Before the race, and the rain delay, and the fire, Danica Patrick was the big story in Daytona. She was making her Sprint Cup debut in the series' biggest race. And it didn't go well. She was involved in an accident on Lap 2, which also collected 5 time series Champion Jimmie Johnson and last year's 500 winner Trevor Bayne. Danica's crew patched her car up and she finished a few dozen laps behind the leaders in 38th place.
She was obviously disappointed with the result, but seemed happy for the 138 laps of experience behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car. She was happy to learn.
And that's the problem. That's why she struggled in the Nationwide Series last year. She's trying to learn how to do it before she does it. And that's not how racing works.
You think when Dale Earnhardt Sr. took his first green flags he was thinking about learning? No. How about Tony Stewart? Kyle Busch? Jeff Gordon? These guys got into their cars, drove as hard and as fast as possible. How else can you know how hard you can push a car until you've pushed it too hard?
You don't learn by not making mistakes. You learn by making them. And she's trying too hard to avoid them.
She needs to remember how to forget to think. Just drive. Racing drivers are missing that certain part of the brain that thinks about the bad things that might happen in a racecar. I'm not questioning Danica's bravery. She's much braver than I to sit in a tub of metal and go 220 MPH. She's not afraid of the danger, she's afraid of not doing well. I think she's so concerned with not being bad that she's preventing herself from being good.
She has the skill set. And she doesn't make the rookie mistakes you'd expect a newcomer to stock car racing would make. But there's no aggressiveness, no assertiveness, no coloring outside the lines. She's like a baseball player that doesn't swing because they're afraid to strike out.
I don't think it's a gender thing. I've seen female drivers with less skills than Danica, but also more conviction. You don't need balls in your pants to have them on the track. She just needs to stop thinking about being a good driver and just drive. She needs to stop being so cautious.
After all, "caution" is a bad word in racing.