When Danica Patrick announced her retirement, it was newsworthy for a moment but was ultimately forgotten about within a matter of days. Patrick announced she would race in the Daytona 500 next season and finish her career at the Indy 500, but her full-time career as a driver ended at Homestead.
Patrick’s retirement was overshadowed by the end of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s career, Matt Kenseth’s retirement, and Martin Truex Jr.’s first championship. She didn’t have a big farewell at the NASCAR awards in Las Vegas, and her name hasn’t been mentioned as a Hall of Famer when she belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Danica Patrick deserves a better sendoff than she’s receiving from NASCAR.
Patrick leaves behind a tremendous legacy in NASCAR without ever winning a race. If you want to argue against her accomplishments on the track, fine. She has zero wins in the Cup Series and only seven top 10s in five seasons. She has zero top 5s. Her best finish for the season is 24th. None of that screams “Hall of Fame.”
But Patrick’s legacy can’t be limited simply to what she accomplished on the track. She paved the way for women to compete not just in NASCAR, but in motorsports in general.
Patrick is the first woman to ever win a pole in a Cup Series race, and she is the first woman to ever lead at Daytona. She’s one of 14 drivers to ever lead laps at both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.
She has been one of the most popular drivers in the sport, and she has opened the door for other female drivers to participate in NASCAR in the future.
It’s understandable why Dale Jr.’s farewell has been more significant. He’s been the most popular driver in the sport over the last 15 years, and he’s an icon in NASCAR. But Patrick’s retirement is a huge deal, and the NASCAR hasn’t done enough to recognize her.
It’s possible she receives a better farewell after the Daytona 500, and her appearance at the Indy 500 next year for her final race will be well publicized. She deserves more from NASCAR for the barriers she’s broken down over the last five years.