The Frontstretch: Danica Can't Save the Nationwide Series, No Matter How Much NASCAR Wants It by Bryan Davis Keith -- Thursday June 24, 2010

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Danica Can't Save the Nationwide Series, No Matter How Much NASCAR Wants It

Nuts for Nationwide · Bryan Davis Keith · Thursday June 24, 2010

 

She’s back.

The biggest name in IndyCar racing, the anointed savior of the Nationwide Series, Ms. Danica Patrick will make her fourth start in NASCAR’s AAA division this coming weekend, with no need to worry about qualifying (a big pat on the back for Scott Wimmer, Josh Wise, Landon Cassill, Steve Arpin and all those who made it possible for her majesty to have no fears of…shudder…failing to qualify for a race.)

And just like in Daytona four months ago, where the racing world went into her first race convinced they would see something spectacular after her sixth place finish driving a de facto Hendrick Motorsports machine in an ARCA race, all eyes will be turned to the open-wheeler and her bright green race car when the green flag drops in Loudon. It’s harder to blame the centric media focus this time, as Cup regulars Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards have already turned this season’s title chase into a snoozefest.

Because heaven forbid the networks would tell the real story permeating the Nationwide Series garage…the complete and utter lack of money out there that is starving the tour’s stalwart teams to death. Heaven forbid ESPN air a story about how full-time operations such as Specialty Racing, K Automotive and Baker/Curb Racing’s second team have been reduced to start-and-parking due to a lack of sponsor dollars. Heaven forbid they give some coverage to the plight of Tri-Star Motorsports, where Jason Keller and Tony Ave have taken an unsponsored car from multiple DNQs at the start of the season into the top 30, and a locked-in spot in the field. Or how RAB Racing has also cracked the top 30 and still not landed a sponsor. Or how even mighty Roush Fenway Racing hasn’t been able to sell races on its No. 6 or No. 16 cars.

Despite the plights facing so many Nationwide Series teams in 2010, the collective eyes of NASCAR and their TV partners have told no other story than that of Danica Patrick.

The story of the 2010 Nationwide Series season is the complete absence of money for teams to race with…and the seeming lack of any tangible effort from both NASCAR and the ESPN networks to do anything to help remedy it.

Besides, that is, lavishing tons of TV time, coverage and praise upon Danica Patrick. The courage she as a woman has to come play with the big boys of stock car racing (never mind that Jennifer Jo Cobb, Alli Owens, Shawna Robinson, Chrissy Wallace, Erin Crocker and others have done the very same thing the past few seasons). The potential she has shown through amazing moves such as driving in a straight line through the “big one” at Daytona or actually having the audacity to try a different line on the track at Las Vegas after being lapped. And the plethora of fans and interest she has brought to the Nationwide Series, and how all that publicity will surely benefit all those struggling teams in its ranks.

Sure, the TV ratings for her first three races were higher. She sold plenty of merchandise. She drew more attention for ARCA’s season opener than any race in that series’ history. But Danica-Mania has proven to be nothing more than a sugar pill. Come week two of the ARCA season at Palm Beach, the field was far from full, the grandstands nearly empty, the website traffic at ARCARacing.com back to normal. On the Nationwide Series side, attendance has continued to plummet (15,000 at Charlotte?!) while TV ratings have at best stagnated. And best of luck trying to name one new sponsor that has entered the sport because they went “OMG, Danica raced there!”

Treating Danica Patrick like the savior the Nationwide Series is in desperate need of has clearly blown up in the faces of both NASCAR and ESPN. With as many as 10 start-and-parkers likely to take the green flag Saturday, only 44 cars on the entry list and no remote semblance of a compelling storyline for the rest of the season in sight, the 2010 campaign is proving to be just as laborious for fans to stomach as the last four have been.

Fact is, Danica’s not the answer, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The spunky attitude that IndyCar fans have come to expect from her is tame when compared to NASCAR, a sport that’s national reputation came not on the strength of two mediocre women trading angry words, but of competitors beating and banging, trading paint on the track and fists off of it. But more importantly, she’s done absolutely nothing on the race track for fans to cheer about, and has put herself in a position where she will never be able to.

Three starts, two DNFs, a best finish of 31st. A rookie named Daniel Patrick that put up those kind of numbers wouldn’t get a second look from the ESPN booth. Plus, if Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taught the racing world anything, it’s that no matter how popular and respected a driver is, fans expect and demand performance on the track. Continue to struggle, and they’re not going to continue to pay attention.

And love her or hate her, Danica is going to continue to struggle. If drivers the caliber of Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti and others weren’t able to figure out stock car racing by doing it full-time, a driver who is struggling to run top 10 in the IRL ranks certainly isn’t going to start running up front by racing every couple of months. Even if she’s driving cars that Rick Hendrick’s people are putting on the track.

This has all been said before, and frankly it sucks to be writing about Danica Patrick with so many teams out there struggling, teams that treat the Nationwide Series as their home and a place to race, not a place to dabble and sell. But like it or not, NASCAR and ESPN are at the controls of this sinking ship. And they’re putting a lot of their faith in Danica-mania being the ticket back to port.

It’s not going to work. It didn’t sell the Nationwide Series to tons of new fans earlier this season. It hasn’t brought in the vitally needed sponsor dollars for race teams not so fortunate to having racing royalty driving for them. And it sure as hell hasn’t led to a lasting boost in attendance.

Do tell, NASCAR and ESPN. After Danica-mania flops, what’s plan B?

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…
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Danica
06/25/2010 01:34 AM
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Don’t hate me because I look hot after Go Daddy’s ad agency gives me the airbrush treatment, or when all that caked on makeup and strategic lighting makes me smokin hot on the TV ads.

All I ask is that you hate me because I can’t drive a stock car worth a lick and drive in Nascar just to enhance my brand.

Gordon82Wins
06/25/2010 07:03 AM
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Uh-oh Bryan, you just incurred the wrath of Dansmom!

Well put. Much like our president, Danica has been sold to us like a Second Coming all based on not being a white male. Turns out both are utterly underqualified for the job.

But I doubt ESPN or NASCAR cares, they’ll milk it for all it’s worth and then find something else to squeeze every penny out of. If you want a reason for the declining ratings, look at the lack of concern for the quality of the product.

Carl D.
06/25/2010 07:58 AM
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Expecting Dansmom’s comeback rant in 5-4-3-2-1…

The point about the sponsors and the money is spot on. Why would I sponsor Jason Keller’s car when all the TV coverage is going to be on the Cup guys whose big-budget Nationwide teams are guaranteed to dominate every race? In fact, I’m surprised there ANY businesses willing to sponsor teams with Nationwide-only drivers.

DoninAjax
06/25/2010 08:58 AM
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Danica says,

“I’m nervous, because it’s new and there’s so much to learn about the way a race goes, how the race kind of plays out normally, and the yellow flags and the pit stops and how the car changes over a fuel run and how the tires change,” Patrick said. “And there’s just so much that I’m unfamiliar with. And so that makes me nervous, because I care and I want to do well. And I’m not going to know it all the first time I go there, but I hope to do a good job. So I know that people are watching and I want to put on a good show for the fans. I want to give them a reason to cheer for me.”

Why do we care about this bimbo? Time to watch the LPGA.

Mark
06/25/2010 10:20 AM
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You seem to be confusing Danica Patrick with the racing media . She does not own a newspaper , or tv network , or radio network . She doesn’t write columns about herself . Brian Davis Keith does , along with all of the other media types and their constant hype about her . So what’s the real problem here , a woman that drives race cars or racing bloggers who have to keep the comtrversy going to get hits on their sites and people to tune into their crappy tv shows ? The answer is obvious . The media is 100% responsible for Danica Mania .
And that brings me to Gordon82Wins . Danica and President Obama were sold to us as the second coming ? Damn man , you’ve managed to insult women , blacks , religion , and our President all in one sentence . It takes a special talent to be that obtuse .

RandyGoldman
06/25/2010 10:23 AM
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I like Mark.

RandyGoldman
06/25/2010 10:24 AM
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I also ah-like… ah-dogs!!!!!

clap, clap, clapclapclap, clapclapclapclap…DOG SHOW!

DansMom
06/25/2010 10:28 AM
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Yet, how is it Danica’s fault that she has been “selected” by ESPN to be the savior of the nationwide Series? All she wants to do is expand her repertoire as a driver and race stock cars. Can you blame her? I think it looks like fun too.

No one faults Tony Stewart for wanting to win the Indy 500. and everyone applauded Bruton Smith for offering stacks upon stacks of money to a driver who could win both the Indy 500 and Coke 600 in the same day.

Drivers want to race, and Danica has earned the ability to race in 2 of the nations B-level racing series.

Besides Brian, at least she gave you something to write about on a Friday in the middle of summer… maybe we can crown her the Savior of Frontstretch Comments Wed-Fri.

Robin
06/25/2010 11:14 AM
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WELL SAID BRYAN!

Gordon82Wins
06/25/2010 11:23 AM
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Mark, I’m not sure how I insulted blacks and women with my comment. Please clarify that for me.

Am I racist and sexist for saying that Obama and Patrick were overhyped because they are black and female, respectively?

Danica Patrick’s racing achievements are about equal to Casey Mears, a white male who, while admittedly gets opportunities he hasn’t earned, is hardly hailed as the savior of NASCAR. I don’t have time, and this isn’t the forum for it, but I could go on plenty on the hype surrounding Barack Obama without regard for actual achievement.

I’m about sick of people who shout “racist” or “sexist” when someone points out a truth they don’t like. It’s the same as saying “you’re stupid” like a kid does with his parents.

Or “obtuse”. Nice word. Means “lacking intellect”. My college GPA was 3.97. What was yours?

Michael in SoCal
06/25/2010 11:25 AM
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For everyone who doesn’t like Danica Patrick so much, why do you read the articles? And then, why do you feel the need to comment? You don’t like all the coverage she gets, yet you read it, and then you add to the coverage with comments. That really defies logic.

DansMom
06/25/2010 11:47 AM
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Gordon82Wins my SAT score was 1360, my shoe size is 6, my lucky number is 7, and my phone number is also irrelevant.

But thanks for sharing, any potential employers on this website may find your college GPA helpful, but as you pointed out, thanks to Obama there aren’t too many of them out there. Atelast the hype around Danica is creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

RandyGoldman
06/25/2010 01:34 PM
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I wonder what DansMom’s college degree is… drinking, recreation, and recreational drinking?

DoninAjax
06/25/2010 02:31 PM
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Morgan Shepherd!!!!!!
Morgan Shepherd who seems to be 100 years old is faster than her.
Looks like we have another Anna Hornykova in the picture. Looks good, doesn’t do much else.

Tom Ham
06/25/2010 02:42 PM
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Damn man , you’ve managed to insult women , blacks and our President all in one sentence .And what’s wrong with that?

wingcars6970
06/25/2010 06:08 PM
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Well put Bryan except I would say Jacques Villeneuve never got the chance to show what he could do….every time he was marching through the field in the trucks, Leffler did a “Sonoma Gordon” on him… :^)

I do wish Danica well – It can’t hurt.

mkrcr
06/25/2010 08:28 PM
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The Cash Cow needs bigger udders.

Ron
06/26/2010 05:01 AM
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Without a doubt, the GREATEST article that has been or ever will be written about ‘Diaper Dan’.
Wow someone finally wrote the truth!!! Amazing!!!
Well put Bryan. Great job!

Me
06/26/2010 09:55 PM
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I fantasize about seeing DansMom in a Godaddy commercial.

Kevin
06/26/2010 11:04 PM
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She’s a mid pack IRL driver with one win to her credit in 6 or 7 seasons. She’s taking up space that better drivers should be in. I change the channel when I see her.