The Frontstretch: What Are They Buying With The Danica Hype? by Kurt Smith -- Thursday September 9, 2010

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What Are They Buying With The Danica Hype?

Kurt Smith · Thursday September 9, 2010


Where I live in South Jersey, you will occasionally see billboards for upcoming races at Dover Speedway. A few days ago I drove by one with Danica’s face plastered on the billboard even larger that the words “Dover Speedway”. It’s the first time I can recall either of two things happening: a Nationwide race being advertised on a billboard, and a driver being mentioned on a billboard for an upcoming event. I’m not saying that it’s never happened, just that I haven’t seen it.

All this for a driver whose best finish in six races is 24th. Who has yet to finish a race even as much as one lap down.

Google “Danica Patrick” and the first thing that will appear on your computer screen are eight photos, or at least that’s what showed up on my screen. Two of them show her in a firesuit, one shows her undressing out of a firesuit with little on underneath, and the rest show her in various types of lingerie. It’s hard to know whether she’s a racecar driver or a supermodel posing as one.

Danica Patrick has as much right to try to make it in NASCAR as anyone. She has every right to struggle and finish poorly until she gets the hang of it, especially if she can bring in the sponsorship. You could make the same argument for John Wes Townley. Racing is not a perfect world and teams need sponsors. But what, exactly, are NASCAR and ESPN and venues trying to buy by shoving a less than mediocre driver down every racing fan’s throat?

Despite Dale Earnhardt Jr’s example that poor on-track performance is a poor way to gain fans, NASCAR and its promoters are putting the future of the sport on the assets of at best a mediocre driver.

I can’t think of an athlete in history with a higher ratio of hype to performance. Watching Danica try to race in NASCAR is like watching Michael Jordan try to play baseball. Her lack of qualification for this level is so patently obvious it’s embarrassing.

But to listen to networks and tracks, you’d think she was the next Dale Earnhardt. ESPN even went so far one race as to show that Danica had moved from 31st to 3rd place in X number of laps—when the rest of the field was cycling through pit stops. As if she had been charging through the field—and somehow a broadcast that featured a Danica update every half a lap missed it!

Are things so bad in NASCAR that instead of promoting the resurgence of Richard Childress, or the battle between Hendrick teammates to be the first to reach five championships, or the sleeper status of Jeff Burton, or the possibility of the Busch brothers battling for a title, we’re getting sensory overload of a driver whose biggest qualification is how well she fits into a skimpy bikini?

If the racing is “better than it’s ever been”, as NASCAR keeps insisting, why focus so intently on a driver who isn’t even performing well in a minor league series? What part of Danica Patrick’s appeal has anything at all to do with what she can do in a racecar?

Yes, and here I am writing an article about it. I get the irony, or hypocrisy I suppose you could call it. But trust me; I’m not going to gain anything financially from this piece, short or long term. What I don’t get is once NASCAR milks Danica for all she’s worth and then some beyond the point of fatigue, then what?

Tracks and networks fret about losing so many Little E fans due to his lack of track success. You’d think they’d learn something from that. Yet they are again willing to put all of their ratings and attendance eggs into the basket for a driver far less skilled than Junior.

Either two things are going to happen here. Patrick is going to keep putting up lousy results with the whole world watching, or she’s going to put up a top 10 finish at a place like Talladega and the presses will stop as far as Mars.

I’m betting on the former. Danica is not likely to improve much with her current commitment. Stock car racing isn’t something one dabbles in while pursuing a full time open wheel career. It’s very difficult to excel at a part-time gig. Not with something as all-consuming as racing that is competitive enough to be on television every weekend.

And at some point television and tracks are going to have to find something else to promote. And judging from the way Patrick is slobbered over, I’m guessing NASCAR is becoming a real problem child for them. Heck, even I don’t think the racing’s been that bad.

Hasn’t anyone noticed yet that you can’t see Danica’s sexy figure when she’s in the racecar?

Kurt’s Shorts

  • Did you ever think you would see Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart approach the end of a season where they had no full sponsorship lined up for the following year? It wasn’t that long ago that the DuPont and Home Depot cars had some spirited battles on the racetrack.
  • I have been reading about the possible changes to the Chase in 2011, and I can tell you that I stand at the ready waiting to react to the announcement of the official changes.
  • With Mark Martin out of the playoffs, it’s one less good story in a sport that doesn’t seem to have many of them these days. But hey, at least Junior’s been running better.
  • The Chase field is pretty much set, leaving only the win being anything of importance at Richmond. Meaning that maybe drivers will try and pass each other and stuff. Maybe we’ll see a good one.

Contact Kurt Smith

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
Going By the Numbers: Top-10 NASCAR Variety Hard To Come By In…
Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks



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Brians Mom
09/10/2010 04:57 AM

Right on. Now if only my brain dead son would figure this out.

09/10/2010 06:25 AM

What if we could get Dale Jr. to date Kim Kardashian? NASCAR would have all the publicity it would ever need! lol

Ghost of Curtis Turner
09/10/2010 07:48 AM

I’m surprised that Brian Farce hasn’t forced Jr to date Danica yet. jUst think of the hype they could milk out of that one!

The Mad Man
09/10/2010 08:28 AM

NASCAR is hooked on hype, period. Read,watch or listen to the ads or articles about upcoming races and they don’t even come close to what’s actually delivered. They borrowed the hype idea from the WWE, which is quite good at hyping their events and their performers. Unlike the WWE, NASCAR doesn’t deliver on the hype. It falls way short. But then when you’ve got a guy who owns a marketing company running what is supposed to be a racing organization and marketing is based on hype, well, you see the current mess that is NASCAR.

Kevin from PA
09/10/2010 09:01 AM

It’s 9:01AM and still no comment from Dan’s Mom??? After someone dissed God’s cure-all gift to NASCAR???

“But to listen to networks and tracks, you’d think she was the next Dale Earnhardt.” Ummm… I am assuming your are referring to Senior…

09/10/2010 09:06 AM

The way they’re going NA$CAR would be better off with Lindsay Lohan.

Maybe NA$CAR should put Vince McMahon in charge of the “show”.

09/10/2010 10:00 AM

Haha, after all the crap you guys talk about Dansmom… when it comes down to it you really cant wait for her to post something. Interesting…

Oh, and Danica is good for Nascar, I dont care what you say. She is a great, young driver that hundreds of thousands of fans will get behind. These fans will come to the track, watch the races on tv, and buy hot danica t-shirts.

09/10/2010 11:17 AM

You picked the correct word to describe this column , hypocrisy . But there are many others that spring to mind . Vapid , childlike , uninformed , clueless . But the best description would be … omg , the deadline for my column is here ….. i know , i’ll go back to the well and write something inane about Danica .

A very pretty lady on a billboard to sell us something . You’re right Kurt , that type of advertising never works . Thats why no one else uses it .
One thing for sure though , Danica is far more successful as a racer than you are as a blogger . Besides , she’s won an IRL race and has a top ten at the Indy 500 . Thats a pretty impressive resume so far . And of course her best finish of 24th is still better than a number of the guys she beat .

09/10/2010 11:24 AM

I think Dale Jr. in a soap opera situation, trying to decide whether to date Danica or one of the K-girls would be great reality TV. Kinda of like Flav-O-Flav (did I spell that right) does NASCAR. I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for Brian Farce to get this started.

Kevin in SoCal
09/10/2010 12:45 PM

Kurt said: “I can’t think of an athlete in history with a higher ratio of hype to performance.”

I can: Dale Jr, circa 2007-2010.

Kevin in SoCal
09/10/2010 12:49 PM

Oh, also, how do we know Dale Jr would want to date Danica Patrick or Kim Kardashian? Maybe he would rather hang out with Adam Lambert, Clay Aiken, or Neil Patrick Harris?

09/10/2010 12:54 PM

It’s not just the promoters lowballing the intelligence of the average race fan. The broadcasters have been relentlessly kissing Danica’s pampered little ass. Doesn’t matter, it’s football season now.

09/10/2010 01:17 PM

Ohh… the Dale Jr is gay conspiracy theory… I like it! Good call Kevin.

Kurt Smith - Frontstretch Staff
09/10/2010 02:16 PM

Actually Mark, Danica has two top tens in the Indy 500 to go with her fuel mileage win. You weren’t even giving her full credit while calling me names.

By the way, if you want to call it “going to the well”, go see how many Danica columns I’ve written in three years for the Frontstretch. I believe it’s now two.

09/10/2010 02:21 PM

Does anyone doubt that Dansmom and Randy Goldman (and probably Mark) are the same person?

09/10/2010 02:42 PM

“I can’t think of an athlete in history with a higher ratio of hype to performance.”

Anna Kournikova anyone? I wasn’t a tennis fan and I knew who she was.

Tony Joseph
09/10/2010 02:54 PM

Just a little comparison for Mark’s Danica stats. Felippe Giaffone and Airton Dare also have one IndyCar win and one top 10 at the Indy 500. Despite having that “pretty impressive resume”, where are they now? They certainly aren’t getting paid millions in endorsements now, are they? Also, Mark Dismore has one IndyCar win and a high finish at Indy of 11th. Do you really expect anybody intelligent to believe that just one more position at Indy would have made Mark Dismore worth millions of racing sponsor dollars instead of selling karts now? Next time you call somebody hypocritical Mark, try not being so delusional yourself first.

09/10/2010 03:27 PM

Well Tony , if any of those three drivers was as easy to look at as Danica , and female , i’m sure they might very well be worth millions in sponsor dollars .

Damn Kurt , i didn’t mean to make you cry . Come on , suck it up buddy .

09/10/2010 04:44 PM

In keeping with the topic, here’s a video of a girl sucked into an engine blower.

Kevin from PA
09/10/2010 04:44 PM

BTW – I am so confused. I just read the last night’s NFL ratings were the highest ever for an opening game.

How can their ratings go up?? I thought all TV ratings were down?

09/10/2010 08:47 PM

Its fairly simply as to why Danica is positioned as a the new marketing tool for NASCAR and its tracks. They have come up with no creative way to market its brand and resort to what they think the easiest way to fill seats is. Take the Homestead-Miami Speedway for example, they advertise seeing Danica twice in little over a month. Will she be competitive in either race? That’s is up for debate but simply put there is no creativity left in NASCAR.

They believe whatever is flashy will fill seats. Matt Becherer can enjoy looking at the empty pastel seats this fall.

Bob Chimento
09/10/2010 10:14 PM

Danica SUCKS…. Period!

She hasn’t done squadoosh in open wheel and she will never win a “Busch” race much less even drive in a Cup race.

Hype yes because of media… ex… Terry Jones…

09/10/2010 11:39 PM

Kevin in SoCal is on the right track and it’s a little more than a “theory”. And Danica is married, so I doubt she’ll be dating…at least not in public.

09/11/2010 12:41 AM

Most of the drivers make my gay-dar go off. I think a lot of the gf’s/wives are beards.

Charlie Foxtrot
09/11/2010 07:50 AM

Generally, when a pretty lady is used to sell a product, it’s because the seller doesn’t want you to see the quality of the product and is counting on losers to be too busy playing with themselves to notice.

09/12/2010 07:39 AM

danica is married. oh wait, that didn’t stop jr earlier this year. been a while since he’s been featured in national enquirer. about time to fire up that publication with racing “news”.

09/13/2010 04:02 PM

I just saw an ad for something in the Indianapolis Star that calls Danica an “Elite NASCAR Driver”. My hubby and I were both on the ground rolling with laughter.

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