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Danica silences the critics on stock car debut

Danica Patrick consummately and impressively proved the Doubting Thomases wrong with a gutsy and composed performance on her stock car debut in the ARCA Racing Series' Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Beach
After her sixth-place finish in last weekend's ARCA Racing Series outing at Daytona Beach – and the way in which she accomplished it – no longer should we ask, 'What is Danica Patrick doing in a stock car?' but rather more appropriate might be: 'Why is Patrick wasting her time in the IndyCar Series?'

Admittedly, it's one race. Admittedly, she was driving one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s old Sprint Cup cars. Admittedly, she had one of NASCAR's most wily crew chiefs in her corner, namely former Earnhardt pit boss Tony Eury Jr.

Don't forget, however, that Patrick rallied to finish sixth without the benefit of any significant practice time in the draft, a critical deficiency when it comes to restrictor-plate racing. Yes, she practised drafting during an ARCA test in December, but that was with a maximum of five or six cars, not a full field of 43.

Thursday's ARCA practice at Daytona was limited to single-car runs in preparation for Friday morning's qualifying session. Friday afternoon's practice was rained out. As a consequence, the fast lady from Wisconsin started Saturday's race with little or no idea of how her No.7 Chevrolet would behave in dirty air, surrounded by rivals trying to make names for themselves on the biggest stage ARCA has ever occupied.

And don't forget that Patrick went about her business as the focus of a maelstrom of attention that bordered on the manic. Under the circumstances, the diminutive driver weathered the storm with consummate grace.

“Once there's 20 interviews, what's the difference if there's 30?” she asked on Friday afternoon. “I have a lot of people helping me, making sure that I am where I need to be and that I have time to drive the car and do what I need to do there. I've had plenty of time to chill out in the truck and watch TV with the guys.”

Patrick's viewing included video of the 2009 ARCA race at Daytona, and she proved a quick study. By her own admission, she was 'hanging out' in the early stages of Saturday's 80-lap Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, but the real test came when she faced major adversity for the first time in a stock car.

On lap 54, Patrick was hugging the yellow line as she exited Turn 4 when fellow rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. pinched her towards the apron. Already conversant with the no-passing-below-the-yellow-line rule, Patrick held her position, and a bump from Piquet sent her sliding across the infield grass and spinning back up onto the asphalt – all without making contact with the outside retaining wall.

Forced to the pits to repair minor damage and change tyres, Patrick re-started 24th on lap 57, but another quick caution kept her at the back until a subsequent re-start on lap 64. The Beloit native was at that point 23rd, but she went on to charge fearlessly through the field to run as high as fifth before the finish, getting the most out of a powerful car.




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Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. made for a formidable team in the ARCA race at Daytona Beach in 2010, Patrick`s first outing in a stock car [Motorsports Images & Archives]
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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FooAtari - Unregistered

February 09, 2010 6:29 PM

@JD "Hardly surprising she has done well, give her a bit of practice and she would drive circles around the best that Nascar has. You could teach a monkey to drive around in circles, just show them the basics of drafting." Very ignorant statement. First off it was an ARCA race, which is a series NOT sanctioned by NASCAR (great reporting crash) and the caliber of drivers in ARCA is nowhere near the level of those in NASCAR. If it was that easy why isn't Montoya kicking ass week in, week out? And I'm a big fan of Dario Franchitti but the less said about his foray into NASCAR the better. It's really is NOT that easy. You just make yourself sound like an elitist pillock

FooAtari - Unregistered

February 09, 2010 7:22 PM

This is a pretty pointless discussion. Your just going to skew the facts anyway that can support your argument that NASCAR is a price of piss. Montoya won 7 GP's in F1. You don't do that by being mediocre. Sure he was far from the best, but he is pretty handy behind the wheel and was pretty competitive while in F1. Surely that puts him way above "any monkey" as you put it. I like Patrick. I think she gets a lot of crap considering she has to compete directly with men (unlike most sports) and I really hope she does well in stock cars. But moving to Nationwides/Sprint Cup is a whole new level from ARCA. That will be the real test of her ability.



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