Danica Patrick enduring tough season – in NASCAR and IndyCar

Dear Danica,

I know it’s been quite some time since I’ve written you, but I’ve moved and taken a new job and you know, all those things kind of keep you busy and time just seems to slip away.

I’m doing fine. The wife and kids are enjoying my being home more often. All those weekends on the road had become a bit of a drag on the family, so you can imagine how great things are now that I get to spend more time at home.

And you? It looks like you’re having a tough year. I watched the IndyCar race from Sonoma last weekend and it appears as though you just weren’t that competitive. You finished 16th. Did Simona DeSilvestro finish ahead of you again? I guess it’s been that way all year. You’re having the worst year of your IndyCar career — only five top-10 finishes in 13 races so far. You did have a great night in Texas back in June when you finished second, but overall, I guess you could say you’ve had a really lousy season.

What’s the problem? It might be that the Andretti Autosport cars aren’t that good to begin with. I look at how your teammates Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay are doing and while Hunter-Reay might have won at Long Beach, the rest of the season has been pretty mediocre for the lot of you. Have you talked to team owner Michael Andretti about that? Does he know how competitive you are? Does he know how frustrated you can get when you’ve got a bad race car underneath you that doesn’t let you drive that way you want to? Maybe things will get better as the series turns to the final four races, which are all ovals.

What’s going on with your NASCAR deal? I’ve been watching the Nationwide Series races you’ve been in. I guess you’re not doing too badly, considering you’ve only raced six times. You did pretty well at Chicagoland in July. Finished 24th there and you were only two laps down to the leaders. That was your best result this season. Good for you!

I’ll bet you’re taking a lot of heat from the press about your NASCAR career, especially since you’re driving some of the best equipment in the Nationwide series, a veteran crew chief in Tony Eury Jr. and you’re still not doing better than run mid-pack and finishing laps down to the leader.

Is NASCAR racing that tough? Did you underestimate how hard it was going to be? Or were there unrealistic expectations by everyone on how quickly you’d be able to adapt to driving a much heavier race car than you’ve been used to driving? I’ll bet you wish you could get more seat time than you get in a stock car.

I’m convinced that you’re a true oval racer and it shows from your history on ovals in an IndyCar. I mean, that’s where you scored your first IndyCar win, on the oval in Japan a couple of years ago, and those tracks are where you’ve had your best finishes. So, you can see why I’ve always thought that by making the move to stock cars, where the racing is predominantly on ovals, you’d do very well. I’m still convinced that once you understand the subtleties of stock car racing, you’ll show them you can get it done and those top-10 finishes will come rolling in.

Now, you know I’ve not always been a big fan of yours. Especially those times when I disagreed with all the marketing campaigns you’re involved with, especially those goofy GoDaddy.com commercials. And those bathing suit photo spreads in the men’s magazines – while I admit you do look exceptionally good in them – I still question whether or not it’s something good for your image as a professional race car driver.

Maybe after your NASCAR career takes off, people will stop seeing you as just a hot chick that likes to drive race cars and see you more as a serious professional. Keep that in mind, will you? Especially when you’re asked to do something really stupid and demeaning that involves using your sex to sell something other than your racing skills.

So, speaking of NASCAR, what is your game plan for 2011? I know you’re in your final year with Andretti Autosport. The other day I heard Kelley Earnhardt at JR Motorsports talk about how she’s working to put together a program for you in the Nationwide Series. The people at JRM are pretty smart. They’ve not rushed you into a full season of racing your first year out and they understand you’re just getting started in stock cars. I heard you talk to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and that he has helped you a lot. Do you talk to the team’s other driver, Aric Almirola, who will drive full time for the group in 2011? He’s really talented and can probably help you out.

What about IndyCars? I guess your time with Andretti has been a mixed bag of good years and a bad one – this one. Are you still interested in driving IndyCars full time? Or are you more focused on NASCAR now? To be honest, the Indy 500 has always been where I’ve seen your most consistent performances and you did almost win that race in 2005.

Anyway, I guess you’ve still got time to decide what to do about next year. If you ask me though, I think you should focus more on NASCAR and drop the whole IndyCar thing, except for the Indy 500. That’s the only race that really matters, isn’t it?

It’s tough to make the transition from IndyCars to stock cars and to be honest, only a couple of drivers have done it successfully – Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya. Even Sam Hornish Jr. has struggled and I’m not convinced he’ll ever “get” stock cars.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I say this, but you’re no Tony Stewart or Juan Pablo Montoya, so maybe you should stop this “switch-hitter” thing you’re doing right now. You know, racing both IndyCars and stock cars. Even Montoya says it’s crazy to try and do both in the same season, and he’s an Indy 500 winner and a CART champion.

Almost forgot to ask you about Formula One. Did you see that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone now says that you’d make a great addition to the grid? It’s obvious that he’s changed his mind about you since 2005 when he said that “women should be dressed in white like all domestic appliances” in reference to your fourth-place finish at Indy that year. Now he’s saying that having you in an F1 car would be a perfect advertisement for the F1 race in Austin in 2012. Imagine that!

I’d stay away from Ecclestone and his crowd. They’re known for eating their young, if you know what I mean. And besides, by 2012, I expect you’ll be racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Or might I see you in a Cup car for the 2011 Daytona 500? I’m hearing rumors…

Stay in touch. Good luck this Saturday night in your Indy Car at Chicagoland. And I’ll see you at Dover next month for the Nationwide race.

Your friend,

Bob