There's not a chance
Stop dreaming. Not going to happen.
Winning the pole for the Daytona 500 is a nice bump for Danica Patrick on the NASCAR radar screen, but let's not get carried away with giddy expectations. Anybody from Fireball Roberts to Richard Petty can tell you that having a fast car at Daytona doesn't mean beans if you get caught up in those restrictor-plate bumper cars.
Moving forward from Daytona, Patrick is surrounded by excellent personnel and equipment at Stewart-Hass Racing, but as a rookie with limited Cup experience, she's in for a bumpy ride as she deals with the grind of a 36-race season.
My guess is that she would take a top-15 finish for the season and walk away happy.
Top 20 more likely
Top 10? Doubtful, although she should be competitive.
While there is no discounting her pole-position achievement at Daytona, that is one of two tracks (Talladega is the other) where NASCAR caps the cars' horsepower, causing them to stay bunched together and putting a premium on a driver's ability to draft with other cars.
Patrick already has shown she's comfortable on such high-banked speedways and adept at the pack racing there. She's also the beneficiary of stout race cars from Stewart-Haas Racing. But Patrick will face a tougher test at other tracks on NASCAR's grueling 36-race schedule.
As a Sprint Cup Series rookie, Patrick would do well to finish in the top 20 in points.
Anything is possible
Special to the Tribune
Why not? Danica Patrick's debut 2012 Sprint Cup series run was a disaster not necessarily of her making. In 10 races on NASCAR's top circuit, she was in several wrecks and finished no higher than 17th late last season at Phoenix. The 30-year-old veteran is better than that.
Among racing's most popular drivers, Patrick is also capable and experienced as she starts her fourth year of NASCAR racing. She was 10th overall with four top-10 finishes through a full 2012 Nationwide Series run and also owns an IndyCar title (2008 in Japan).
She'll compete in the full 2013 Sprint Cup slate and her historic Daytona 500 pole — the first female to claim a Sprint Cup pole and her personal best start position — could kick off a very good year.
She has team to do it
Danica Patrick has a good team, so why shouldn't she contend? In 2009 she finished fifth overall in the IndyCar season standings. But NASCAR is much, much different. There are many more races per season and you have to be consistent week in and week out. Has she proven she can be consistent for a full season? In looking at her career, I'm not sure that she has.
But she appears to be off to a good start in Sprint Cup. She finished in the top 10 (10th) last season in the Nationwide Series. Along with running a full-time Cup schedule, she will run a part-time Nationwide schedule. In addition to her sponsor obligations, that's a lot of racing. If she can concentrate enough on Sprint Cup, a top 10 is in reach.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun