The Frontstretch: Longtime NASCAR Fans Still Not Ready to Give Danica Patrick Their Support by Brett Poirier -- Tuesday February 26, 2013

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Longtime NASCAR Fans Still Not Ready to Give Danica Patrick Their Support

Racing to the Point · Brett Poirier · Tuesday February 26, 2013


Right after Danica Patrick posted a lap of 196.434 mph to sit on the pole for the Daytona 500, a team in the Frontstretch fantasy league popped up named, “DanicasBackstretchTurboButton.”

I laughed — less because of how funny the name was, and more because I couldn’t believe somebody had even taken a shot at Patrick for winning the pole. That was only the beginning. Leading up to the 500, a story that a number of media outlets put out was whether or not Danica had an unfair advantage because of her weight.

Even when she does everything right, it seems nobody is willing to give Danica Patrick credit for her accomplishments.

So to win the pole at Daytona — a track the driver just flat-foots — she must’ve either had a turbo boost, probably part of some NASCAR conspiracy, or her car must’ve been a lot lighter than the competition?

This criticism got me thinking. Maybe NASCAR gave her a different size restrictor plate, maybe she is on Adderall, maybe there was a toxic chemical spill and she developed some type of super power that wills the car to move faster.

In any case, I’ve got to get to the bottom of it because there is no way a woman could drive a qualifying lap at Daytona as fast as a man, right?

Patrick has been put through the wringer in recent years for crashing cars, poorly executing intentional wrecks of other drivers (Landon Cassill), parking cars that still ran (Saturday’s Nationwide race) and earning just underwhelming results. But if we learned anything in the last nine days, she’s even going to hear it when achieving the smallest amount of success — and the Daytona pole is big media, but small potatoes compared to a trip to Victory Lane.

Meanwhile, if Patrick runs in the back, crashes or fails to switch ignitions, as she was accused of Saturday in the Nationwide Series it’s easy to ridicule her for being a sub-par driver. If she starts winning poles, or out-racing some of the big names in the sport, like she did at Daytona, then the conspiracy theories will come out of the woodwork.

She can’t win.

Let’s analyze the weight issue for a second. Patrick supposedly had an unfair advantage over NASCAR behemoths and former sumo wrestlers i.e. Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, etc. Patrick’s representatives say she weighs in at 110 pounds, about 20 to 40 pounds less then the aforementioned men.

“What’s a shame is everyone is pointing at Danica going, ‘Oh, she’s 40 pounds light,’” NASCAR Sprint Cup series director John Darby told ESPN. “But what about Mark Martin (125 pounds)? … There’s half of the field that doesn’t weigh more than horse jockeys anymore.”

Darby added, “When you’re talking about Martinsville, yeah, you can talk about an advantage to being lighter. Here, most of the cars are heavier than what they should be anyway. But once you get a little girl that kicks everybody’s ass, everyone is (questioning it).”

And Darby nailed it, that’s really what it comes down to — a much bigger issue. In 2013, many people still can’t get over a woman having success at the top of a sport against men. How many women really get the chance? Unlike football and basketball, etc., the car is the great equalizer in racing. If a woman is in good shape, and has the ability behind the wheel, she can compete against the men. Well, that’s as long as she can deal with all of the crap that comes with it — ignorant team members in the garage (how else would the weight story come to light?) and ignorant fans in the stands ready to bash every accomplishment.

Patrick isn’t the first woman to come along with driving ability. NASCAR has seen quite a few over the years, but most vanished quicker than a fart in the wind, or never had enough on-track success for anyone to care. Before Patrick, Janet Guthrie and Louise Smith were the only two women to make double-digit starts in the Cup Series. Many other women have attempted a full-time schedule, only to race in one or a handful.

Patrick is here to stay, though, and now a fan base that really hasn’t had to accept women in Cup racing has to deal with it.

Danica isn’t exactly Jackie Robinson, but she is a trailblazer of sorts. Fans aren’t throwing rocks at her car from the stands — at least, not yet (although, someone did throw a shoe on the track last year when she was leading the Nationwide race at Montreal.) She does, however, have a tall mountain to climb with a cold wind in her face.

On Sunday, she was up to the task. She became the first woman to lead a Sprint Cup race in 64 years and had the highest finish (eighth) ever for a woman in the Daytona 500. But one run isn’t going to quiet her critics (at least one will say it must’ve been the turbo button on the backstretch.)

And, unfortunately, she might not be able to quiet them for some time. Outside of the superspeedways, it is going to be a tough road for Patrick in Cup this season. She is yet to show she can race for top-20 finishes consistently at short or intermediate tracks, and hasn’t raced a Cup car at most venues. The struggles will come. So, fans will get plenty of chances to bash her, and as long as she’s a backmarker they won’t really have to deal with the larger issue at play — much like they didn’t with the women who came before her. After all, when you believe someone doesn’t belong, it’s much easier to point and laugh at his or her failures than it is to recognize the successes and accept him or her as an equal.

It’s when Danica figures this NASCAR thing out — and it may not be for a few years, if ever — that things will get really interesting. There are only so many conspiracy theories out there, and she has shown already that she won’t be dragged down — not even when people suggest the most ridiculous things, such as the backstretch turbo button.

The whole concept sounds like something from “Back to the Future” to me. If only Danica could sit in her silver DeLorean and exclaim, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Then she could speed up, hit her backstretch turbo button, and bring a garage area and a fan base that is behind the times with her into the 21st century.

Contact Brett Poirier

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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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Bad Wolf
02/26/2013 03:22 AM

It’s not a hate for Danica or for a woman in Nascar, it is a hate of the hype on the part of Nascar and Fox to garner ratings. There was a great piece linked on Jaski yesterday about how the IRL drivers had enough of the All Danica all the time hype back in 2005 and started to speak out about the fawning from the media and sanctioning body that took away exposure to the rest of the IRL racing drivers. I see the same thing this year in Nascar, All Danica All the Time.

02/26/2013 06:53 AM

I agree with the previous post. I think that the fans are sick of her being forced down our throats.

02/26/2013 08:11 AM

Well, it’s easy to see that Brett has been forced to drink the sanctioning body’s Kool-aid.

It could just as easily be said that NASCAR and the media have a bias against any other female driver except Danica. Johanna Long is a driver that has actually had to race in less than top tier equipment yet gets no respect from you guys. Whereas Danica received top notch Andretti-Green IRL stuff, JR Motorsports in Nationwide and now Tony’s stuff yet has almost nothing to show for all that she’s been given, yes, given, not earned. Yet the fawning continues and it’s not going to end anytime soon, so more fans will be chased away and NASCAR won’t understand why.

As Harvick intimated, maybe you guys ought to stick to the TMZ type stuff as that seems to be what you’re best at.

02/26/2013 08:15 AM

Long-time nascar fans know that there are LOTS of great drivers who have tried very hard to get a great ride. And those drivers have been passed over because of Danica’s sex appeal.

There are plenty of drivers who have done more in a shorter amount of time than what Danica has done.

02/26/2013 08:52 AM

The pushback on Patrick is similar to what would happen if any of the ‘funded’ drivers bought themselves a top ride and started getting hyped on TV as the second coming of something. Fans want drivers to have earned their ride and the attention they receive, and we don’t see that having happened with Patrick.

It isn’t that Patrick doesn’t have some talent, but she hasn’t shown that her talent is equal to the combination of car and exposure she gets.

02/26/2013 08:57 AM

Kudos to the previous statements. I can’t say it any better. SICK, SICK, SICK.

Carl D.
02/26/2013 09:48 AM

You can like the person and hate the hype. She won the pole, not the race. She deserved the spotlight during speedweeks, but not the entire stage show.

Patrick won one Indycar race in 116 starts with no Indy 500 wins. Unimpressive. She finished 10th in the Nationwide series last year… out of 13 drivers that started all 33 races. Unimpressive.

I’m sorry, but Danica Patrick hasn’t proved herself worthy of the constant media attention she gets. Unless you count her love life.

02/26/2013 09:52 AM

Poor article there Brett Poirier. Lots of strawman arguments.

Danica is a symptom of the dying body & soul of Nascar. All she is, is a loud distraction away from the exodus of fan and drop in attendance. Nobody cares about her the same way nobody cares about Scott Speed. Gender has nothing to do with it. The problem is that desperate-for-new-demographics coverage of Danica comes at the further expense of covering the actual race.

Nascar is dying. The economics are broken. The manufacturers don’t see the point. The drivers are company men.

We’ve had enough. Stop trying to paint that with the brush of sexism.

02/26/2013 10:08 AM

She had almost made a believer out of me by staying in the top 10 all day but when she was interviewed after the race I remembered why I really don’t like her. She acted like a spoiled brat. The point of her interview was that she didn’t do as well as she should have because no one would help her….Maybe she knew she had a little something extra under the hood and she was supposed to win but she was mighty ungrateful. She is not a class act and therefore won’t generate much support from the old school Nascar fan. She should watch Mark Martins interview at least a hundred times and she if she can learn something about how lucky she is to even have been in the race.

02/26/2013 10:08 AM

Her being a woman isn’t an issue. It’s the fact that she gets fawned over for less than average finishes in way above average equipment. For instance, I damn near muted the 500 because Jaws wouldn’t shut up about how friggin’ awesome she is!

You know who should be in that 10 car? Regan Smith. He has a great opportunity in the 7 in NW, but he’s a Cup level driver, as he showed in the 88 for two races and could really do that SHR team proud. But it goes to Danica beacause some people think she’s pretty hot.

I hope she does well, because it’s great exposure for the sport, but I wish she would put up some results to back up the media attention.

02/26/2013 10:28 AM

Danica is an OK driver that just happens to be female and better than average looking. If she was ugly, she would not have a Cup ride this year. Can anyone seriously argue that?

I think we will quickly see that she hasn’t earned her ride in the Cup series after a few non-plate races (in which anyone can do well if they don’t get caught up in a wreck). And I highly doubt that Stenthouse Jr. will ever be even close to not being Rookie of the Year.

Danica has yet to prove herself as serious NASCAR driver… at any level. She has been driving the top of the line cars and hasn’t been racking up wins, not even top 5’s.

I would really like to see Jennifer Joe Cobb compete in the same quality rides that Danica has had. I think that she could be a serious contender.

02/26/2013 10:33 AM

Most of you are right in that she didn’t deserve to move up the NASCAR ladder so fast…but now she’s here. Are we going to hold a grudge against her forever or are we actually going to give her a chance to prove herself? I’m tired of the hype surrounding her, but I’m sure she is too.

02/26/2013 11:09 AM

Yet nobody complains when it’s ALL Dale, Jr. all of the time, even when he isn’t doing anything. I would like to add that there are MANY male drivers that can’t consistently run in the top 20 every week either – but nobody says anything about that.

Matt L
02/26/2013 11:24 AM

You completely missed the point to be quite honest. The subtitle says it all: “Brett Poirier on why racing’s first female struggles to be first in the hearts of hardcore NASCAR fans.”

She is not the first female driver in the sport. It is the messiah depiction writers like yourself give that makes Danica a turn off for fans. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman. If she earns success as a driver, then that is wonderful – she earned a title as a great driver. But the messiah depiction needs to be balanced back into reality.

Matt L
02/26/2013 11:29 AM

LOL Robin, you should view some other NASCAR message boards (especially from a few years ago), your Dale Jr. observations might change.

02/26/2013 12:03 PM

The issue is not the fact that Danica is a female. The fact is that Danica’s accomplishments are not worthy of all of the attention that she is getting.

As others have mentioned previously, there are several other female drivers in NASCAR. The only difference is that they have not gotten the chance to have top-flight equipment like Danica. If they did get that opportunity, I fully believe that they would be serious contenders and NASCAR fans would fully support them.

I fully believe that Danica is only getting the attention due to her looks. I love when she talks about wanting to be taken seriously, but then you see her in a bikini in a Go Daddy ad.

02/26/2013 12:26 PM

As has been previously mentioned, I would like to see just one race where Johanna Long and Jennifer Joe Cobb are put in the same level of equipment as Danica Patrick has. Especially Johanna! Bet a lot of eyes that seem to have blinders on would be opened wide. And it wouldn’t be in Danica’s favour.

02/26/2013 01:32 PM

Silly article, many of the fans already HAVE a favorit driver. Very good points made by the posters. Robin, Dale Jr doesn’t get enough coverage? Really? Obviously you haven’t listend to DW when he’s fawning over Junebug! Danica ran a smart race on Sunday, but the media hype for the past several years has made it difficult for me to become a fan. Plus, I’ve been watching this sport for years and already HAVE a favorite driver – I’m not going to jump on the Danica bandwagon simply because we share the same gender. I’m watching Johanna and Jennifer Jo’s progess with a lot more interest since they are having to work with a lot less $ and equipment for their racing.

02/26/2013 02:57 PM

Robin, my apologies, I read your post wrong!

02/26/2013 03:08 PM

Read Robin’s post because she gets it.

JD in NC
02/26/2013 03:08 PM

Well the only good thing about Danica mania is we don’t have to listen to DW drooling on nonstop about Kyle Busch.
Personally, I think it’s great to have women competing in NASCAR. I would absolutely love to see Johanna Long win. Johanna often has overachieving runs/finishes in mediocre equipment, while Danica typically has underwhelming finishes in the some of the best equipment available. I don’t know Johanna personally, but I would wager there’s a bit of grease under her unmanicured fingernails. That is the type of thing long time race fans respect.
Johanna won the 2010 Snowball Derby. In my opinion, that’s more impressive than anything the media darling Danica has done.

Bill B
02/26/2013 08:48 PM


02/26/2013 09:07 PM

The #1 pit stall, and with the top 10 ten position drivers not wanting to pass each other during the race, all Danica had to do for a top 10 finish was to stay in line. Driving the best equipment in Na$crap, she whipped up on hard charging 9th and 10th place drivers, Michael McDowell and JJ Yely, who were driving start and park equipment to finish 8th.

02/27/2013 11:00 AM

Interesting that Pastrana doesn’t suffer the same scrutiny for having a top ride with not much credentials to justify it. Is it because he’s a man? ESPN fawns all over him as they did on Saturday. So why the double standard?

02/27/2013 06:28 PM

didn’t like her in irl, don’t like the princess, in nascar! she has a brash personialty.johanna long can drive circles around her! most of the fans are so sick of hearing d.w-mikey-an larry, we mute the sound! nascar is slowley dying!