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Instead of significant improvement, 2014 starting off the way 2013 ended for Danica Patrick

Mar 2, 2014, 7:26 PM EDT

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images Getty Images

Danica Patrick was supposed to have a much better season in 2014, her sophomore campaign on the Sprint Cup circuit.

But after the first two races, 2014 is starting to look a lot like 2013 for Patrick, unfortunately.

Patrick struggled to a 36th-place finish in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

While it was a slight improvement from her 40th-place showing (after being involved in a multi-car wreck) in the season-opening Daytona 500 last Sunday, it’s obviously not the kind of start Patrick, crew chief Tony Gibson and Stewart Haas Racing were likely hoping for.

Patrick, who finished 27th in the 2013 final season standings, is now 39th in the Sprint Cup rankings after the first two races, already 77 points behind points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“It’s tough,” Patrick said. “That’s two weeks in a row we’ve had good cars and nothing to show for it. The car was good all day, we just needed track position. I’m starting to think if we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. The GoDaddy guys built me a great car for the second week in a row. I hate it for them, and I hate it for GoDaddy. This is obviously an important race for them (GoDaddy is headquartered in Phoenix). Hopefully, things turn around in Las Vegas.”

Even though Patrick has lived in suburban Phoenix for the last few years, PIR has not been very welcoming to her.

Patrick now has four Sprint Cup starts at the flat one-mile track under her belt, the last three being finishes of 30th or worse.

She finished 17th in her first Cup race there in fall 2012, followed by 39th in spring 2013 (due to a crash), 33rd last fall 2013 (10 laps behind race winner Kevin Harvick) and now 36th (six laps behind the winning Harvick).

She was on pace for a possible top-10 showing in the fall 2012 race, but slammed into the wall on the final lap after being hit from behind by Jeff Burton.

And then as Patrick limped her damaged car down the frontstretch, she was hit from behind by Paul Menard after a big wreck as the checkered flag fell.

On a restart on Lap 171 in Sunday’s race, Patrick was headed into Turn 1 when she tangled with Justin Allgaier, causing her car to spin around against the outside retaining wall.

Both drivers were able to continue after quick damage repairs on pit road, but as she pulled away from her pit stall Patrick told Gibson over the team radio that she smelled smoke inside the car.

About a dozen laps later, Patrick went for a single-car spin and flat-spotted her left rear tire, requiring another visit to pit road.

Granted, we’re only two races into the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule, but Patrick isn’t the only driver having early season struggles. Kurt Busch left Phoenix 30th in the Sprint Cup standings, while Martin Truex Jr. (who started the Daytona 500 on the outside pole) left in 35th place.

Maybe the third race of the season in Las Vegas next Sunday will be the charm for Patrick.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. hardkor07mn - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    Go model a swimsuit or something. You don’t belong in a car!

  2. indycarseries500 - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    You got to give her some credit, she was moving up fairly steadily before the incident

    • penskefan - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:29 PM

      What race were you watching?

  3. buckeye044 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    she was so far back they didnt have a camera to show us how she wrecked.

  4. 950003cups - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    I’d rather watch her model a swimsuit than watch nascar at all.

  5. scott386 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    She proves Richard….And Kyle Petty right again this week…

  6. worknman24hours - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Danica does not have the luxury of sitting in mad pack for the entire race and then gunning it to the front for the win.

    She will have to fight right to the front or her entire NASCAR career will be like this.

    She’s got a gremlin following her at mid pack and she will have to outrun that thing.

    I just want to see Danica drive the g-d tires off that car.

    No more sitting at mid pack waiting for someone to knock her out.

    The strategy is drive it like you stole it until you steal a win, Danica.

    If the car ain’t fast enough,bitch ’em out until it is fast enough.

    It’s time for Little Bits to win some races.

  7. penskefan - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:29 PM

    I watched Danica in IndyCar for seven years and what you are seeing in NASCAR is exactly what occurred during her years in IndyCar. She plateaued early and never improved. When she moved to NASCAR they was a great sigh of relief among both drivers and car owners in IndyCar. With respect to NASCAR, five or six years from now she will be at the same plateau that she is now while announcers like Darrell Waltrip make excuses for her during races.

    • worknman24hours - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      I hope Danica proves you wrong but so far, it ain’t been promising.

      And you are spot on about the collective sigh of relief from the other teams and drivers when she left Indycar.

      It was like, hey look,we’ve been here all along winning races but you ( the media) didn’t even notice!

      Danica has a magnetic media personality which will secure her at least fifty or sixty million dollars in cash before she leaves racing for good.

      I just have to smile because Little Bits may not be winning racers but she’s definitely winning the race to the bank.

  8. penskefan - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    At least the sheet metal workers in Tony Stewart’s shop have guaranteed job security.

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