Akouris: Danica hype? Daugherty not too hyper
NASCAR analyst Brad Daugherty can weigh in on just about any topic.
On former North Carolina teammate Michael Jordan’s new venture, the Charlotte Bobcats? “I told him, ‘You guys are terrible,’ ” Daugherty said with a laugh.
On who is the Michael Jordan of NASCAR? “Jimmie Johnson. He’s remarkable and has the best of everything. You’d better beat the No. 48.”
On the NFL? “It slaughters everything.”
And on Roscoe, Ill., native Danica Patrick? “She needs to run more Nationwide races.”
Daugherty and I chatted at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet during the Speedway’s recent Rally, Rock and Roll Weekend. Daugherty and I spoke for about a half-hour on basketball, Jordan, golf and especially NASCAR.
The former NBA No. 1 draft pick spent his entire eight-year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but at the same time he also owned a Nationwide (then-Busch) series race team in the mid-1980s and then a Camping World Truck Series team. Daugherty is an ESPN racing analyst and also is co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing.
Our discussion veered toward Patrick after we discussed Johnson’s dominance in the sport and his five-consecutive Sprint Cup championships, which no one may ever equal.
It was quite a contrast: Johnson, the most successful NASCAR driver in history, and Patrick, who is the most-marketed and hyped NASCAR driver in history.
“I don’t buy into the hype,” Daugherty said. “I think Danica has a ton of potential. But I hate having the hype forced down my throat and having to react to that. It’s not what I’m about and it’s not the way I look at things.”
This is Patrick’s first full-time Sprint Cup season, racing the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Through 19 races (entering the weekend), Patrick has one top-10 finish (eighth in the Daytona 500), has one pole (also at Daytona) and is 27th in the points standings.
But she also has three DNFs in which her race day ended early with a crash.
And her Nationwide stats aren’t that much better. She competed in just two races this year, at Daytona and Talladega (Ala.), and didn’t finish either one. Patrick had a blown engine at Daytona and a crash at Talladega.
The hometown girl is coming back to Joliet in September for the tripleheader race weekend, where she will be driving in the Geico 400 on Sept. 15. It’s the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Daugherty hopes Patrick gets better by then.
“I saw a race car driver who came over from open-wheel, who has some ability that needed seat time in a 3,400-pound race car that doesn’t turn, has terrible downforce,” Daugherty said. “But I do see a talented young driver who, if she spent, two or three solid years driving a really good Nationwide car, not only would she have gotten better but she would have won races.”
Daugherty thinks Patrick made the jump to Sprint Cup way too early after running strictly in the Nationwide series for just three years, the last of which was full-time.
“These are the best race car drivers in the world,” Daugherty said. “Those guys who drive the Sprint Cup cars are unbelievable. Those cars don’t want to change directions or make the corner and they’re running at 200 miles an hour.
“I think she did herself a disservice by not getting herself more time in that Nationwide car. I’m sure there were pressures with money and sponsorships, because it’s huge for the sponsors and the sport and Stewart-Haas Racing. But it’s bad for Danica.”