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Patrick Couldn’t Start In ARCA, Despite Need

[1]Danica Patrick will drive a JR Motorsports Chevy in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at Dover International Speedway to prepare for the Dover 200 Nationwide Series race. The hope is that the experience on the track in the Pro Series will help her learn things that will help her in the Nationwide Series race.

When she entered the media center, she indicated that she wasn’t sure of her Pro Series car number.

Jeff Gluck [2], NASCAR writer for SB Nation, tweeted:

Danica is here. OMG OMG OMG. First thing she said: She didn’t know what number her car was in the Pro Series race and had to find out.

A few people criticized Gluck as a result of his tweet, which caused Gluck to tweet:

Can you guys just be realistic for a second? Danica doesn’t belong in Nationwide yet. She should have done [the] ARCA [REMAX Series]. … To use a baseball analogy: Danica is an A-level stock car talent competing at the AAA level. Just [because] of her name.

Gluck is absolutely right. Patrick should have started in ARCA, cutting her teeth in a lower series, gaining valuable seat time in a car with which she was unfamiliar. She would have learned more about handling a stock car, and how different setups affect the lines you run.

Back in June of last year, I wrote [3]:

I think that if she decides to move into NASCAR, she should go through the ARCA series. There, she can cut her teeth in stock car racing, and get familiar with the skills and terminology it takes to be successful.  She needs to learn how to muscle one of these stock cars around a track. … She also needs to get seat time at NASCAR sanctioned tracks.

But, the problem was, and still is, that Patrick’s name and marketability make her too big for the ARCA Series. Sponsors are the driving force of NASCAR. Without sponsorship, teams would not be able to field cars so they go to great lengths to meet a sponsor’s demands. And, sponsors want to capitalize on name recognition right now.

We’ve seen unproven drivers move up to NASCAR’s top series because they have sponsorship backing. We’ve also seen talented drivers get kicked out of rides because they don’t have sponsorship. That’s the nature of this sport, and it will continue to be.

Having Patrick run in the ARCA Series does benefit her, but it doesn’t do much for GoDaddy.com. They don’t see a large immediate return on their investment, and they don’t get as much media exposure through Patrick. (When was the last time you saw ARCA Series coverage on ESPN?) So, why would they agree to have her start there? What do they gain from it? (I’m not talking about Patrick, I’m talking about GoDaddy.com)

To GoDaddy.com, seeing Patrick run in the 30s in Nationwide Series gains much more exposure than Patrick running well in the ARCA Series. And that’s why, despite the benefits for Patrick as a race car driver, she didn’t start in the ARCA Series.