Danica Patrick is content with how she’s being treated by other NASCAR drivers in her first full season in the Nationwide Series.
“For me, as my speed has come up and I’m racing further up the grid, I’m racing against different people now,” Patrick said. “You’ve got to earn the respect of the folks you’re driving around. It’s just a matter of finding the limits with each other and earning that respect.”
Patrick’s crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., has said the other drivers don’t respect her. Patrick spun out three times during last week’s Nationwide race at the Michigan International Speedway. She finished in 18th place.
In fact, Eury believes that jealousy and insecurity in the garage area have made other drivers treat Patrick differently compared to a typical rookie.
“Let’s be real,” Eury said. “With as much exposure as Danica has, her being a girl, those kind of things right there, people are like, ‘Why is she outrunning me?’ First of all, any short track in America, you get beat by a girl and you’re going to get ragged by your peers. That’s common knowledge. If LeBron James gets dunked by a damned girl off the women’s NBA, he’s going to get ragged on. I don’t care who you are. It’s a mentality. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just part of life.”
Eury said Patrick’s inexperience with the closeness and bumping of NASCAR racing is a liability. Her IndyCar driving just didn’t prepare her for NASCAR. Eury wants Patrick to turn the tables on other drivers and start spinning them out to gain respect.
“”You touch wheels in IndyCar, and you’re flying,” Eury said, “and we’re not trying to tell her she has to wreck everybody that she races. That’s not the intention here. The intention is to explain to her and get her into a progression of where everybody else is and how you race stock cars. When is a good time to move somebody, when is not a good time to move somebody? When it is not appropriate to race like that and when it is appropriate to race like that?”
Things may be different this weekend as Patrick races on a road course, not an oval, in the Nationwide Series race in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. She raced on the same track back in 2004 in a Formula Atlantic race. She placed fourth.
“I kind of get the feeling from a lot of drivers that came up through the stock car ranks that they don’t always love coming to road courses and that’s kind of how I felt in IndyCar going to all the road courses and now I’m kind of like, ‘Let’s do this,’” Patrick said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to do fantastic or anything but I’m a little more comfortable.”