Danica Patrick wasn’t going to sugarcoat it. No, she’s not close to breaking through and winning a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Patrick is sitting 29th in the standings with her best finish in six races being a 17th at Atlanta. She hasn’t had a top-five run in 160 career races.
“I’m not close. It’s not like I’m finishing second like Kyle Larson every weekend,” Patrick said inside her No. 10 Ford hauler last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. “Then are you close? Yeah, I’m close. But, no, I’m not. That’s frustrating.
“I know I can do it. I know that everyone around me is talented enough and I know that we have enough resources. It’s a matter of heart and soul.”
Even though Patrick hasn’t put up the results she would have liked to at this point in her stock car career, she has remained among the most popular drivers in the sport. Outside of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and possibly Jimmie Johnson, there isn’t a bigger name.
That’s why Texas Motor Speedway is promoting a Patrick bobblehead to boost attendance for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. The first 30,000 fans in attendance will receive the giveaway, part of the track’s bobblehead series for the season.
“Danica is gold. She is such a marketer’s dream,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “She’s so good for the sport. Women of all ages can identify with her and appreciate her. She’s a trailblazer.”
The collectible features Patrick’s dog, Dallas, by her side. Patrick’s boyfriend, fellow Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., named the dog out of his affection for the Lone Star State.
But Patrick shook her head when informed her miniature Siberian husky’s head didn’t bobble as hers did.
“I need Dallas to agree with me,” Patrick said, chuckling.
That didn’t stop the bobblehead from being inducted into the “Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum” in Milwaukee earlier this week. It becomes part of a collection of more than 5,000 bobbleheads.
But Patrick is more concerned about what happens on the track at this point in her career. She would love nothing more than to post better results, and Texas could be a track for that to happen.
The track repaved and re-profiled its racing surface this off-season, which means every driver is going in with a clean slate. That’s a good thing for Patrick.
Patrick, 35, has never finished better than 16th in nine Cup races at Texas. She had a pair of 16th-place runs in 2015. Patrick had success in the 2010 IndyCar race when she finished second to Ryan Briscoe.
“I’ve been good and bad on every track in the country,” Patrick said. “It doesn’t really have to do with me. It’s not about what I like – it’s just whether or not we’re having a good weekend. If I give good feedback, if we’re making good changes, then the car is fast.”
Nobody hopes Patrick is fast this Sunday more than Gossage. He, as well as anyone, understands the reach she has.
Texas is the track where Earnhardt Jr. won for the first time and it’d be a coup to add Patrick to that list.
“I have a great appreciation for her. I have become a huge fan,” Gossage said. “And let me say this, there’s close to 2,000 players under contract in the NFL and we think of them as very elite. There’s only 40 Cup drivers and she’s that elite. It’s just that it’s tough to be a winner and win frequently in this sport.
“Even though she hasn’t won a race yet, it doesn’t mean she’s lacking in any skills or talent. It’s just that it’s so darn hard to do it. So I’d love to see her win. I’d love to be the one who hands her a trophy in Victory Lane.”
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
12:30 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/Channel 4