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Danica Patrick now at a crossroads, as fourth fiddle at SHR in 2014

Aug 27, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

Danica Patrick has no plans to compete in this year's Indianapolis 500, but teammate Kurt Busch and fellow NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger still hope to. Getty Images

Stewart-Haas Racing’s newest driver for 2013 entered the NASCAR world as its media darling, its most discussed and highly scrutinized driver, and one of its most marketable stars.

A year later, and Danica Patrick will be reduced to a near afterthought in the SHR stable in 2014.

It’s been a fascinating evolution because for the first time in her career, she’s not the story, and that’s purely down to the results she and the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet team are or are not producing on the track.

Objectively speaking, she’s getting the right amount of attention now as the rest of her male counterparts who are consistently finishing races in the 25th to 30th place range on average – little at best.

That’s no knock on her. It was always going to be an uphill struggle in her first year and the results have been understandably difficult to procure in such a competitive field and with Patrick at a several-year disadvantage to her peers in this level of stock car racing. She has only five top-20 finishes in 24 starts this year, and six top-25 starts.

Patrick was brought into SHR as much as for her marketing ability as her driving ability, which is no secret to any casual or serious observer of the sport.

But for 2014, SHR has went out and acquired Kevin Harvick, a consistent champion-in-waiting who’s usually good for two or three wins a year and a Chase berth, and now, Kurt Busch, the 2004 champ who in his two years of “lower team purgatory” has outperformed his equipment and reminded everyone of his serious ability level.

Patrick’s name is rarely brought up on teleconferences, and there’s been a bunch of them in the last few weeks following Tony Stewart’s injuries. SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli and subsequent replacement drivers Max Papis, Austin Dillon and Mark Martin have been the focus, not Danica.

It seems that for the first time in her career, the Danica “brand” has not been able to overpower the Danica results. That will be even tougher next year; she’ll likely be able to improve in her second full year of Cup, but she’ll be measured against three of the best ever in her discipline. And that’s no easy task.

  1. rayburns - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    This could be a blessing in disguise for Danica. A year of flying ‘under the radar’ will give her the opportunity to hone her skills as a driver without the added burden of being DANICA the corporate icon and hope for the western world as well.

    Of course, she has to produce. #4 in a 4 car team is not the most comfortable of spots in NASCAR, and it might be interesting to see what drivers might become available in the next couple of years… start the silly season early.

    • intomidator - Dec 11, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      danica’s bread and butter is being an icon… it’s certainly not as a racer…

      had she not been an icon she would have never found a ride in nascar…

  2. puzzledmcgee - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    Looks like the same story as other drivers to me, as long as the sponsor is there, she is there, leave her alone. The pit crews are a lot more critical than drivers are. Stewart, Busch, and the other guy Ryan haven’t been balls of fire this year either.

  3. sportfan2 - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    You either have it or you don’t. She’s a driver buy never been a racer and never will be

  4. dan46778 - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    In two yrs she will be looking for a job n maybe out of sprit cup… To bad her name is bigger then the driver

  5. purplesectornet - Aug 29, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    The experience in a Cup car has got to help her though…would like to see her back in a sportscar now…just to see if she has better car control now…

  6. jorge31663 - Sep 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Her performance is poor – but the articles about her (like this one) outnumber those of other drivers – rivaling those of drivers who actually compete. The myth of her “first year” is maintained – she’s been in NASCAR since 2010 and had 10 Sprint starts last year. Her “brand” has always been about her personally – milking her one time performance at Indy and one time pole at Daytona as though they were wins,
    She is simply not competitive. She showed no special skills in indy and none in three NASCAR years. In fact, her performance is deteriorating.

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