Woody: Danica’s NASCAR Dalliance Brings Boos
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Danica Patrick, accustomed to feeling the love, recently got a lesson in how fickle fans can be.
After she made some critical comments about her car’s setup – by implication blaming her team for a poor qualifying performance – boos rained down from the grandstands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Why did fans suddenly turn on Patrick, who in past seasons has repeatedly been named the IRL’s Most Popular Driver?
Yes, she was critical of her team after her disappointing qualifying run. But she’s been critical before. That simply reflected her competitive desire and determination.
Yes, she can be fiery and temperamental. But she’s always been fiery and temperamental. That was considered of her charm and appeal.
So what’s changed?
The only thing I can think of is Danica’s ongoing flirtation with NASCAR.
She has expressed interest in joining the rival league – having already run a few races in NASCAR’s second-tier series – and there is speculation that she will eventually jilt the IRL for a full-time stock car ride.
Indy fans – especially the die-hards that turn out for the interminable qualifying rounds – probably aren’t happy over the prospect of losing their most famous driver to a rival suitor. Just the fact that she’s looking probably grinds their grits.
Also there may be a growing sentient that Danica is over-rated, a one-win wonder who got where she is through her good looks and charm. She receives more attention than any other driver, while her on-track results remain as skimpy as her Sports Illustrated swimsuits.
I suspect the booing was a combination of factors and could indicate a creeping Danica Fatigue. She needs to start producing, and fans that have stood by her through loss after loss aren’t in the mood to listen to her gripe.
If not that, then what set off the boo-birds? If, for example, A.J. Foyt had made similar comments about being displeased over his car’s balky performance, would they have given A.J. the same treatment they gave Danica? I think not.
A.J. would have been seen as tough and demanding; Danica was seen as whiney and complaining.
I don’t think she deserved to be booed, but that’s part of being a high-profile sports celebrity. Cheers can quickly turn into jeers and today’s hero can be tomorrow’s has-been.
But let’s not be too hasty to discount Danica and her continued impact on the sport. Legions of viewers will tune into the Indy 500 just to see how she’s doing – viewers who otherwise wouldn’t be watching.
And despite her skimpy won/lost record, Patrick is a talented racer. She can drive a car fast; she just needs a fast car to drive. If her team can provide her one, Indy’s Golden Girl could be sipping milk in Victory Circle Sunday.
That’s all she was trying to say: give her a fast car and she’s got a chance.
No need to boo about it.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments