Patrick balances on edge of greatness

Published 6:54 pm Saturday, April 18, 2015

We’re nearly a fifth of the way through the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I haven’t looked at my February predictions (for fear, naturally, that I’m probably 0-for-8 with my cloudy crystal ball).  But there have been some pleasant surprises.

I seem to recall that I called 2015 as a make it-or-break it year for Danica Patrick.  Well, she’s certainly quieted her critics, if not outright shut a few of them up.

She finished seventh last month at Martinsville, piloting her #10 Chevrolet one spot short of her best-ever Cup finish (sixth in Atlanta last year). Take away Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas and she hasn’t finished outside the Top-20, which is a good showing in four of the seven races so far.

Patrick also now has five Top-10 Cup finishes lifetime which ties her with Janet Guthrie for the most by a woman in NASCAR’s premier series.

Patrick also ranked 17th in the Cup points standings which equals the second-best post-race position of her career, overshadowed only by the one week in 2013 when she was ranked seventh after finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 two years ago, a race from which she started from the pole (the first woman to ever do so in a Sprint Cup race).

Patrick recently celebrated her 33rd birthday; her sponsors are happy; she’s happy with her Stewart-Haas Racing team and even happier with her boyfriend, fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

So happy, in fact, that when Darrell Waltrip asked during a FOX Sports interview what she’d say if Stenhouse proposed right now, she said she’d say “Yes!”

One-seventh of the season doesn’t tell us much, but it does leave us with the taste of that promising top-10 finish that prompts us to half-heartedly declare that the time is now for Patrick to realize her supposed inevitable greatness.

Still there’s a desire and perhaps a need — especially in corporate-sponsor circles — for her to live up to the hype created when she abandoned her decades-long pursuit of open-wheel racing and crawled into a stockcar three years ago.

Face it, we remember her more for those sometimes salacious GoDaddy commercials, and not on-track excellence.

It’s the final year of her contracts with Stewart-Haas Racing and primary sponsor, a time when drivers in firesuits — or even savvy businessmen in three-piece suits — tend to step up their games. Someone will certainly pick up Patrick should SHR or choose to go in another direction.

Yep, maybe it’s time for Patrick to show us she’s as hot in a firesuit, as she is in a bathing suit.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.