The taste of Miss Danica Patrick’s pole and 8th-place run in the Daytona 500 still lingers, which means that Saturday’s Daytona event gets her in the spotlight again.
On a side note, it is a nice thing indeed to be able to get so much mileage out of a top-10 in a motor sport, pun half-way intended.
The deal here is that there is legitimate reason to believe that this track will see her race very competitively based on data from said 500 finish. And that’s enough to make headlines, even if Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch…and most of the other drivers in the sport have more substantive story material right now.
Be that as it may, a lot of people will be hoping that a win can be had for the green machine. Is that a legitimate possibility?
That’s the issue at stake in this episode of Bonus Points, a weekly feature in which RRO writers Sam Salo and Luke Krmpotich debate a current issue in NASCAR. Each writer assigns a “flag value” to his opinion on the question: checkered flag if it’s a slam dunk, green flag if he’s mostly convinced, yellow flag if it’s a toss-up, red flag if he’s pessimistic, or black flag if he’s dead set against the idea.
Sam: Starting on a vaguely positive note here, Daytona is perhaps the best place on the schedule for Danica to eye a win.
Secondly, it helps that Stewart-Haas is currently one of the top teams on plate tracks. This underscores the classic trend that beyond the big names being consistently good at these tracks, there is always a mild fluctuation amongst teams as to who has a particular speed and horsepower advantage at plate races.
This is one of the reasons Danica did so well in the 500; teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman weren’t far behind.
Nonetheless, the question is about a win, not a decent or even a great run.
Stewart-Haas must be on their game as whole, which they aren’t right now; the “big one” must be avoided; and any surviving Johnson’s, Gordon’s, Kenseth’s, and Stewart’s must be beaten on lap 160 (er, the last lap).
Is she a legitimate win contender? There are many cute little ways to spin her green scheme into a pun here, but I will have to slip one shade down on the color wheel and throw the yellow flag of caution.
Luke: Danica Patrick was a serious contender in this year’s Daytona 500 when the field took the white flag.
And then the last lap happened, and the GoDaddy machine was shuffled back to a historic but all-things-considered, a rather nondescript eighth-place finish.
There’s no doubt the femme fatale of modern auto racing can hold her own in a restrictor plate race. The real question is: Does she know how to get it done on the last lap when it’s every-man-for-himself, and she’s the only woman on the track?
I don’t think Danica has sufficient experience to win the way, say, using a sidedraft off this car and a slingshot around that car to get to the front, Ricky Bobby-style. But that’s not really the way these races have been won in recent years anyhow.
The only way I think the No. 10 will visit Victory Lane is if somehow it is pushed by Tony Stewart, who has teamed up with Danica at plate tracks in the past and is her boss, after all.
Could it happen? I suppose so.
But will it? I highly doubt it, so it’s a red flag for Danica’s chances of scoring an Independence weekend Daytona win.
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