20 February 2012

What to expect from Danica Patrick at the Daytona 500

This Sunday, thanks to a complicated owner points deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing that guaranteed her a spot, Danica Patrick will join Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson as the only females to start the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. We do not know yet where she will start yet, that will be determined by the Gatorade Duels on Thursday afternoon all as part of the unique qualifying rules for the 500, but what should we expect from her this Sunday?

Anybody who expects Patrick to win on Sunday is out of their minds. Even with the surprising win of Trevor Bayne last year, who was kinda like NASCAR's version of Jeremy Lin, as well as the unpredictable nature of restrictor plate racing, betting on a victory by her is very unrealistic.

But expecting a solid, which has a variety of definitions, run from her is not crazy at all. We could go one about Patrick's talent levels and all, she showed some flashes on the plate tracks last year in the Nationwide Series with a 14th and and a 10th place finish as well as a combined fourteen laps led. She showed good drafting ability and ran towards the front for much of both Daytona races.

She also will be running in very good equipment, Stewart-Haas Racing gets equipment and engines from Hendrick Motorsports and those Chevy's always run very strong at the plate tracks, so she has the car that has the ability to run up front. And as we always note with the plate tracks, teamwork is vital and she is teammates with two excellent plate racers in Tony Stewart (three Daytona victories, all in the July race) and Ryan Newman (2008 Daytona 500 champion).

We will be able to tell how well she runs on Sunday partially by how she does in her Duel race on Thursday afternoon. If she runs near the front and gains the trust of other drivers in the draft, expect a good result on Sunday. If she is a mess and gets in a wreck, hedge your bets a little. If you put a gun to my head right now, though, I'd bet on a top 20 finish.

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