The Frontstretch: Dollars And Sense: Danica Patrick, NASCAR's Lady In Green by Jesse Medford -- Thursday May 10, 2012

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Dollars And Sense: Danica Patrick, NASCAR's Lady In Green

Jesse Medford · Thursday May 10, 2012

 

Why does NASCAR even care about Danica Patrick? The fans don’t care! Based on ticket sales and television ratings, she obviously isn’t bringing new fans to the sport at a rate faster than the old guard are leaving. Why then is everybody hyping her up so much? Why are they shoving her down our throats all race long and giving her interviews normally reserved for the top finishing drivers? Why are we writing about her?

Many internet based writers have said they write about what will get their publication the most page views. I am writing about Patrick because it was either her or writing about Bojangles’. You could argue that I made an internet page view decision. Or maybe it was just pure laziness. I could always save that dryer topic of Bojangles’ for a publication that has a broader appeal outside of racing.

But for here, ranting about Patrick flows on a keyboard and I have a deadline to meet.

Since finishing 38th place during her NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in the 2012 Daytona 500, Patrick’s No. 10 has been occupied by Tommy Baldwin Racing’s David Reutimann. All that anybody has mentioned about that organization since, is would TBR have the car in the Top 35 of the owner’s standings for Stewart-Haas Racing by Darlington, to ensure that Patrick could race in her second of ten scheduled Sprint Cup events, without having to attempt to qualify on speed.

This lady in black will be introduced this weekend to another Lady In Black. Patrick will also be introduced to using a 2×4 as a structural brace for the first time in her racing career.

Do we care about this because she is a good race car driver? Is it because she is entertaining? Do we really think she is needed to bring a new fan base to the sport?

I don’t think she is good at any of those things. However, NASCAR and race promoters don’t think like I do.

Darlington Raceway hypes the fact that Patrick will join Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson as the only women to race in the Sprint Cup level at their track. Promoters also believe she is the key to selling tickets and gaining viewers. The race commercials that I have seen for both races this weekend only promote Patrick.

And during the race, we won’t hear much about anyone else either.

That is provided Patrick is even still on the track after the early goings. After all, Darlington Raceway gets her Lady In Black moniker because she scares drivers into hitting the wall, resulting in what is known as the Darlington Stripe.

“I got my first Darlington Stripe back when the Truck Series raced there,” Reutimann said in a BK Racing press release. “The whole time in practice I was really, really tentative.”

This historic 1.25-mile superspeedway isn’t known as The Track Too Tough To Tame for nothing. It gets into a driver’s head.

“I’m told it’s not going to be so much about the track and getting comfortable and getting up to speed or feeling good, that it’s going to be more about learning how to pass there and how that works because it’s one lane and one groove,” Patrick said in a Team Chevy Advance. Reading her subsequent words, she doesn’t even know what to think, let alone how to drive there. Darlington has affected her already low confidence level.

“I believe its high in one and two and low in three and four,” she said. Patrick is clearly second guessing herself when giving this statement.

Patrick wasn’t even an outstanding performer in her previous IndyCar gig of seven seasons. She was over-hyped going into the Indianapolis 500 during her rookie year of 2005. I remember learning about her just prior to that race, while I was serving in Iraq. It appeared to me that she was getting publicity based on looks alone. After the race it seemed to be shocking to those reporting that she had a chance to win the race. Everything blew up from there, resulting in just one win in the series and many disappointments.

So what does Patrick bring to NASCAR besides GoDaddy.com and their money? If that sponsor leaves, she has nothing to offer. Who else will try to market her on the sex appeal that has gotten her to where she is at now? She won’t be able to be marketed based on winning. It isn’t going to happen. Learning this type of car and racing them on these tracks seems to be more difficult for her than it is for other new drivers, two of whom outperformed her in their Nationwide Series debut at Richmond International Raceway.

Danica Patrick’s first full season in NASCAR competition has had it’s share of bumps and bruises. Expect a few more blemishes this weekend at The Track Too Tough To Tame.

Driving in NASCAR seems to be a chore for Patrick. It doesn’t look like she has any fun.

Look at what we just saw with Travis Pastrana in his debut at Richmond. He finished only one spot behind Patrick, due to a late race pit road speeding penalty, but appeared to have the car figured out a little better than the much more experienced Patrick. And he seems to be having fun and showing enthusiasm the entire time. Like Patrick, he brings a niche following to the sport, but without displaying the sense of entitlement that she carries with her. And 18 year-old rookie Ryan Blaney also blew away Patrick (and many other veterans) in his debut at that race.

Since the beginning of Patrick’s current NASCAR racing experiment, she has freaked out just about any time she perceives someone not giving her enough room on the track, leading up to this past weekend’s intentional wrecking of Sam Hornish during the cool down lap at Talledega Superspeedway, in which she later apologized. Frontstretch writer Garrett Horton explained this in detail yesterday. NASCAR chose not to penalize Patrick for this intentional hit on Hornish.

Maybe it is examples like this that NASCAR is looking for. The Sprint Cup regulars have quickly dismissed the old Boys Have At It mantra that was so popular with marketers and media. So maybe now to keep the green coming in, it will have to be Danica Have At It.

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RickP
05/10/2012 07:48 AM
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All I can say is thank goodness someone has the nerve enough to write the truth about Danica and not kiss up to NASCAR’s nor her rear-end for once.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I saw a video of her carting when she was 15 and the coddling of her (along with the attitude) was around way back then.

JER
05/10/2012 08:52 AM
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Danica Patrick can be summed up in two words, “SEX & MONEY.” Take those two away and where would she be?

jerome
05/10/2012 10:05 AM
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Great article. Just want to echo RickP’s comments. Danica is a big part of what is wrong with this sport. Declining emphsis on talent and competition and more focus on entertainment and “personalities.” I miss the days when a driver’s talent is what earned them a ride. I know that Patrick is not the only person who got a ride because of sponsor dollars, but she has become, in my opinion, the poster girl for this sort of thing. keep up the great writing.

john
05/10/2012 10:30 AM
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And so the hate continues.

Hate the game, not the player. NASCAR overhypes her. The media overhypes her. Her sponsors overhype her. She doesn’t overhype herself, she just shows up and races.

She reacts poorly to every slight upon her because the boys are chewing her up and spitting her out every chance they get. The wrecks she was involved in, in the first few races of the season, were all due to other drivers on the track simply coming up behind her and smashing her off the track. There were plenty of other times she saved it while being hit by someone else—James Beuscher tried to wreck her on the straightaway at California, as I recall.

No one has any respect for her on the race track, so why should she?

As for the continued, hilarious idea that she was uncompetitive in Indycar, I’ll say the same thing I’ve said every time: if your measurement of a “good” Indycar driver is how often they won, then there’s four good drivers in Indycar and the rest are all idiots.

If you don’t drive for Penske or Ganassi in Indycar, especially in the last 6-7 years, you’re basically going nowhere. Tony Kanaan is the only one to have not driven for one of the “big two” that actually won now and then. In terms of the numbers, Patrick was the most consistent and highest-finishing AGR driver over the four or five seasons she drove for them. This included beating all of her teammates in the points in 2009, where she was the “best of the drivers not in a Penske or Ganassi.” She was often one of the fastest cars around Indy, where balls are even more important than skill.

If Danica was “disappointing” in Indycar, you might as well add Marco Andretti, Darren Manning, Tomas Scheckter, Robert Doornbos, EJ Viso, Raphael Matos, Oriol Servià, Alex Tagliani, Sarah Fisher, Rubens Barrichello, and Alex Lloyd to your list of “disappointing” drivers.

Like Formula 1, you can’t measure talent in Indycar based on wins… You have to measure it based on how the driver does against their teammate, or against everyone else in their “tier.” You don’t claim a Force India driver sucks because he can’t win an F1 race—he’s driving a Force India.

So far she seems to be doing as good as you’d expect for a rookie in Nationwide. The odd top 10 here and there, plenty of speed and runs near the front, but still has a lot to learn about taking care of her equipment and consistency. Other Indycar drivers not named Tony Stewart have failed massively at NASCAR, including four-time champion Dario Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Juan Montoya. The only difference between them and Danica is that they didn’t pose in a bikini.

Had she come into Nationwide WITHOUT the media and NASCAR spending every waking minute talking about her, she’d probably still get the hate because she DARED to pose for pictures in a bikini. I suspect if she posed for Playboy some disgruntled race fan would’ve assassinated her.

Again, the problem is the media and NASCAR, not her. And I find RickP’s comment hilarious, because there ISN’T a sports writer anywhere on the planet right now who doesn’t delight in cutting up every single result Danica Patrick has. If she wins a race this season in Nationwide all the haters will still find reasons to hate; maybe fuel mileage, or getting the jump on the leaders on a late restart, or something else. Anything to continue the hate.

I’m not a huge fan of Patrick and the incessant babbling on about her in the media and on TV is tiresome, but direct your hate where it belongs for once. If everyone in the media stopped talking about her, maybe NASCAR eventually will too, like they did Dale Jr.

old farmer
05/10/2012 12:49 PM
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Right on John!

These are my sentiments exactly, and I could not have said them better.

People should just shut up about her & let her drive.

TheGoodDoctor
05/10/2012 01:00 PM
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My own view of Danica changed Saturday. When she was leading the race my 5 year old daughter (who doesn’t understand that leading a plate race often doesn’t lead to winning it) was jumping up and down with excitement. If she is able to win I think she will bring new fans to the sport.

Carl D.
05/10/2012 01:11 PM
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John…

You make a valid point. Nobody should blame Danica for taking the big bucks and jumping at the chance to race in Nascar. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity? I feel the same way when people trash Dale Junior. It’s not his fault that he’s the most popular driver. It’s not his fault that his last name is Earnhardt. And who wouldn’t want to drive for the winningest owner in Nascar? I suspect that both the Danica haters and the Dale Junior haters are simply tired of hearing about them in the media. It doesn’t make sense to dislike someone just because they aren’t as successful as their media hype suggests they should be.

Don Mei
05/10/2012 01:48 PM
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Good rebuttal John! I couldnt agree with you more. You said it all. When Janet Guthrie was trying to break into Nascar, she caught the same kind if flak and Ms Guthrie was a very, very low key person. The thing that always amuses me about most of the critics is they dont have a CLUE as to what it takes to compete wheel to wheel. Oh and JER, what the hell else is ther in life besides sex and money?? LOL

RickP
05/10/2012 01:50 PM
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Nice tirade, John, but your writing was so full of nonsensical stuff and contradictions.

The number of words written sure don’t equate to their value.

The bloom came off the rose for Danica in the IRL, hence her appearance in NASCAR in an effort to keep the spotlight shining.

As Jerome suggests, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of more talented drivers whose only career choice/chance will be driving on their local tracks due to all of the seats in big money racing being taken up by fluff vs. substance, aka Danica Patrick.

Mazakk
05/10/2012 02:10 PM
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In the 50’s Tim Flock raced a few times with a monkey in his car. Now we have a monkey driving a car.

john
05/10/2012 05:07 PM
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RickP: and you’re picking on her as opposed to Paul Menard, Jon Wes Townley, either of the Dillon brothers, and who knows how many other drivers who were gifted their rides?

(Yes I know the Dillons are good, but the point is, they were handed their rides.)

There are ALWAYS “hundreds, if not thousands” of more deserving drivers who will never get the ride they deserve. Welcome to racing. Like Sterling Marlin once said, “the world’s greatest driver is probably driving a tractor around his farm right now” (paraphrasing.)

Still don’t see that as any reason to blame a woman who has dedicated sponsors.

The “bloom was off the rose” in Indycar for many, many drivers over the last decade, which is why the series is junk and dying a slow death (even with new cars.) Danica jumped off a sinking ship, regardless of her talent.

Overra88ted
05/10/2012 06:05 PM
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Danica just joined the Coca-Cola Racing Family of Drivers. Patrick stated; “A lot of legendary drivers have been a part of the Coke family, so I feel very fortunate.Danica is already a “Legend in her Mind”.

paltex
05/10/2012 07:23 PM
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john
evidently you do not recognize talent. she is lacking in that respect and using other drivers that lack in talent driving stock cars is not an excuse for her to be on the track. try any of the drivers you mentioned and put them in a world of outlaw sprint car and see how they do. only a limited number of drivers have actual talent not this girl. it’s all hype
and it cheapens racing!!!

Andy90
05/10/2012 10:01 PM
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Have you seen Danica’s recent quote about needing a different spotter? To paraphrase:

“I basically need someone who can tell me when to turn in and how far to push the gas pedal”

This from someone who has been racing at the top level for seven years. The prosecution rests your honor.

Joe..
05/10/2012 10:50 PM
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Wow, I may switch and agree with John and old farmer!
Mazakk, that was damn funny but if I go with what old farmer and John wrote I can’t agree with you, bummer.

John Craft
05/11/2012 08:20 AM
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Never has a driver done so little with so much.
But for her lack of external genitalia, she’d be out of racing long since.
She’s a gimmick. Nothing more and probably much less.

john
05/11/2012 10:10 AM
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John Craft: then why don’t Jon Wes Townley and Paul Menard have vaginas?

John Craft
05/11/2012 11:03 PM
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Having a rich daddy or a famous last name is a gimmick, too (just ask Junior). Not having enough meat in the seat can be figurative or literal (or both as in Danica’s case). One can only wonder what Curtis Morton Turner would have to say about the little urchin being called a “race car driver“ let alone “the face of NASCAR as some hyperbolic scribblers contend. It is sad to think about what has happened to what…used to be…my sport Sigh

SHOEMAN
05/13/2012 12:18 PM
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Danica, Danica, Danica. We just can’t get enough of Danica. I soon expect her to have her own radio station. Danica all day Danica all night. Danica 24-7. All the Danica news you don’t need or care about all the time. Can’t wait for W-DANICA 103.5 FM to start airing soon. NOT !