Danica Patrick experiment needs some time

She must show progress week after week on Nationwide tour and ignore her finishes to succeed eventually in NASCAR

February 24, 2010

Some Danica Patrick haters felt redeemed after her 31st-place finish Saturday in Fontana, Calif.

That's a little ridiculous.

The experiment hasn't failed. It's just getting started.

Daytona was the easiest race Patrick will have this season and thus the perfect place for her to start. She better get used to ignoring her finishes and focus only on improvement. If she doesn't improve, go ahead and crow that she failed.

The process will take at least a year.

Reunion:Carl Edwards' Nationwide team got some good news this week.

Drew Blickensderfer is back on the pit box.

It's unlikely Blickensderfer is thrilled with the assignment. He spent last season as Matt Kenseth's Cup crew chief, leading him to a Daytona 500 victory.

Kenseth missed the Chase, though, and ultimately initiated the change.

"I didn't feel like the way we operated at Daytona that we could win races and win championships," Kenseth said. "It just felt like a change needed to be made. It's not really a Drew thing or a Drew and me not being able to work together well because we really did. But it was just the whole dynamic of the team."

Blickensderfer rejoins a team he helped lead to the brink of a Nationwide crown in 2008. Edwards finished second in that series that season as he did last season. Blickensderfer and Edwards were together for 19 races in 2008 and won seven races and two poles.

10 things learned this week:

1. Jimmie Johnson probably does have, as Kevin Harvick so eloquently put it, a "golden horseshoe stuck up his … " tailpipe. His victory Sunday won't be his last.

2. Denny Hamlin's preseason bravado was more than just talk. Until a late flat tire, he was up there with the leaders Sunday before finishing 29th.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has no plans for Twitter. Thank goodness. Best to keep a little mystique in the relationship between NASCAR's most popular driver and his fans.

4. The National Enquirer loves Earnhardt. He made his second appearance in four months on its Web site - this time with Patrick in a story that claimed a feud between the pair.

5. Former rookies of the year had good weekends. Joey Logano (2009) finished fifth Sunday and Regan Smith (2008) finished a respectable 19th with inferior equipment.

6. Jeff Gordon still is missing in action. He finished 26th at Daytona and 20th in California.

7. Scott Speed might have something to back up his big talk. Speed mocked Patrick after she wrecked in her first Nationwide race, prompting many to wonder what gave Speed the right - wrecking cars is something he does often. Well, he finished 11th on Sunday and has led in both races this season.

8. ESPN's ratings for Saturday's Nationwide race declined year over year. That's right, "The Danica Effect" didn't help. Of course, last year's race wasn't competing against the Olympics.

9. The Daytona 500 honeymoon is over. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing started on the pole in California with Jamie McMurray, but he finished 17th, and Juan Pablo Montoya finished 37th with an uncharacteristic engine failure.

10. Richard Petty Motorsports is having some trouble. Its best driver in the points standings is Paul Menard in 18th place.

- Tania Ganguli

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