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DanicaMania, Round Six? Since Daytona in February, things haven't gone that well. Now Chicago....

 Uh, think this thing has gone a little too far? (Photo: Danicaracingstore.com)


   By Mike Mulhern

   JOLIET, Ill.
   Can Lady Gaga can sing the National Anthem?
   Does she do NASCAR?
   Think she might be interested?
   Could be some curious synergy here. Demographics and all that jazz.
   If concert touring artists this summer are running out of steam, even cancelling events, maybe some of them should start thinking NASCAR.
   Where else can you find an instant audience of 100,000 or so?
   Which brings us to Danica Patrick...
   And, perhaps surprising, perhaps not, there is no DanicaMania here....not after that Loudon-NASCAR flop, and a disappointing Watkins Glen-Indy-car 20th.
   Is DanicaMania finally running out of steam?
   Danica Patrick is still somewhat the center of attention here, not as much so as earlier this season, given her lack of success in NASCAR. And that's drawing attention from Cup regulars, of course.
   Patrick's run-in with Morgan Shepherd two weeks ago at Loudon, N.H., didn't set well with her. She finished 30th, five laps down, diminishing most of the PR punch she's been expected to provide here. Friday night here she did much better; she finished 24th, two laps down....and just ahead of Shepherd. (Kyle Busch won.)

   First this, Danica Patrick (7) leading Morgan Shepherd (89) at Loudon....then this....(Photos: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Kurt Busch: "Once she commits full-time to NASCAR, she'll have a better understanding of the flow and the feel. Not just with the schedule, not just the race car, but everything that has to happen. 
    "It's just not jumping in the car and wheeling it. 
    "You have to handle all the different areas -- sponsor appearances, media requests...and time with the team. 
    "Right now she's very limited because she's still committed to the IRL schedule. 
    "We'll have to wait and see the final product...when she decides what road she's going to go down. 
     "She'll probably have a one-hour ESPN prime-time special when she wants to announce it."
    That of course is a jab at LeBron James' prime-time special on ESPN Thursday night to announce his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami...on a show in which James got his personal pick of reporters and sponsors, for which the network is drawing some criticism.

    Kurt Busch: Just one of several NASCAR regulars who say Danica Patrick needs to make a decision: NASCAR or Indy-cars. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     Patrick's very credibility is at stake in this, and it's unclear if she sees that.
     NASCAR drivers say Patrick has to pick one or the other, NASCAR or Indy-cars, if she wants to improve.
     And if she wants to learn NASCAR, not just play at NASCAR, she may need total immersion, like Juan Pablo Montoya did it, and Sam Hornish.
    "If you want to be really good at anything, you have to centralize your focus," Patrick concedes. "But at this point in time I have a tremendous amount to learn....
   "Even if this were fulltime, would it be going better? Maybe.
   "But it wouldn't be some big dramatic difference.
   "It's really about getting this base of knowledge; that's the hardest part.
   "We're going to the schedule like this for this year and next year, and then we'll assess where we're at, and what we want to do in the future. And maybe it will be more of both, or maybe it will be one, or maybe it will be the other. I'm really not sure.
   "I've been fortunate in my career that what I've wanted to do has been available for me.
   "This year I really wanted to run both...and just check it (NASCAR) out, and see how it went. Get my feet wet, and play around, and see where that goes."

  Time to chose? This, or this (Photos: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Just a little bit.
   Maybe a lot more than she anticipated.
   Now is she having second thoughts perhaps?
   "In the Indy-car I general know everything everywhere we go...but in these, you've got truck arms and chains, so much stuff you don't even have in Indy-cars," she says.
   Some of the technical aspects of stock cars, she admits, "are over my head at this point.
   "I'm just learning as I go. I don't think it's anything you can learn and digest in just a month or two.
   "It just takes time.
     "I've been trying to get into iRacing (http://www.iracing.com/ ) a little bit. I was over at Junior's house the other day, on it, and 'ran' Chicago in a Truck....and basically spun out on the straight the whole time."
    Her assessment of her NASCAR adventures so far?
   "I think it's okay....I'm not lighting the world on fire...but it's hard," she says. "I was happy with the first ARCA race (at Daytona). And I was just starting to get the hang of it in the Daytona Nationwide race. And I thought Las Vegas (after her dismal California run) was pretty decent; if I'd stayed in the race, I think I would have been top-10.
   "I still have a lot to learn. I don't want to make excuses -- it's hard.
   "And it's hard to be learning while people are watching. But I'm lucky people are watching."
    Busch has a very good understanding of the whole deal, because his own teammate Sam Hornish Jr., won three IRL championships before moving to NASCAR, and he's struggled here, before finally starting to hit stride this season.


     Ooooookay......(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Busch says of Patrick: "It's the expectation level...
   "When she comes over and races with us in NASCAR, I giggle at that.  It's only Nationwide; it's not the big show.  You have to be in the big show if you want to race with the big guys. 
    "Eventually she'll cross over and try to race with the big guys...and there will be that big expectation.
    "And yet she doesn't have the timeline to help put it all together.
   "...where Sam Hornish does have it. He's been able to switch over.
     "He conquered all the things he wanted to do in IRL.  He's had a nice, easy transition, flying under the radar."
    With actually relatively low expectations, compared to Patrick. 
    "For Danica," Busch says, "it's the Daytona 500 every weekend that she shows up, as far as media and attention. And it can wear on you. 
     "You're just trying to work on the race car, (but) you have to do a lot of other stuff. You get pulled in many directions, and it can definitely wear you out."

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  Danica Patrick, despite so-so runs on the track, is still a hot commodity (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Danica, Get Out Of Racing And Stay Out

After reading Kurt Busch's comments and the general tone of Race-Stream Media coverage, I'm still wondering why no one in racing is willing to call it as it is? Danica Patrick sucks. She has no business in racing; she's a soft-porn model who jumped into racecars, and the fact she is a woman absolutely opened doors that don't open for others.

In six seasons in Indycars she got some of the best cars in IRL and did nothing but drag down her teams. She has done less with more than anyone else in IRL and is doing it again in NASCAR.

It's not an issue of commitment; it's about talent and competence. Danica Patrick lacks both. She's a gender-swapped Ryan Leaf without the videotaped explosion to a press guy.

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