If anyone thinks they can get the dirt on Danica Patrick from television race analyst Nicole Briscoe, who actually went to high school with Patrick, they may be surprised.
“We were loose acquaintances, but there’s not much that I remember, because there were 400 kids in my graduating class,” Briscoe said. “It’s funny how our careers wound up and now I’m following her.”
Briscoe and Patrick are both from Roscoe, Ill., just outside of Rockford, and attended Rockton Hononegah High School. But Briscoe was two years ahead of Patrick and even though they were both cheerleaders, Briscoe cheered for the varsity while Patrick was with the frosh-soph squad.
Years after their days at Hononegah, Patrick and Briscoe find themselves coming full circle with each other in their respective careers. Both will be at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet for this weekend’s tripleheader of NASCAR racing, the highlight being Sunday’s GEICO 400, the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Patrick will be driving her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in the GEICO 400 for Stewart-Haas Racing, as she winds down her first year racing full-time in the Sprint Cup series. And Briscoe will be hosting a studio show on ESPN.
She has had plenty of time to watch Patrick race and analyze how she has performed. Patrick started the season in February with perhaps the most prestigious spot in NASCAR — the pole position at the Daytona 500. Patrick finished eighth, her best of the season.
Since Daytona, Patrick has had four DNFs and has not finished in the top 10. But Briscoe thinks Patrick’s showing is typical of a first-year driver on the circuit.
“I’d rate her like any other rookie,” Briscoe said. “She came in with more eyes on her and, because of that, expectations were high. She has done what I expected her to do. Daytona was definitely one of her bright moments, but the rest of the year is a learning experience.”
Briscoe also pointed to Patrick’s chances for next year. Stewart-Haas Racing signed former Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and perennial Cup contender Kevin Harvick. And Patrick’s boss is three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken right leg.
“She is going to have three pretty incredible teammates (in 2014),” Briscoe said. “If she can’t learn from them, then next year is going to be a pretty telling year for her.”