Canyon Speedway Park was supposed to be the place where Danica Patrick became a NASCAR star. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as she lost her life there in a horrific auto race crash in 2011. That was the year before her first full-time season in the Cup series. Patrick was just 25 years old at the time of her death.
The crash occurred when her car collided with another vehicle in the closing laps of the Cup race. Patrick was pinned in the wreckage for over an hour before she was removed by paramedics. Sadly, she never regained consciousness and died from her injuries several days later. The investigation into the accident revealed that Patrick did not see the brake lights of the other driver before impact; she was oblivious to the danger she was in. The other driver did not appear to have done anything wrong either, which only made the accident all the more tragic. Many still mourn Danica’s death, as she was a beloved figure in the sport.
Canyon Speedway Was More Than Just A Location
Canyon Speedway was more than just a racing location. It was also the training ground for many NASCAR stars. It was there that Danica Patrick learned to drive, began her career, and honed her craft. Patrick spent seven years at the track, winning many championships. Over the decade, she racked up over 140 wins at the 2.5-mile track. Her impact on the racing world was immeasurable as she helped pave the way for women in NASCAR. Before her untimely death in 2011, the racing world had never known what hit them as she went from complete anonymity to becoming arguably the most popular female driver in NASCAR. She was the face, name, and voice of a movement.
There were many warning signs that something was wrong with Patrick’s driving style. During her first seasons in the series, her win rate fell to a dismal 22%, which was incredibly low even for a rookie. Despite that, NASCAR didn’t take her driving talents seriously and she drove for years with no formal training or proper equipment. Finally, in 2009, her performance at NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events earned her a spot on the Cup roster. Even then, she was still lacking basic tools to properly race.
The Last Race Was More Tragic Still
The irony of the tragedy at Canyon Speedway is that the one thing Patrick probably needed that race was a driver’s license. It was a requirement that drivers have proof of their identity before they could get behind the wheel. The last thing she needed was to be driving on a track that was nearly a decade old when she got behind the wheel. It had not been resurfaced, so it was extremely rough compared to the other tracks she had raced at. There had also been numerous warnings about the track’s rough conditions, which added to the already-heightened tension leading up to the race.
If she had a driver’s license, she would have known the track was dangerous and she wouldn’t have been there. That last race was a perfect example of how irresponsible she was being as a driver. Despite all that, it was still her last race and the crowd was in mourning. That was until her car took off like a shot and started winning races. Then they began to wonder if she was actually driving. Was she just showing off? Did she know the track well enough to pull such a fast car? When questioned about it, Patrick would always give the same answer: that she had the same engineer as her brother, who was also a racecar driver. Patrick’s answer was usually enough for NASCAR and the fans alike. She would always deflect the question and never say what was really going on. The mystery surrounding her was never far from the surface, especially after her death when people began talking about it more. What exactly was Danica Patrick up to?
Was It A Scam?
Was it a scam that Danica Patrick raced at all? Was it all an act? Many people, myself included, were wondering that after her first four years in the series. Despite winning more than 140 races over the course of seven seasons, Patrick’s win rate never exceeded 39%. She spent years working her way up from the local racing series to the Cup series, earning millions of dollars along the way. She was the perfect image of a successful NASCAR driver, but did she deserve it?
There is plenty of evidence that points to a scam on Patrick’s part. The first thing that comes to mind is that she was born in 1993, which made her 21 years old in 2011, the year of the accident. Normally, that would have made her a full-blown adult and ineligible to compete. However, there was no rule against drivers turning 21 in the middle of the season, which is exactly what she did. Despite turning 21, she was still listed on the Cup roster as a rookie. Was she really that good or was she just faking it?
There is no way of knowing for sure, but there are plenty of red flags to suggest that she was using someone else’s ID. Despite winning more than 140 races during her career, her win rate never exceeded 39%. In 2018 alone, she won one race in three tries. In total, she had more than 70 podium finishes, but only one win to show for it. She seemed to be coasting on her talent rather than driving the entire race to achieve a greater result. Her last race finished was at California Speedway in 2016. That was the only race she ever won there. Before that, she had never even finished on the podium.
Was It All An Act?
Even after her untimely death, people are still wondering about Danica Patrick. Did she really deserve to be at the top of NASCAR or was it all just an act? Many people have come forward claiming to have driven for her, gotten paid, and then burned out. In one case, a former crew chief said that he had driven for her, won multiple races, and then got suspicious when she began consistently winning. He began to wonder if she was actually driving, which is why he didn’t show up to the track one day. When questioned about it, Patrick’s team said that he had simply “mislaid” his pass. However, there are other stories where people have gone on record as saying that they had driven for her and won races, but they did not receive payment because her team never submitted the paperwork. There are also people who have come out saying that she did not even really exist and that her whole persona was a performance designed to pull in sponsors and donations.
This is a question that will be answered only in the years to come. For now, we will have to settle for speculation and questions.