Danica Is Having A Better Season Than You Think

Danica Patrick opened the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season by winning the pole in the Daytona 500 and finishing eighth in the biggest race of the season. By all accounts, it was a great start.

Since then, though, Patrick has struggled mightily to come to grips with her Sprint Cup car. She hasn’t posted a single top 10 in her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet since Daytona and usually finishes in the back half of the field.

While it’s tempting to dismiss Patrick as a mere marketing gimmick – hello, Kyle Petty! – if you look at the numbers, they paint a very interesting picture. Coming into Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Patrick has a career total of 34 Sprint Cup starts with an average finish of 26.6.

Sure, her average finish isn’t great.

But when you compare it to the rookie seasons of other drivers who have moved to NASCAR from major open-wheel and sports-car series, suddenly, Patrick’s numbers don’t look bad. In fact, only Juan Pablo Montoya had a substantially better rookie season in Sprint Cup than Patrick did.

Here are the stats:

DANICA PATRICK, NASCAR Sprint Cup career to date – 34 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10, average finish, 26.6.

ANDY LALLY (2011) – 30 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 tops 10s, average finish, 30.8.

SCOTT SPEED (2009) – 35 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10, average finish, 29.0.

SAM HORNISH JR. (2008) – 34 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 tops 10s, average finish, 29.6.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (2008) – 10 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 tops 10s, average finish, 34.3.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA(2007) – 36 starts, 1 victory, 3 top fives 6 top 10s, average finish, 22.7.

AJ ALLMENDINGER (2007) – 17 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 tops 10s, average finish, 31.6.

CASEY MEARS (2003) – 36 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 tops 10s, average finish, 30.0.