A fellow motorsports writer, Steven Cole Smith at Motorsport.com, recently wrote that Danica Patrick has earned an eventual induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Admittedly, that’s not something I ever considered, but since Smith made his statement, I decided to ponder it.
I’m sure there are probably a lot of people scratching their heads and asking, “WTF?” This is a driver who hasn’t won at the national level, at least not yet. And I’m not going to get into a debate right now over whether or not she ever will.
In his piece on Motorsport.com, Smith points to the fact that Patrick is a trailblazer as his reasoning for considering her Hall of Fame worthy. Trailblazing is what got Wendell Scott into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Scott only posted one career win at NASCAR’s top level, but that single win was the first, and to this point only, victory for an African-American driver at NASCAR’s top level.
“I’m not remotely saying that her situation mirrors the struggle of Hall of Famer Wendell Scott faced as the first black driver to make a living in NASCAR, but there are similarities,” Smith wrote in his opinion piece.
No, Patrick’s not the first female to compete in NASCAR’s upper ranks, but to this point, she’s been the most successful. She was the first driver to claim the pole for the Daytona 500 a few years back. She also owns claims as the highest-finishing woman in a NASCAR Cup-level race and the highest finish for a woman in the Daytona 500. Okay, there isn’t a large number of women who have completed in NASCAR’s biggest race and there hasn’t been an overwhelming number of female drivers competing at NASCAR’s top level, overall. Even fewer have competed regularly.
But, how many African-American drivers have there been in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series over the years? I’m thinking that number is fewer than the number of women.
Again, the topic of Patrick in the Hall of Fame isn’t a subject I’ve ever pondered before, but it does make sense that if Scott was considered for his trailblazing in the sport, why would it be unfathomable to think of Patrick as a trailblazer for women in the sport?
Of course, the arguement could probably be made that it was so much harder for an African-American man in the 1960s to compete than it is for a woman to compete today. I get that, and I acknowledge that. But does that make Patrick any less a trailblazer?
George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel is among those speaking up for the other side of the fence. Points he makes is that Patrick remains in the sport because of savvy marketing. He also points to Janet Guthrie as a bigger trailblazer for the female camp.
I’m not sure about this one. I don’t really have a stance one way or another. I actually can see both sides. It’s just something to ponder. What do you think? Take an online poll, here.