I can’t say I’m sick of Danica-mania. She is trying to forge a stock car career in exactly the right way. She didn’t come in with a sense of entitlement, “I’m a good driver in other places, so I deserve to be here” (Scott Speed), nor does she think she can just jump right to the top of NASCAR (Dario Franchitti). She realizes she has a long road in front of her, and she is slowly climbing to the top.
She did a mighty fine job in the ARCA race on Saturday. She was timid at the beginning, but you saw her getting slowly better as the 80 laps wore on. Though not quite comfortable following other cars too closely, she gave Ricky Carmichael a run for his money, trading paint coming to the checkered flag.
Media pundits declared that she had proven herself as a stock car driver, that she had proven wrong all the haters. Tony Eury Sr., a legend in the NASCAR garage and part owner of JR Motorsports, for which Danica drove, declared her ready for the Nationwide Series race at Daytona (reversing a decision he had made weeks before).
Alright now, hold on folks. Yes, she was impressive. Her spin through the infield demonstrated she has car control, something Darrell Waltrip said, “you either have it or you don’t.” But, driving in an 80-lap ARCA race (for which, 36 laps were caution laps) doesn’t make anyone an ace, no matter how much talent lies underneath.
Chances are, when she gets to California, Danica will still struggle initially. Then, what happens when the Nationwide Series goes to Dover? In all her races, especially with limited practice and even further limited testing, she will have a tough time getting her mojo on until half-way through the race, if that.
Now, I’m not a “hater.” I think she’ll succeed in the long run. But, these things take time. She’s already been given the gift of time, patience, and sponsorship money. She will need it.
She may do fine in the Nationwide race at Daytona. That race will be packed to the brim with Cup drivers, and she probably learn even more than she did in the ARCA race. The drivers will know how to handle her better and she’ll get far more green flag laps.
But, when she gets to California… that track is an entirely different animal. She will have to nearly start over.
Nonetheless, she will do fine in the long run. Just don’t think she’s made it yet.