When Danica Patrick entered the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2013, expectations were high for the rookie as everybody was looking for her to run up front to fit the amount of hype and media coverage. Looking back on the year, let’s just say that she didn’t reach those expectations.
But who’s to think that she would? To expect a rookie to win and run up front every weekend in their rookie season is crazy as not many drivers have done that over the years in their career. They have run decently and had some highlights, but nothing to go nuts about.
Going into the year based on her Nationwide Series statistics, reasonable expectations would be to see the rookie finish top 20 in points, get a couple top 10 finishes, maybe a pole and consistently finish at least inside the top 25.
So did she succeed that? In some ways yes and in other ways no.
Coming into the year, she made 10 starts during the 2012 season with a best finish of 17th at Phoenix International Raceway.
At the end of 2013, she only had one top 10 finish – an eighth at the season opening Daytona 500. Patrick started the year off with a bang as she put the No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet on the pole for the biggest race of the season and even led some laps. Keeping herself within the top 10 all day long, she came home with a solid eighth place finish.
Some fans believed that this would set her up for more success, however it didn’t go as well as they would’ve hoped. In the races that followed, she had eighth finishes inside of the top 20, along with a lot of wrecks along the way. However, it wasn’t all bad along the way as she did have a solid 12th place finish at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit – Martinsville Speedway – despite having a couple early race spins.
To conclude, she capped the year off 27th in points with five DNFs. So did she fit expectations? Like I said, not quite. Many would even say those statistics are quite ugly. Though if you compare them to a couple other drivers, they’re not as bad as they may seem on paper.
2013 Rookie of the Year and 2012 Nationwide Series Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won a pole and had three top 10 finishes on his way to finishing 19th in points.
Her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman made the Chase, finishing 11th in points with a win and 18 top 10s.
The second car in the organization was split by Tony Stewart, Austin Dillon and Mark Martin following Stewart’s leg injury. Stewart had one win and eight top 10s in the 21 starts he made this year while Martin had only one single top 10 in the races that he ran behind the wheel of the No. 14.
As a whole the Stewart-Haas Racing organization was off camp this season and perhaps that contributed to her lack of success. With having new teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick along with his boss Tony Stewart back, that could benefit the young driver as having more sources of information to feed off of. She’ll also have Mark Martin there as an advisor and he helped her during her Nationwide Series days. When he was helping her there, some improvements could be seen.
However, if Patrick wants to see more success in 2014, she needs to improve in qualifying. With an average starting spot of 30.1, she started more races near the back of the pack. You can’t be doing that as cars start to get lapped quickly and then you set yourself behind for the whole day. If she can at least improve that average to something in the low 20s, it’d be a start.
Right now, she’s riding on the coat tails of hype courtesy of her sponsor and her appearance. However if she doesn’t start improving next year, you will see that start to die down and if she continues to struggle, she’ll follow the road that many other drivers know well – slowly drift out of the spotlight and without a ride.