Patrick needs Nationwide experience
October 27, 2012
Happy Nevada Day to one and all.
If you go downtown to watch the parade today, come by and say hello. I’ll be on the announcing stand at Fourth Street, across from the Legislature building.
Although I have been a Danica Patrick fan since she arrived on the national racing scene, I’m beginning to think that she should probably spend another season in the Nationwide series before going full-time in Sprint Cup. Last Sunday at Kansas she showed poor judgment and even poorer technique in retaliating for a bump by Landon Casill. As Casill himself said on the radio, she needs to learn how to wreck somebody without wrecking herself. And she did it the day after one of her best Nationwide runs to date on Saturday, contending for the win and getting a top-10 finish.
NASCAR’s top series is not easy for drivers from other disciplines to master. Witness open-wheel stars like three-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, Formula 1 champ Jacques Villeneuve, and other talented open-wheel drivers like Scott Pruett and Alex Tagliani, who have not had great luck in Cup. Even former IndyCar star Sam Hornish still struggles after several years in NASCAR, and A.J. Allmendinger has yet to take his first NASCAR checkered flag. On the other hand, drivers who come up through midgets and sprint cars seem to catch on much better. Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Tony Stewart (who can drive anything) are all examples. I think Danica has the potential to be competitive in Cup, but another year of seasoning in the second-tier Nationwide series would probably prepare her better to run with the big dogs.
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As the season winds down, all three of NASCAR’s top series championships are very much in doubt. Brad Keselowski still holds a slim seven-point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase, but he will start 32nd in tomorrow’s race at Martinsville while Johnson is on the pole. In all likelihood, we will see a change in the points lead when the checker falls on that race. Denny Hamlin is third, 20 points behind Keselowski, and Clint Bowyer is still in the hunt in fourth, 25 points in arrears, and Kasey Kahne a long shot 30 points back. Elliott Sadler holds a six-point lead in the Nationwide standings with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in second and Austin Dillon third, 26 points behind. In the Camping World Truck series, Ty Dillon holds a one-point lead over James Buescher with Timothy Peters 26 points behind in third and Parker Kligerman still alive, 30 points in arrears.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans can rejoice, as Junior is back in the 88 Chevy after sitting out two races due to the effects of two concussions. Regan Smith is on the sidelines after subbing for Junior, with A.J. Allmendinger driving the No. 51 car again this weekend.
The Formula One circus is in India this week, and Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel is in the points lead after three consecutive race wins. He is going for his third championship in a row, and at this point it looks like only Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has a realistic chance of stopping him. Vettel was fastest in Friday practice, and if he doesn’t get the pole he’s almost sure to start from the first two rows.
Sadly, this will be the last season that Formula One will be broadcast by SPEED, with my favorite commentary team comprised of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett. They were outbid by NBC and the NBC Sports Network for the rights to broadcast F1 in 2013 and beyond. Four races will air on NBC, with the rest to be televised on NBC Sports, which also broadcasts most IndyCar races. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, other than the fact that “a significant financial commitment” was made. And I’ll bet a significant portion of that ended up in Bernie Ecclestone’s pocket.