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Memo: Cold Shoulder For Danica?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 9 2009
Danica Patrick will be alone in NASCAR infields when it comes to cool photos. (File photo courtesy IndyCar Series)

Danica Patrick will be alone in NASCAR infields when it comes to cool photos. (File photo courtesy IndyCar Series)

Let’s see what’s in the Wednesday Memo today:

James Brown sang that this is a man’s world but it wouldn’t be nothin, nothin, wahaaaa!, without a woman or a girl. When it comes to the NASCAR garages, you might run into the opinion that Brown was only half right.

The first half.

One of the interesting things about Danica Patrick’s decision to drive in the Nationwide Series next season will be to see how she is treated in those garages.

The guess here is that her treatment will vary.

Women have been walking the garages of NASCAR speedways for years. They have done so as series officials, crew members, team owners and drivers. They have come to be accepted by most, but not by all.

Kelley Earnhardt, the co-owner and general manager of JR Motorsports, the team for which Patrick will drive, has been around those garages her entire life.

On Tuesday, Earnhardt was asked what she thinks awaits Patrick – who has never driven a Nationwide car in a race and will presumably be making a lot more money than most of her peers – in the garages.

Earnhardt started off with a joke.

“I expect her to be eaten up by the wolves,” she said.

Then Earnhardt got serious – presumably.

“I expect her to be respected right off the bat,” she said. “I’ve already talked to a lot of drivers and team owners and got congratulations on this deal from various people. I think everybody is excited about her entering the sport. It’s good for our sport, it’s good for NASCAR, it’s good for our fans. I think she’ll be welcomed and I think people will want to help her succeed and see that it is really good for everybody.”

Patrick already has received at least one welcome gift from one of the boys. It came from her new crew chief, Tony Eury Jr.

Patrick had told Eury that she had never had a Krispy Kreme donut.

“I was getting ready for a photo shoot a couple weeks ago,” Patrick said, “and I couldn’t eat the pizza that was there and he said, ‘After the photo shoot, I’m going to send you some Krispy Kreme donuts,’ and sure enough, I was at a photo shoot the day after and I had eight boxes of donuts waiting for me.”

Memo to self: Tell Tony Eury Jr. that I have never driven a Ferrari.

Certainly female drivers everywhere are pulling for Patrick to succeed. For emotional reasons and for career reasons.

Alli Owens, who has competed in ARCA for three seasons, is a huge Patrick fan now.

“I’m thrilled that another woman will be racing stock cars.” Owens said. “Someone of Danica’s popularity and talent will no doubt be a great addition to NASCAR and ARCA. I think Danica will show girls that the door is wide open for them to pursue opportunities in motorsports.  Lots of kids think that racing isn’t for girls, but Danica and I are proving that we have what it takes to mix it up with the boys. It’s great for racing and great for women everywhere.”

Owens said the transition from open-wheel cars to stock cars will not be cake.

“Her first taste of stock car racing won’t be easy.  She’s going to have to learn the ins and outs of stock car drafting.  So much of her success will come down to who’s willing to race with her, and that’s a matter of earning her competitors’ respect.  She’ll need to show them that she can push them to the front and they’ll be happy to return the favor.  Once you put your helmet on, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy.  It only matters if you can draft with the cars around you.”

Success will not come over night for Patrick, Owens said.

“It seems like even the most talented open wheel drivers have a hard time adjusting to stock cars. Most of the guys that come from the IndyCar Series take a few spins because they’re used to a car with much more control. I think Danica has a ton of talent and is obviously a great driver, but it’s probably going to take more than a season before she feels comfortable wheeling a stock car.”

Memo to self: Wonder if that is a full season or the very partial season Patrick is planning on running?

Speaking of ARCA, the series has added another title sponsor – Menards.

The series will now be known as the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards.

Memo to self: Wonder if Menards sells tools to fix smashed up race cars? If so, buy stock.

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion in Cup, made his off-road racing debut last weekend in the Henderson Fabtech Desert Classic, which was sanctioned by the Best in the Desert Racing Association.

Biffle, along with teammates Rob MacCachren and Steve Olliges, finished second in class behind the wheel of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R.

And? He said it went well. At least he thinks it did.

“One thing that’s hard for me, and I probably would never get used to it, was running in the dust,” Biffle said. “We literally had zero visibility two or three times for a couple minutes or more.  It wasn’t just a few seconds, it was a couple of minutes, so that was really tough. Other than that, it was really fun.  I probably went too slow the first quarter of the lap just because I was trying to find that line. The Raptor’s capability is so much and I probably underestimated that a little bit during the first part of the lap, but then I started to push the envelope and did pretty well.”

Memo to self: Go to Menards and get Biffle a kidney belt.

Finally...Coverage of last Friday’s Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony on SPEED scored an average Nielsen Household Rating of .65 (484,000 households), it’s highest number in three years. The four-hour event peaked at a .79 (588,000 households).

Live coverage of the ceremony, in its first year ever on the network, was up 44 percent year-to-year among Households and 52 percent among Men 18-49.

“We’ve seen some very encouraging NASCAR ratings trends on SPEED this year,” said network President Hunter Nickell. “Getting a solid number out of the gate with the Awards Ceremony has us very excited about with this event can become in the very near future for the network and for the sport.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 9 2009


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  • kurt says:

    Has nothing to do with gender; has everything to do with the fact she has accomplished nothing and is being treated like a multi-time world champion. There was a ton of hype about Montoya coming into the sport and rightly so. There is the same, if not MORE, for Danica and what has she done? Win a fuel-mileage race when half the field wasn’t even there? Again, go to an NHRA event and see how people like Ashley Force Hood, Karen Stoffer, Peggy Llewellyn, et. al., are treated. Just like any other racer and it’s because they conduct themselves not as women in racing, but as racers competing in the sport. I think Danica will draw fans and I honestly hope she succeeds, but the disrespect she will receive in the garage is due primarily to the fact she’s done nothing and is getting paid a ridiculous amount to drive when there are very talented drivers like Josh Wise, Bryan Clauson, and Michael McDowell who can’t afford to pay for seat time.