Is Danica Patrick wrapping up a Hall of Fame career?

Danica Patrick will finish her racing career Sunday with the Indianapolis 500.

Was it a NASCAR Hall of Fame career?

One ESPN editor, responding to the suggestion that Patrick’s induction to the Hall of Fame is a possibility, submitted that anyone who thought that should head to the nearest lab for a drug test. Many fans would likely agree. Patrick never finished even in the top-5 in a NASCAR Cup race, so why should she be considered for the Hall of Fame?

However, it’s not inconceivable that a driver who never had a top-5 finish could make it into the Hall of Fame, not solely as the recipient of the Landmark Award for contributions to the sport — that is all but assured at some point — but as an actual inductee, one of the five people voted in by the panel.

So here are the arguments for — and then against — Patrick ever getting into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

As a pioneer, Patrick is still the only woman to win a pole in the NASCAR Cup series, which she did for the 2013 Daytona 500. She finished eighth in that race, the highest finish of any female driver in the Daytona 500.

She holds the record for number of top-10s by a female driver with seven. Her career-best finish of sixth at Atlanta in 2014 is the best of any female driver other than Sara Christian, who finished fifth in a field of 23 cars in 1949, the second year of NASCAR.

Patrick made 191 starts in the Cup series as the first full-time female driver on the circuit; Janet Guthrie made 33 starts from 1976 to 1980.

Patrick also is the only woman ever to finish in the top-10 in the Xfinity Series standings (she was 10th in 2012) and has the best finish by a female driver in an Xfinity race with a fourth place at Las Vegas.

Her presence certainly attracted some families to the sport and provided a female role model to aspiring racers who had no other.

Yes, she has not won. But only 78 drivers can say they’ve won more than five Cup races. Ron Hornaday Jr., who was inducted last year because of his truck series championships, posted just one top-10 in 46 Cup starts.

When weighing the fact Patrick was a storyline and helped the sport gain exposure — although how much is tough to say, especially when her struggles made it difficult to find sponsorship amid the current economic challenges — there is an argument she should be inducted. After all, Wendell Scott got in and he finished on the lead lap just once in his career — the race he won in Jacksonville.

Which brings us to …

Why Patrick won’t get in.

Patrick is no Scott, in the view of many, and it has nothing to do with the number of wins.

Patrick drove some of the best equipment in the NASCAR garage; Scott was not funded and often was given old parts and pieces by other drivers. He had to work on his car daily. And he went to tracks that certainly did not want an African-American driver racing there.

He also won more than 100 races on local Virginia tracks before opting to compete in the Grand National (now Cup) division. Scott represented the local short-track racer better than any other driver in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

And while he won only one race, he also earned 147 top-10 finishes in 495 starts — nearly 30 percent of his races.

To compare the hurdles the two drivers faced would be wrong. The fact that no African-American drivers followed Scott immediately after he retired shows just how difficult the obstacles were to compete in a Southeastern-based sport.

There are no women following in the immediate footsteps of Patrick, but that might be more a detriment to Patrick’s Hall candidacy than it was for Scott. Critics will view Patrick as unable to be a trailblazer in a willing society, while Scott is often viewed as a trailblazer who came at a time when many weren’t willing to accept it.

The key to induction is held (at least for the time being) by the France family, which has a major influence on the voting. Three members of the family are on the voting panel: Brian France, sister Lesa and their uncle Jim. Other NASCAR executives have seven spots on the voting panel, and five other voters work for the France family-operated International Speedway Corp.

Not all those people will vote the way the France family does, but the Frances certainly can swing a vote one way or another.

There currently are seven women among the 59 panelists (the 60th “panelist” is one combined online fan vote).

So, will Patrick get in?

Maybe. And if you are rolling your eyes at the fact that this piece was written, get used to it.

The debate has only just begun.

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