It’s interesting how many people are suggesting that Danica Patrick won’t be able to make the transition from Indy cars to stock cars and that, in fact, she’ll likely fall flat on her kisser.
Okay, perhaps all forms of car racing have become so sophisticated as compared to the "olden days" that it’s not all that easy. Maybe that explains why Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy and a bunch of others – most of whom are terrific racers – flunked their NASCAR tests.
But not that many years ago, racing drivers went from one kind of car to another all the time – and were successful at it, too.
Mario Andretti went from sprints and midgets to front-engine Indy cars to rear-engine Indy cars to stock cars and won races while driving all of them. People forget that Andretti won the Daytona 500 in 1967, two years after he was rookie-of-the-year at Indianapolis.
Jimmy Clark went from Formula One to Indy cars to stock cars (he was doing just fine driving through the field in a NASCAR race at Rockingham Motor Speedway in 1967 when he experienced engine trouble that sidelined him).
Janet Guthrie, who will be forever remembered as the first woman to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1977, qualified for what was then called the NASCAR World 600 on Memorial Day a year earlier, in 1976, and started in the top 15, sandwiched between a couple of guys named Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
A.J. Foyt? Show him a race car and he could drive it and win in it. One weekend years ago he ran a NASCAR race Saturday and then flew to California for a Formula 5000 race on Sunday.
More recently, Tony Stewart went from midgets and sprint cars and then adapted to rear-engine Indy cars like a duck does to water. And many of the stars of the Sprint Cup series today – Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears, to name a few – were open-wheel stars when they first attracted attention. They didn’t seem to have too much trouble adapting.
Jimmie Johnson, arguably the best stock car racer of his generation, got his start in off-road racing, as did Robby Gordon.
I could go on and on.
So what’s the big deal about Danica Patrick? All sorts of people have done this before, so why not her?