They say the odds of winning the lottery are about the same as getting struck by lightning.  So, if you think shaking hands with Danica Patrick then going out and buying a PowerBall ticket is the way to change your life, you'd better plan on a flash of bright light and electricity curling your hair.

I'm not saying Danica Patrick is one of the unluckiest people on the planet, but since she began racing on the Monster Energy Cup Series it seems like a dark cloud has been following her around and in 2017 her bad luck has really rained on her parade. It all began by getting collected in a 17-car pileup in the season-opening Daytona and she did one better at Talladega, getting sucked into an 18-car crash. Riding along innocently, Danica suddenly found herself in the fiery wreck at Kansas touched off by Joey Logano, which wound up injuring Aric Almirola.

The last two races, however, for me at least, sum up a bulk of Danica's NASCAR career. During a restart with only eight laps left at Michigan, the field had bottle necked near the front of the pack and, with a good run, Danica made a bold dash down the inside on the backstretch.  It looked like a brilliant move that would have her passing at least six other drivers and she was within a fraction of second of pulling it off when Daniel Suarez bumped her car, sending Danica hard into the inside wall. Instead of a top-10 it turned into another bone-jarring, misfortunate DNF.  Then, running top-10 in Sonoma, she was crashed into by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. only 16 laps into the Toyota Save Mart 350 and as she rallied later in the race Junior and Kyle Larson took her out.  Another potential top-10 lost because of circumstances she had little or no control over. 

Daytona, Talladega, Kansas and Michigan were just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and over the years Danica has made a number of mistakes that cost her good finishes.  Yet, as no Danica defender or apologist, there have been many occasions where I asked myself if the stuff that happens to her is linked to the fact she's a female driver and there's a lack of respect.   Would Kasey Kahne have hit Kevin Harvick in the right rear to send him head on into the wall at Fontana like he did Danica last season? No way. Kahne didn't fear what Danica could or would do, but you can bet your life he would have been afraid of Harvick's retribution.              

Sometimes, it's more subtle like at Sonoma last Sunday. Junior had no intention of spinning and getting into Danica down in turn 11, but early in the race would he have been charging that corner that hard if he was trying to pass say Kurt Busch or a Jimmie Johnson? There's no way to be sure, but I don't think so.  Later in the event, would Kyle Larson make it three-wide in turn four if Kyle Busch was the car on the outside instead of Danica? Again, no way to be sure, but I don't think so. The fact Danica kept digging and finished 17th is testimony to her persistence.

Now, in no way am I saying Danica's lack of success is because she's always being picked on by the boys.  Yet, in my opinion, she would have already racked up some better numbers if they respected her space on the track like they did their male competitors.  That's, again, not the entire answer to a meager number of good finishes, but it's certainly part of it, mixed in with a little bad luck and getting invited to the NASCAR party a little too late.