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Woody: Danica’s NASCAR Dalliance Brings Boos

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 26 2010

Could Danica Patrick's flirtation with NASCAR be behind her Indy PR problems? (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

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 lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 26 2010
13 Comments

13 Comments »

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  • Keith says:

    The difference is if AJ said the car was no good everyone would belive it because he accomplished everything he ever tried in racing and Danica has not accomplished much and no one knows if it is the car or her and if she is good enough to know the difference. Also why would you use a driver who was possibly the greatest driver ever to Danica or anyone else.

  • Ed says:

    The difference is AJ won–and won a lot. Danica hasn’t. More? The difference is today communication is much more vitriolic and obviously immediate now than AJ’s day. And Danica has been living by that viral communications tool for a while now. So you live by the sword you die by the sword. She is like Britney Spears. Remember her? Remember what the marketers did to her–willingly yes? They put her in every commercial every cereal box every MTV thing every time everywhere. Look at her now. Broken at best. So again you live by the sword you die by it. Big Daddy & IMG and all her handlers have promoted the shoo out of her. She is their bread and butter. It’s just too much, fatigue is setting in, especially with one–oh 1 win. So comparison to AJ ain’t even in the same universe. He was a prolific winner. Danica reminds me of Kyle Busch in drag–a prima dona with ewww, count em 60 less major tour wins. So I can put up with Busch’s narcissistic behavior. Why? HE WINSSSSSSSS.

  • Dman says:

    Comparing the Danica/WWE-like machine to AJ Foyt is laughable. No comparison there. Danica needs a few championships (in several forms of auto racing) and whole boat load of wins before that comparison can happen. Oh, and one more thing, AJ has been booed and more than once, but you never saw him cry about it! I’m not a Danica hater or fan. Just a fan.

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  • john says:

    Exactly what Damon says… I’m not a huge Danica fan, but Danica Haters are pathetic and have nothing better to do but hate. The IRL has been a two-team show for the last 2+ years.

    The fact that she finished 3rd at Indy (highest for a woman by a mile), has won a race, and finished 5th in points last season, the highest of anyone NOT driving a Penske or Ganassi. That last thing cannot be overstated–she was the “best of the guys not on the two best teams” … Better than Marco Andretti, better than Tony Kanaan, better than Dan Wheldon.

    So she continues to not win a race–in case you haven’t noticed, EVERYBODY has continued to not win a race.

    If I were her I’d be looking at NASCAR too, because even Hendrick’s dominance is nowhere NEAR what The Big Two in the IRL have–if she goes to NASCAR and lands a solid ride and gets enough seat time to learn the car, she has a chance at an actual career there. The IRL is junk.

    • 61 Starliner says:

      I think you must be taking some of the same stuff Mayfield’s been taking.

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  • Damon says:

    Call her record skimpy all you want, but look at what she’s up against Larry, Penske and Ganassi.

    Those two teams have won 20 of the last 22 races – the only two they lost were at Watkins Glen and Long Beach, plus they haven’t lost an oval race since 2008, when they were beaten twice, once by Danica in Japan and the other by Kanaan at Richmond.

    Those two teams are simply killing the series by winning/dominating, that it can overlook the fact that Danica finished 5th in points last year (a career best), had a career best in top 5 finishes and was 3rd at Indy. She didn’t forget how to drive in a year, she’s just stuck in a situation where two teams are so dominant and hers is lagging, which makes her look bad.

    BTW- Kanaan only has 1 win since the start of 2008 and nobody cares, Marco hasn’t won since 2006 and nobody cares, Little Rahal won in April 2008 and hasn’t since, nobody thinks he sucks. But in the minds of a lot of people, Danica sucks only because she has one win, nevermind her improving in points at the end of each of the last 4 years. That just doesn’t make since to me.

    • 61 Starliner says:

      The reason people feel that way is because all we hear is Danica, Danica, Danica. You people talk like she’s the second coming of the Indy Gods. She won race in Japan, where she won because of fuel mileage, and let’s not forget almost half of the top driver were not even at that race.
      I don’t believe she will ever win the Indianapolis 500. I don’t believe she will ever win another indy race, unless it’s the same type of situation she had in Japan.
      She will never win a NASCAR race unless it’s a ARCA in some small track where no one really goes anyway.

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