Danica deserves more credit

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:07 PM ET

MIAMI — Okay all you Danica Patrick haters out there in raceland, take a deep breath.

It says here that her performance at the IZOD IndyCar season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway Saturday in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 offered proof positive the girl deserves a whole lot more credit than she gets for her ability to drive a race car.

Patrick’s battle with veteran Tony Kanaan over the last 25 laps in that race was epic. What is of primary importance to know here is that Kanaan is one of the most skilled and intimidating open-wheel drivers anywhere in the world.

And not only did Patrick go wheel to wheel with him, she flat out gave him a beat down at his own bully-boy game.

Patrick’s own words describe the fight the pair put on as she attempted — lap after lap — to pass her Andretti Autosport teammate in the dying minutes of the race.

“We went high, he went high; we went higher, he went higher,” she said of the side-by-side action. “Then we went even higher.”

In seasons past such on-track fighting would have seen Patrick lose her concentration and her temper — thus her reputation as a pouty princess. But on this night she managed to keep focused on the job at hand.

The result was a second-place finish by a little over a hundreth of a second in front of Kanaan.

Had Kanaan moved over to let a clearly faster Patrick pass him 20, 10 or even five laps earlier, she just might have caught race winner Scott Dixon.

But we’ll never know because Kanaan didn’t want to get beat in front of his adopted home town fans. Suffice to say that his post-race apology to Patrick rings hollow, because in the end he got beaten anyway.

For Patrick, however, she has to take what she learned on Saturday to the NASCAR Nationwide series at California Speedway next weekend where she’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the Camping World.com 300.

Her dismal results in NASCAR thus far — not a single finish in the top 25 — can be blamed on her reluctance to bang fenders with the good ol’ boys.

However, after watching her rip Kanaan a new one at Homestead, Patrick has no excuses not to do the same to the stock car fellas.

Finish lines

Sad not to see Robbie Gordon in the No. 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota any more. He pretty much helped blaze the trail for the likes of Tony Stewart, Patrick Carpentier, Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya as open-wheel drivers moving to stock cars. Although he only infrequently displayed his enormous talents, his colourful personality did shine through in an era of squeaky-clean drivers at NASCAR’s top level ... The Miami Herald kindly estimated the crowd at the Indycar final at Homestead at 12,000 at the track that seats more than 60,000 for NASCAR. Standing along pit lane at the start of the race, these eyes put it at much less than even that. I have seen bigger crowds at Mosport’s half-mile oval on most summer Saturday nights ... Oakville, Ontario’s James Hinchcliffe deserved better that second place in the final championship standings in the Firestone Indy Lights championship. Being taken out on the first lap on the first race of the season created a hole too deep to crawl out of for the 23-year-old.


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