Monday, July 1, 2013

What Danica Patrick, Jimmy Clark Have In Common

Danica Patrick
Jim Clark
I wrote earlier this year after Kyle Petty did such an outstanding job commentating in the aftermath of the Nationwide race at Daytona and its harrowing finish, that what the sport needed was more Kyle Petty.

He’s continued to be outspoken in his role on Speed and has increased his visibility during the recent TNT Sprint Cup broadcasts.  But he really blew the lid off last week when he said Danica Patrick might be a driver, but she wasn’t a racer.
"She’s not a race car driver,” Petty said.  “There’s a difference. The King always had that stupid saying, but it’s true, ‘Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.’ Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can’t race. I think she’s come a long way, but she’s still not a race car driver. And I don’t think she’s ever going to be a race car driver."

Petty (both of them) made a valid point—not all drivers are racers.  You see it all the time.  Drivers qualify within a few tenths of a second of each other.  But when the racing starts, there’s suddenly a much greater variance of speed.  Whether or not Patrick is a racer is open for debate.  My personal opinion is no, she hasn’t reached racer status yet.  But Kyle could have gone a little further and called out some of the others he considers drivers and not racers.
The Pettys aren’t the first people to draw a distinction between drivers and racers.   Perhaps the most controversial driver/racer argument concerns Jimmy Clark, considered by many (including me) to be one of the greatest racers of all time.  But not according to Chris Economaki, the acknowledged dean of motorsports journalists who passed away last year.
Economaki wrote in his book, Let’Em All Go! The Story of Auto Racing By The Man Who Was There, that Clark was a great driver, but not a great racer.  He noted that while Clark had won a record 25 Grand Prix at the time of his death in 1968 in a Formula Two race, eight times he led every lap.  He pointed out Clark led 190 of 200 laps in winning the 1965 Indy 500.  To Economaki, Clark was a great driver, a great qualifier (a record 33 F1 pole positions) and a great front runner.  But not a great racer.
I don’t for a second agree with Economaki.  He ignored many races where Clark raced from the back to the front.  Clark was especially good in the rain.  At Trenton, in his second oval track race in an Indy Car, Clark lapped the entire field, except second place A. J. Foyt.  It was Foyt who said Clark was the one “furriner” who impressed him.   But the fact that Economaki didn’t consider him a racer, is an indication of how much opinions may differ in this area.

Clark in a Holman Moody Ford Fairlane
Clark at the Rock:  Clark came from the era when racers often drove anything with four wheels -- and sometimes two.  In addition to F1, he drove sports cars and a Ford Cortina in English saloon car races, as close as they came to NASCAR in Europe.  In his first trip to America, he was treated to a trip around Daytona in a stock car driven by Fireball Roberts.  Afterwards he said he was terrified, but he also wanted to try a stock car himself.  He finally got the chance, racing at Rockingham in 1967.  He ran as high as 12th before blowing an engine.  He died before getting another opportunity to drive a stock car.


  1. "What Danica Patrick, Jimmy Clark Have In Common"....ABOLUTELY NOTHING!!! Two or three sentences about Danica, like she really has an accomplished racing resume. Really lame you just had to play the Danica card. Appreciated the Jimmy Clark info. You could have written an very insightful article about Jimmy Clark's career. It was a very sad day 45 years ago this past March 7th, when Jimmy Clark was killed in a crash while racing a Lotus F2 car. Then again a month later on May 7th, when Mike Spence who was named to replace Clark in the Lotus that Clark was to drive in the Indy 500, was killed in a practice crash at Indy. Danica? REALLY?

  2. A little harsh there, anon. bottom line is that Danica is a joke. Very well written article.

  3. Princess Sparkle Pony and one of the greatest racers of all-time having something in common? PULEEEEEEZZZEE! PSP couldn't shine Clark's boots. This is a total piece of garbage.

  4. The only thing they have in common is both their names are in this article. To compare Danica to Jimmy Clark shows how far her peeps will go to make her credible. If she was a guy, she would be racing her husbands hobby stock at the local fairgrounds. Danica Who?

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