Harvick says Danica started stock car career at a disadvantage

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05: Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Nature's Bakery Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On February 18, in the 2018 Daytona 500, Danica Patrick will drive a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car for the 191st time.

It will also be the last.

Last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a tearful Patrick announced she would end her driving career with the “Danica Double”—final appearances in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.

Patrick confirmed on Monday she will drive the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet fielded by Premium Motorsports in her stock car swan song. Both the car number and sponsor harken to her NASCAR debut.

Patrick will leave stock car racing disappointed with a record that includes no victories or top fives and seven top 10s in her first 190 starts in NASCAR’s top series.

On the other hand, she will take with her the memory of a pole position for the 2013 running of the Great American Race and a career-best fourth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Las Vegas in 2011.

With her seven top 10s in the Monster Energy Series, Patrick is tied with Janet Guthrie for most ever by a female driver.

But former Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick reiterated on Tuesday during NASCAR Media Day hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway something he had expressed a few years earlier—that Patrick had begun her career in stock cars at a disadvantage to more experienced drivers and had little prospect of closing the gap.

“You know, this is a conversation that I had with her,” Harvick said. “I had 20 years on her when she started in a stock car. That is experience, and the things that come with that, you are never going to make up that ground. As long as I’m still racing, I’m going to be 20 years ahead regardless. I think it never is going to be easy to go from (IndyCars to NASCAR) if you are going to be at the top level of that sport for a long time because the cars are…

“I have never driven an IndyCar, but based on everything I’ve heard, the characteristics and how you drive them are 180-degrees different. It has been very hard for a lot of the open-wheel guys to come over here and drive these (3,300-pound) cars. It’s the total opposite of everything they have been taught their whole lives.

In Harvick’s opinion, the career path a driver chooses at an early age is a good predictor of performance in the respective disciplines.

“A lot of the kids we have coming up through our ranks now have been in stock cars since they were 12 or 13 years old,” said the 2014 series champion. “It’s much different. I think you have to pick a path. If you want to race open-wheel cars and do those things, it’s probably going to be carts and into an open wheel series.

“There are very few people that have been able to do them both. Tony Stewart and (Juan Pablo) Montoya have done it the best in my opinion. Might be somebody else I am missing. But there have been a lot that have tried.”

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