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Is Danica Patrick a NASCAR Hall of Famer?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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Okay, this may seem like an obvious question to some, but, 6 years removed from her NASCAR career, it is a good time to analyze Danica Patrick. While her overall stats do not make her a Hall of Famer, has she made enough of an impact on the sport to be worthy of being a NASCAR Hall of Famer?

A Fair Look at Danica Patrick’s Racing Career

Now that her career is over, it is a good idea to take a fair, honest look at the entirety of Danica Patrick’s racing career. Well, one content creator, Elly Productions, has broken down Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career in a recent video entitled, “The Worst NASCAR Driver”.

Danica Patrick’s career was an interesting one. She honestly worked her way up through the ranks into IndyCar through raw talent. As EllyProductions points out, Patrick steadily improved each year she was in IndyCar from 2005 up until 2009. She became the first woman to win a race in 2008 at Twin Ring Motegi.

She had four top-10-points finishes, including a best of 5th in 2009. That year alone, she beat out top drivers such as Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon in the final season standings. However, when she came to NASCAR she could not find the same success.

As Elly points out, there were flashes of brilliance when she came to NASCAR. Between the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, she had 14 top-10 finishes. Her best finish was 4th in the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas in 2011, and she had a 6th place finish at Atlanta in the Cup Series in 2014. She also may have had the car to win at Montreal in the Xfinity Series in 2012, but, as Elly points out, a shoe got in the way.

The problem was those moments of good were incredibly rare. For the most part, she floundered as she struggled to get top-20 finishes for Stewart-Haas Racing. Meanwhile, her teammates were consistently competing for wins.

From 2013 until 2017, SHR won 22 races, and Kevin Harvick made the Championship 4 for the team three times. Kurt Busch resurrected his career, including winning the Daytona 500. When Aric Almirola took over for Danica’s ride in 2018, he immediately won a race and finished 5th in the standings.

She toiled in top equipment, and her results are nowhere near Hall of Fame caliber. However, her success in IndyCar does raise the question of how good she could have been if she committed to stock cars while younger. Maybe she would have gained some of that necessary stock car racing experience to go alongside her obvious raw talent.

Still, she was bad as a NASCAR driver on track. However, that does not tell the full story.

Her Impact on the Sport

Danica Patrick’s impact on NASCAR as a whole cannot be understated. She was not the first woman to race in NASCAR, but, she did things that no woman before her had ever done.

In the 2013 Daytona 500, she became the first woman ever to win a pole in any Cup Series race. She became the first woman to lead laps, and she posted the best finish any woman has had in the Daytona 500, 8th.

She tied for the best finish by a female in NASCAR’s modern era at Atlanta in 2014 with a 6th place finish. However, most of all, she ran 5 full-time seasons. Regardless of how well she performed, that is a major accomplishment.

NASCAR at one time did not allow women into the garage. Danica Patrick was in the garage and competing week-in and week-out for five years at the sports’ top level. There was a time that was unheard of.

She may not be credited as the pioneer who brought women into NASCAR, but, she did things that female drivers before her did not do. She followed the footsteps of female drivers before her and took it a step further by competing at the top level full-time and leading laps in the sport’s biggest race.

Is that enough for a Hall of Fame spot for Danica? Well, Janet Guthrie won the Landmark Award given out by the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year. Danica did things that Guthrie did not do, so, maybe some recognition could come to Danica down the line.

If she makes the Hall of Fame in some capacity, it will have to be because of her impact on the sport rather than her on-track performance. Is there a place for that?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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