It wasn’t the only question he was asked when he spoke with the media on Wednesday, but this is going to be a familiar pattern all year. Every driver in NASCAR is going to be asked his opinion of Patrick.
Biffle was gracious, as these questions have yet to become tedious. But make no mistake, they will become tedious by February, when NASCAR teams converge on Daytona.
Biffle recognizes that Patrick will bring some much-needed attention to a sport that has seen attendance at races and TV ratings shrink in recent years.
“I think we all know it’s gonna be great for our sport as far as recognition and awareness and bringing some popularity over, and bringing some of her fans,” Biffle said. “It’ll be our first female driver in a while, so that will be good for us. I’m looking forward to seeing how she performs on the race track. I think it’s a win-win for everybody. I’m glad she’s decided to come over and give it a try. It’s very difficult. I hope she does well, and I’m looking forward to racing with her a little bit.”
There have been a few female drivers in NASCAR, although most of them are racing at the Truck Series level. Patrick will be an anomaly at the Nationwide Series level and Biffle will get his chances to race against here there, perhaps for the first time at Auto Club Speedway in February.
Biffle rattled off a long list of open-wheel drivers who have made the transition to NASCAR and struggled. Only two drivers have had any kind of success making that transition. Tony Stewart went for IRL champ to NASCAR Spring Cup Series champ and is the only driver to do that.
Juan Pablo Montoya made the Chase for the first time in his career last year. Aside from Stewart and Montoya, open-wheel drivers have not fared well in NASCAR. Biffle said Patrick will have a challenging first season in NASCAR.
“The same things some of these other guys have – Sam Hornish, Juan Montoya and some of the other open-wheel guys, like Scott Speed, who have come over and really tried to get a handle on these cars,” Biffle said. “These cars are very hard to drive and the list goes on. Max Papis and right on down the line, there are a bunch of guys – Boris Said and Ron Fellows, very successful road course drivers, not necessarily like open-wheel or anything like that, but very talented.”
Biffle said Patrick will have a hard time adjusting to oval racing in stock cars. It’s something other open-wheel drivers have struggled with.
“The oval track with these cars are very, very difficult,” Biffle said. “We’ve seen them have huge success in road racing and won road races, but then have a tough time competing on the ovals. I don’t know what it is about it, but it is difficult and if it’s not what you’ve grown up with or not what your reflexes and your instincts and your car control and everything that you’re used to in your environment, it makes it difficult to adapt to.”
Patrick has never been a strong open-wheel road racer, so there’s no reason to think she will be a strong stock car road racer. But Biffle said Patrick has a chance to impress.
“Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman – a lot of those guys come from those type of cars and have been very, very successful, so certainly it’s possible,” he said.
Photo: NASCAR driver Greg Biffle said he is looking forward to racing against Danica Patrick, but her first season in NASCAR will be challenging. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)