By what standard should we judge Danica?
For better or for worse, she and Jr. Motorsports are joined in a union for 2010, when she will drive the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in a part-time Nationwide Series schedule.
After years of rumors that it would happen, the seldom-winning but still extremely famous Patrick has decided that NASCAR is where the real money is at, and is testing the waters to see if she wants to make a permanent switch to NASCAR from Indycar in the near future.
The media frenzy will be at a fever pitch the whole time, as Patrick aims to become the long elusive “successful female driver” in modern-day NASCAR.
One thing is for sure, and that is the whole sporting world will be watching Patrick’s progress, wondering if she can hang with the boys in NASCAR. If she does succeed, she would bring a whole new legion of fans to the sport, and the France family will be rooting for her more than anyone because of this potential windfall.
But for those of us who have watched this sport for so many years, what will be the standard Patrick will have to achieve to prove she belongs?
She has a tough road ahead of her … just ask the string of failed Indycar transfers, including Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier.
Then, there is the bright side, as Juan Pablo Montoya competed for the championship this year and, despite his pension for spinning, Sam Hornish Jr. can run a pretty decent race.
So where will Patrick end up in this discussion? Overall, the prospects aren’t great. She has nowhere near the success in open wheel as any of the others who attempted to transfer, and will be completely green to stock cars.
If it took a champion like Juan Montoya until his third full season to truly do well, how long will it take Danica, who has only won once and never been a legitimate title contender?
The one advantage Danica has is she has landed at a team that wins races, and is supported by Rick Hendrick. While she may not have the talent of the others who tried and failed in NASCAR, she has better equipment. Perhaps Danica in a well-funded Jr. Motorsports car is better than Dario Franchitti in an underfunded Chip Ganassi car.
Only time will tell.
As far as the answer the question I posed earlier about judging Danica, I don’t expect much out of Danica, so if she can just finish the races she runs in 2010, keep out of the wall and rack up a couple top-10s, I will consider the first leg of her NASCAR experiment a success and a building block for the future.
I have to say, though, that I don’t think it will go that smoothly, and she will have to make a hard decision after 2010 about whether she really wants to continue down this road in NASCAR.