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Pre Season Predictions: Danica Patrick’s Future

When I launched Triple League Racing in the fall of 2009, I had some re-occurring topics.  They included USF1, the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Danica Patrick’s where Danica Patrick would go.  Well, as we know, Danica signed a 2 year deal at Andretti Autosport (with an option for a 3rd) along with running a few Nationwide races with JRM.  Since the deal with AA could be a short as 2 years, Danica speculation is back!  A lot of people assume the move to NASCAR is a given… but considering how her results were last season, I’m not convinced she’d be able to perform at the level Sam Hornish Jr. or Scott Speed, and they both were awful!

Danica's no Dale Junior, popularity wise, in NASCAR

A move to NASCAR would earn Danica more money, that’s true.  But I wouldn’t expect a “bidding war” for her.  The “top” level NASCAR teams all are well funded and I can’t see them spending a lot of money to attract Danica.  Depending on the situation, they may add her on, as she’s easy to find sponsorship for, but her money’s coming from sponsorship and merchandise sales, not salary, unless the results improve dramatically.  And while she’s be popular in NASCAR, she’s not going to replace Junior, and may not even be 2nd, as Tony Stewart is also very popular. Don’t forget, Carl Edward’s contract is up, and he’s a popular driver who’s a championship contender.

As to where she’d go, Hendrick is out of the question, but Stewart Haas has plenty of openings, and in fact has a 3rd pit crew that they rent out.  It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for them to add Danica, and with the way the Top 35’s been, they could easily buy a locked in car for her.   The idea of moving Junior Motorsports up has been floated around, but I can’t see that working well for anyone.  Sure, they’d be a Hendrick Satellite, but a one car team is a one car team, and if Danica’s is the lone driver… it wouldn’t end well.  The only way the JRM thing works is if they put it in Stewart’s shop, and run it in a partnership with Stewart Haas. Richard Childress has signed Paul Menard to his fourth team, which shows he’s willing to accept a driver for money alone, and would give her good equipment.  Joe Gibbs racing has an open seat, but she doesn’t really mix well with Gibbs, or with Kyle Busch.  Roush likely will be looking to dump David Ragan, and that’s another opening for her.  While RPM made some noise by saying how much they’d want to have Danica, there’s absolutely no point in her going to a mid level team like that, especially when there are opportunities for better rides.

A regular sight for Danica in Nationwide

But even with top level equipment, I’m not sure the performance is there.  She’s been bad in the Nationwide series with one of the top cars, and it’ll only get harder in Cup.  Yes, she’s a new driver to stock cars… but even so, other open wheelers have been better than her in Nationwide only to struggle in Cup.   I’ve never seen a Nationwide car that good go that slowly for multiple races.  Danica is reported to not like a loose car…and stock cars tend to be fastest when set for oversteer.  Unless she learns to adjust to that, her Cup career has a very limited lifespan.  This will offend some people, but at this point, I see Danica moving to NASCAR as her trading her long term career for some quick money.  She did improve some at the last few races… but Scott Speed won races in ARCA and Trucks, only to be a disaster in Cup.  Potentially she could run full-time Nationwide, but then, if she decides in a year or two she doesn’t like NASCAR, she’s going to have a much tougher time finding an Indycar ride.

Danica NEEDS to Do More of This

Indycar is where Danica can be successful, but to do so, she’s got to leave Andretti Autosport.  Andretti is a team in free fall, and there’s no real indication it’ll get better.  Besides, GM is believed to be interested in having her as a driver (one reason for a NASCAR switch) and Andretti is almost certain to be Honda.  The best move Danica could make is to Ganassi, not just Ganassi, but full 10 Million dollar (RE: Target level) Ganassi.  Apparently that was discussed in 2009, and with the amount of domination out of the Red Cars, it would give Danica a major advantage on the ovals, especially the Indy 500.  If not Ganassi, then Panther, especially with the increase in funding she’d bring, would be a strong choice, especially as they should get closer to Ganassi in 2012.  If she’s there with JR, and they have the funding she would likely bring, then they could break into the upper ranks of the teams.

Go Daddy Really Does Seem Like “Pimp Daddy” with this ad.

I’m not someone who complains about the Danica Go-Daddy ads, but Danica really should consider a more “mainstream” sponsor.  And while most of the Go-Daddy ads aren’t that bad, the newest one really does make it seem like “Pimp Daddy.”   Also, is seems like her current management group is pushing the NASCAR move on her… may be time to re-evaluate them as well.

Danica will also need to take into account NASCAR’s sagging ratings compared to (hopefully) Indycar’s growth.  If the bottom continues to fall out of NASCAR (20% fall in ratings continue) and Indycar’s growing quickly, then a move over’s a huge mistake.  On the other hand, the move makes more sense (but still is a mistake) if NASCAR stabilizes and Indycar flat lines.  Also, if she were to win a Nationwide race, especially on talent, and not restrictor plates or fuel mileage, then that would change everything.  In that case, it would make a lot of sense to move to NASCAR, as she would have demonstrated that she has the talent to succeed, especially with a good team (Stewart Haas).  I’d still rather see her stay in Indycar… but if she proves she’s capable of winning in NASCAR, the decision becomes a lot more difficult.


How Does Danica Look in Red?

In the end, I believe Danica stays in Indycar and moves to Ganassi, full Ganassi, not just a satellite team.  Target would make sense with Danica, or she could find/bring a different sponsor.  It’s good for the series (most popular driver in good equipment), it’s good for her (potential to win) and it’s good for the team (more money).  Everyone wins.  And since Ganassi still has a decent Cup team (affiliated with RCR) she can continue the NASCAR experiment for a year, just in case she decides Indycar’s not worth it (though if she moves to Ganassi, she should focus on road racing, and thus the championship).  With the Grand Am program, she can even improve her road racing skill!  At the least, I think she stays in Indycar for 2012.  It’ll at least give her enough time to see which way the winds blowing, if Indycar’s growth continues or NASCAR’s fall gets worse.

Danica + Red Car= More wins = more successful Indycar Series

But at this point, I don’t see a move to NASCAR being successful.  I believe Danica can be a successful Indycar driver (needs to work on road racing skill) and can win the Indy 500.  Since in NASCAR there’s every reason to believe she’d be Sam Hornish/Scott Speed level bad…I’m predicting she stays with Indycar.    I truly believe a full time move to NASCAR, especially to Cup, could destroy her career (RE: Sam Hornish, Scott Speed).  As popular as she may be, running 30th 5 laps down will kill it pretty quickly, and there are other women drivers moving up the ranks in NASCAR, so interest in her there will wane if she doesn’t preform.  Remember while NASCAR will make her more money, she’s still making a lot of money in Indycar, and she’s it’s biggest star, which she won’t be in NASCAR.  Most people seem to expect her to get the quick money in NASCAR, but I expect her to stay in Indycar and upgrade her team, so that she has a better chance to be the first female winner of the Indy 500, and potentially, Champion.  With a Red Car, anything’s possible.

Team Meeting, Weekend in Review: Compare and Contrast Edition





  The biggest story of the weekend was Kyle Busch accomplishing the “triple” winning Trucks, Nationwide, and Cup in one weekend.  While this is impressive, to be honest, I’m not that excited by it.  After all, a title contender in Cup should be able to contend for and win races in the lower tier series!   As Ryan Newman winning the MODIFIED race… um… yeah… 

  In the Nationwide race, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch got into each other when Kyle Busch did a slide job pass and slid a little too much.  Busch, upset by this, wrecked Keselowski on the next turn, and admitted it after the race.  No fines or penalties were issued for either driver.  I don’t love seeing Busch turn Keselowski, but I wasn’t that upset about it.  Unlike at Gateway, this is a short track, and that stuff happens.  I mean, I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, that’s just how it is in short track stock car racing.  Not everyone does it, Mark Martin for example was very successful in ASA, but it does happen.  So I don’t really think NASCAR needed to do anything about it.  I also wouldn’t have blamed Keselowski from punching Busch in the face, either.  Fair’s fair, after all!  It was quite humorous in the Cup race to see Keselowski hold Busch up when getting lapped. 

  Great news from Brian Vickers, he says he will be healthy and able to race next year!  He also revealed that he had to have heart surgery as well, to repair some damage done by the clot.  Good news is, he’s been able to Mountain Bike and stuff, so he should be fine for NASCAR next year.  This does put some concern for Scott Speed, as Vickers is certain to get his ride back, and so either it’s 3 car or no more Speed, who might just get sent back to Nationwide or Trucks for a season, remember, Kasey’s only there for a year.  Or, they’ll go the 3 cars, which they kinda need to do anyways. 

  The shape of the Chase is looking a little clearer.  At the moment, Clint Bowyer has a 100 point lead on Jamie Macmurry.  If he still has that lead going into Richmond, he’s in good shape, but if he has a bad run at Atlanta in two weeks…

  This weekend is an off weekend for Cup, but Nationwide/Grand Am are running a double header up at Montreal; on the same track F1 used… talk about speed differences…



  So, about the “race”…. Infineyawn lived up to its name…   Very little passing, Will Power lead all but like 3 laps when he pitted and waited for Dixon to pit.  There was a little passing through the field, but mainly there was spearing since you couldn’t really pass.  Only turn 11 allowed even the option for a clean pass, and since Indycar runs a neutered short version of turn 11,well, it wasn’t much.  Simona had a decent qualifying run, making round 2, after struggling badly through practice.  Simona was involved in some contact with Matos and then got speared by Viso, but still managed to finish 13th.  The start was a typical Indycar clusterF*ck, which ended up with Dan Wheldon flipped over.  And, that was probably the highlight of the race…

  Danica Patrick and Takuma Sato had multiple run ends this weekend, including during practice and at the end of the race.  It sounds like they’ve got some sort of issue with each other, not sure if it started in the practice wreck or they’ve had earlier confrontations, but Sato’s run into almost everyone, so really, it’s nothing special for him to run into Danica.

  Sadly, the Red Cars dominated, with all 5 of them taking up the top 5 spots… seriously, remember in 2008 when non red cars used to regularly win or at the least podium on the road/street races??? 

  Milka Duno was awful, and spun and brought out a saftey car.  She’s on PROBATION but nothing’s happening to her!!! WTF!!!   Dracone is not doing himself any favors either! 

  Compare what we saw at Infineyawn to the ALMS race at Road America… in one,  it was another Red Car Parade, in the other, a team fought back after a late race pit stop under green and went from 4th to 1st, getting their team’s first win in the process. 

  Izod did a photo shoot with Playboy and the Izod girl, that was racing themed, that predictably caused a lot of controversy.  The place where I used to blog ( has set off a massive conversation on this.  This has gotten so blown out of proportion it’s embarrassing.  I commented on twitter when this first came out that Indycar’s desperate for sponsors on cars, so I don’t really care who’s doing the sponsoring, as long as they sponsor real drivers (IE: No Kevin Conway’s or Milka Duno)  But, the real point is, this was JUST AN IZOD THING!  PLAYBOY IS NOT SPONSORING A CAR OR DOING TRACK SIGNAGE OR PLANNING TO!  That said, we’re desperate for track signage, and we’re desperate for car sponsors, so really, Indycar CANNOT be banning anyone.  The ONLY thing I wouldn’t especially like to see is the LEAGUE signing them as a series sponsor.  If tracks or teams want to, or IZOD or Versus want to, that’s their business, do whatever you want.  And please, let’s just drop this subject, it looks RIDICULOUS because again THEY ARE NOT DOING ANY SPONSORSHIPS OR PLANNING TO AS FAR AS I OR ANYONE ELSE KNOWS AT THE MOMENT!!!

  Now here’s what should be causing people to freak out.  Cavin predicts a scheudale that’s only 16 races long, with only 7 ovals, 6 street courses, and 3 motorcycle/parade tracks.  No Chicagoland, no MIS, no Homestead, Kansas, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Road America, Sebring, Road Atlanta, or Clevleand.  Now, Cavin also says there may be one more race, which could be another SMI ovals (please…) Chicagoland (we can only hope) Road America (a good road race!) or the (rumored) Oklahoma City Street Course (NOOOO!!!!).  This is basically Champcar 2.0!  I mean, I get having a mix of road and oval racing, but you kinda need some good road courses to make that mix work!  Also, you’ve GOT to have at least 50-50 oval road, a 7-9 split isn’t good, especially when your road races include Edmonton, Mid Ohio, Barber, and Infineon!   Now, the positive news is the night before on the Indycar Trackside podcast, Cavin said they also might be able to save Chicagoland, and probably add Fontana.  That would be VERY good, if Vegas is also added, that would actually give us a 9-9 Oval/Road split, as well as 3 NEW ovals!  But, here’s what’s scary, IF the ISC meltdown occurs, and IF a deal at Vegas doesn’t happen, we’re down to 6 ovals…   If Indycar really does lose all the ISC tracks, they REALLY NEED to be at the SMI owned Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, whatever the attendance, because those might be good races, Gateway and Nashville wouldn’t be, Pocono’s not safe, and so that leaves those two and Milwaukee.  We don’t know what’s going to happen yet, we may learn soon, but I’m worried.  Champcar died once, we don’t need to see Indycar make the same mistakes…. Worse, Indycar people, including Randy Bernard, have mentioned China and Australia as a future possibility…. Viva La Champcar!

  Thank GOD Chicagoland and Kentucky are coming up next, temporarily we can forget Indycar’s problems in what SHOULD be two great races, we’re all DESPARATE for that!  Homestead could be good, could suck, it depends if we get the 08 race or the 09 one.  Motegi… well, the MotoGP should be good there… Indycar??? Yeah, not so much…

American Le Mans Series:

  The best race of the weekend!  The LMP race showed WHY non spec racing is so great.  The LMP1 based cars were faster, but didn’t corner as well as the LMP2 cars.  The racing was close, although there were some VERY long yellows.  The finish, with Drayson’s team staying out under the final yellow, running full out and gaining a decent lead, pitting and coming out in 4th, then working through an over 12 second gap to first, passing 3 other LMP’s, plus all the classes, and winning the race on the last lap!  That is what REAL road racing is about, not the horrific parades we saw at Infineon. 

  Corvette got a podium, but didn’t win, the GT win went to BMW.  The Intersport Lola LMP team sadly suffered a VERY early engine failure, and the Radical LMP car suffered a failure in practice and had to pull out. 

Editor’s Note:  Chris Bailey pointed out that I had the wrong person named!  I put Chris Drayson and it was Lord Paul Drayson that won.  Chris Dyson drives the Mazda powered LMP2 Lola based car. Switched their first names around… it’s been corrected.   

It’s worth remembering, this is Paul Drayson’s  first LMP win, and that’s against teams such as the Patron Hydcroft and Muscle Milk Cytosport team, both of which were run by two professional drivers, where as Drayson Racing has Paul Drayson, who’s an owner/driver and is much older than the drivers of those teams.  MMC’s team is also normally owner/driver, but the owner/driver was injured at Mid Ohio, and thus they brought in a second driver. 

  The 2011 schedule came out.  It has a TBD on Jul 3 and a TBA on September 3rd.  The September 3 TBA is CLEARLY Baltimore, run with Indycar.  The TBD is more interesting.  It could be the rumored Oklahoma City Street race.  It also might be Miller Motorsport Park, which is not on the 2011 schedule right now.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s VIR, Barber, Watkins Glen, or even IMS?  And, it could be a date that doesn’t come through, and they’ll end up with a 9 race schedule.  My HOPE is it’s Miller, my prediction is it’s either Miller, OK, or nonexistent. 

  Next up, Mosport! 


  Time for Spa and Monza!  

  The promoter from the Austin GP track appeared on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain.  I’ve heard many who say the race is going to happen, and many with the complete opposite opinion.  Until construction actually starts, I’m kinda skeptical.  If they’ve not done significant work this summer, I’m kinda concerned, although to be fair, they can do work in Texas in the winter.  They seem to have the State government behind them, and the F1 sponsors and manufactures want an American race VERY badly, so maybe they’ll put enough money into it.  Since it’s a Tilke Track, I REALLY DO NOT want to see Indycar, ALMS, MotoGP, WSBK, or NASCAR run there.  NASCAR’s least likely, sadly, I can see Indycar there, unless Bernie gets an exclusivity agreement, like he has at Interlagos which prevents Indycar from running there, and puts us out on a street course.  I suppose MotoGP, WSBK, AMA, or ALMS might put on a good race, after all, motorcycles and ALMS are fairly good at Mid Ohio, and Indycar’s awful there! 


  IndyGP time!  I’m working on a MotoGP for Dummies guide to the race, expect it either Wednesday or Thursday.   

  MotoMatters had an interesting article about the profits, cost, and reach of MotoGP.   


  Nothing happened that I can think of, they’re on a very long summer break.