Criticism- especially the not-so-well intended kind- isn’t easy to take. We’ve heard Danica Patrick’s public response to comments made by former NASCAR driver and present-day commentator Kyle Petty. In response to his opinion that she’s a “marketing machine,” and “not a racer,” the former Indy car driver and Sprint Cup rookie says “I don’t care.”
We’ll have to take her word for it, but I’ll bet it still hurt. I don’t care who you are, it stinks to have someone, especially someone with a public platform, tell you that you’re not good at what you love doing. Speaking from personal experience, it’s not much fun. While I give Petty credit for his candor (he’ll never be accused of being a NASCAR shill), he of all people, ought to know the challenges of growing in this sport, while at the same time competing with the best of the best. In his case, it’s not really the messenger I have a problem with, it’s the manner in which it was delivered and the timing too.
To be fair, you can’t argue with the numbers. For what she has to work with in the way of equipment, Danica’s resume is short on accomplishment. Ranking behind her in 27th are start and park drivers, part-timers, and drivers for underfunded teams. You can’t get around the Hendrick connection to Stewart- Haas Racing. That’s some pretty stout stuff Patrick is driving in, and there’s little arguing there are drivers languishing in the Nationwide and Truck Series who could get more out of it. Yes, she has a top ten at Daytona (a plate track) and a pair of top 15s at Michigan and Martinsville, but about the only stat that can really offer much of glimmer of hope is that while Patrick averages a 27th place finish, that’s seven positions better than her average start.
From this perspective, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Between the eagerness to crown her queen of NASCAR and the vitriol that suggests she will never amount to anything, is a driver trying to adjust to a different kind of car and a different kind of racing under the glare of blinding spotlight.
In one way, if you think about it, Danica has fared no worse than former open wheelers with much more stellar resumes. You can argue all you want, but the 31-year old has fared not a heck of a lot worse than former IRL champ Sam Hornish or the celebrated Dario Franchitti. Jimmie Johnson says he tells open wheelers coming over they need a five-year plan. If you take her time in the Nationwide Series into consideration, you can make the argument there is some improvement, and the Roscoe, Illinois native still has some time left, according to Five Time’s advice.
Personally, this fan is not really a fan of the number ten. It’s not a “girl thing,” you can call your truly an enthusiastic supporter of young Johanna Long in the Nationwide Series. For me, I think it has a lot more to do with personality, and like many of you, a general stomach upset associated with the barrage of hype. What I do admire is her moxy though, to go out there and put it on the line, even in the face of all this criticism. She had to have known when she signed up for the gig; after all, she got it in Indy Car too.
Through it all, she remains determined. If all the nasty comments and the criticism from the commentators is getting to Danica Patrick, she’s sure not showing it. Granted, for the money she’s making, I could take a lot of guff too.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, one that keeps me inspired through times of adversity. They are the famous words of one Theodore Roosevelt, who overcame childhood illness, the death of a wife, and a number of setbacks to become a Spanish-American War hero and our 26th President…..
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”