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Murto: Patrick needs to wise up

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By Craig Murto - sports@nvdaily.com

After Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Kansas, one can only say that Danica did it again.

What did she do? She proved that she's nearly clueless when it comes to stock car racing. Sure, she's had some impressive runs in the Nationwide Series a time or two or three this year, but mostly she just rides around, barely under control, not knowing how to race her competition or what exactly she's supposed to be doing.

For those who didn't see it, she tried to dump Landon Cassill at 180 mph going into turn one on the fast racetrack and wound up dumping herself instead. Not only did Cassill not deserve her wrath -- proof she's clueless as to what's going on around her -- but trying to dump somebody heading into a corner on a fast mile-and-a-half demonstrates a severe lack of judgment on her part.

As of Monday Cassill said he tried to reach out to Patrick, but she did not respond. He admits he moved her out of the way -- leaving a slight donut on her driver's door -- but he treated her no differently than he would treat anybody else who was "driving crazy" for 30th position and getting "in the way" on restarts when it's important to get everything you can get.

Patrick claimed she had trouble with Cassill's 83 car "all day," but all any camera shot could find was when she received the minor donut on her door. Obviously she has a lot to learn about stock car racing. Every time she has one good run and gives people hope that she's finally getting a grip on stock car racing, she turns around and pulls a stunt like this to prove that she's totally clueless.

Or maybe she's just nervous. Rumors are that after the 2013 season -- Danica's first full year in Sprint Cup -- GoDaddy.com will pull its sponsorship. GoDaddy wants to get away from the half-naked girl marketing and demonstrate a more professional image. Danica will have to find another source of money to continue racing.

And there's the problem. She came into the sport with a major splash, the most talked-about rookie racer in recent NASCAR history. But that was because of moderate success in the IndyCar series, and the fact that she wasn't afraid to show some skin for some GoDaddy TV commercials. The one thing she hasn't done is perform on the racetrack at a level that will keep her funded in top equipment. She's going to have to sponsor hunt, and unless she starts living up to her hype, those sponsor dollars are going to continue to dwindle. As Kyle Petty noted on a recent Speed Channel broadcast, "I wouldn't put her in my car."

There are women racers worth watching. If Nationwide Series competitor Johanna Long had equal equipment and drove for a team on par with Patrick's, people would be asking, "Danica who?" Long understands stock car racing, and is a former winner of the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., the most prestigious Super Late Model race on pavement in the country. Other young ladies around the country, such as Ohio's Ali Kern and California's Hannah Newhouse, are worth watching in the future.

Danica Patrick has some talent. Nobody can rob her of the fact that she's the only woman to win an IndyCar race. But she needs to start racing in a stock car and stop riding around. She's in the way much of the time. She needs to realize that every bump she gets or every time she gets moved out of the way is not a reason to get angry, it's simply the nature of the game.

And she'd better start showing real improvement soon, as those GoDaddy dollars aren't going to last forever. Spare us the theatrics and the drama, Danica -- stop demonstrating why your former car owner, Michael Andretti, said IndyCar was better off without you. Instead, give us performances like you gave at Road America, where you led much of the race. Otherwise, you're destined to be a flash in the pan.

Philip Morris is no flash in the pan. The former NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion became the first three-time winner of Martinsville's Late Model Stock Car event. Morris won the 150-lap feature, just ahead of 2012 Weekly Racing Series champ Lee Pulliam.

Hagerstown Speedway features Late Models, Modifieds, 410 Sprint cars and 358 Sprints this weekend for the "Brawl in the Fall." Qualifying on Saturday starts at noon, as do the feature races on Sunday. Danica Patrick is not listed among the drivers entered.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.






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