The AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway Sunday had a lot of great racing and storylines. Jimmie Johnson won his eighth career race at Dover, giving him the all-time record at the facility. Dale Earnhardt Jr finished second and had one of his best races at Hendrick Motorsports. The points in the Chase for the Sprint Cup got a lot closer due to Johnson's win and a late race pit road mistake by Matt Kenseth's team.
However one of the more remarkable stories of Sunday's AAA 400 was that of Danica Patrick. Patrick, who is still in her rookie season at Stewart-Haas Racing, finished an embarrassing six laps down in the 29th position and was only on the lead lap for 30 laps Sunday.
Keep in mind Patrick is running a chassis and engine that is built by Hendrick Motorsports, who finished first and second in Sunday's race. If Patrick's struggles were just at Dover it wouldn't be alarming since it is a tough track.
However, Patrick has been downright terrible in 2013. She currently sits 29th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings behind drivers like Casey Mears and David Ragan who are with teams that are far less superior than Stewart-Haas Racing. She also sits behind drivers Jeff Burton and Juan Pablo Montoya who seem to be leaving NASCAR at the end of the season and are considered by experts as having a "bad season."
If Montoya, who is with the less superior Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, and Burton, who is with Richard Childress Racing, a company that hasn't won a Sprint Cup Series Championship since 1994, are having "bad seasons" what does that say for Danica Patrick who is driving for a team two years removed from a championship with Tony Stewart.
I understand it's her rookie season but something has got to give. Fellow Rookie of the Year companion Ricky Stenhouse Jr is also in his rookie season. Stenhouse sits 19th in the points, a far more respectable points position than that of Patrick.
Yet the publicity Danica Patrick gets for 29th in the standings is mind-boggling. That's why you didn't hear about how poor her run at Dover was. It was obvious to anyone who watched the race Sunday just how slow Patrick was. Six laps down in the era of wave around and common debris cautions is really hard to do. Especially for someone who is driving for a team the caliber of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Remember those ten races she ran last season? When all the people were saying she would be better off with those ten races because she would learn the tracks in the Sprint Cup Series? Well obviously not. In 28 starts in 2013 Patrick has just one top ten finish, six top 20 finishes and just 11 top 25 finishes. Compare that to the likes of David Ragan who has 15 top 25 finishes and you're left scratching your head as to what is happening with that #10 Chevrolet.
The improvement has been very very minimal if any for Patrick so far through the 2013 season. She is still running with drivers and teams that operate with almost 1/3rd of the budget GoDaddy.com pays for her to be a part of Stewart-Haas Racing.
You have to wonder when or if it will ever get better for Patrick. New talent and fresher faces are coming into the Sprint Cup Series next season who are poised to win races and championships in years to come. Patrick doesn't fit into that boat and if things don't change drastically in 2014, you have to wonder how long Patrick will be a part of the Sprint Cup Series.
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