitcher doesn't mean she'll fare so well against someone like Justin Verlander staring her down on the mound.
And make no mistake. If she makes it that far, there's no mercy on the final laps on the Daytona 500, even between teammates, let alone a rookie driver, woman or not.
That rookie stripe will probably have been erased a long time before that. Hopefully, the bumper is still there.
There may be a time for chivalry, but I'm pretty sure the Great American Race isn't it.