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Pedley: Danicamania Is A Troubling Sign For Auto Racing

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 26 2011

Danica Patrick a savior for NASCAR or a sign of trouble? (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

There is zero doubt that Danica Patrick’s announcement of her future plans on Thursday morning was mega-huge American auto racing news. It’s just kind of sad that it was mega-huge news.

It gives a clear barometric reading about the state of American auto racing and that reading is depressing.

Depressing in that racing in this country has slipped to such a degree that a driver who has just one race victory in her entire big-time career has stopped the presses.

Time was, racing series made stars instead of stars making racing series.

I don’t know Patrick very well. I’ve interviewed her a time or two and been in on lots of group interviews. There is nothing coming from those occasions to hint at her being anything but a female racer who wants very much to succeed in whatever kind of car she drivers.

The first time I met her, she was being introduced around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media room by Tom Blattler, one of the very finest PR people in all of sport who was, at the time, working with Bobby Rahal and his Rahal Letterman team.

Patrick – who had been racing in the European formula series and was about to invade America – and Blattler stopped by my work station and the first impression was: sharp and confident.

In subsequent encounters, Patrick has been charming on occasion, curt and flippant on occasion.

That is, she has been a human being.

I guess that for me, the only aspect of her public persona that I find objectionable is an insistence of being treated like male sports stars all the while basing that persona on her obvious attributes as a female.

And, wasn’t crazy about how she kept referring to herself and that kind of creepy Go-Daddy guy Parsons as “we” during her teleconference on Thursday. Her deal/relationship with the guy and the company seems to draw driver/sponsor attachment a little too close for comfort.

But as far as Patrick coming into NASCAR as a racer, I am for it.

On the track, I think that alternately pressure, second-tier equipment and racing circumstance have defined her IndyCar career as disappointing. There has been the one victory and please, don’t give me the fuel-mileage rant. It was a victory and to criticize it as being the result of luck is absurd: Everybody from Earnhardt to Andretti have won races on luck.

Nope, Patrick gets a big welcome here. It’s going to be interesting to watch her NASCAR career develop, though I hope she finds a way to race in the Indianapolis 500 again. Welcome, Danica.

The most conerning problem is how the top two auto racing series in this hemisphere stopped dead in their tracks awaiting and then reacting to “DANICA: Judgement Day For All of Racingkind.”

It’s going to get worse today when the NASCAR series arrive in Bristol for this weekend’s racing. Every third question to drivers will likely be about Patrick. If IndyCar actually had a press corps, the same would be true at that series’ race this weekend at Infineon Raceway.

Has the success of racing in America really become dependent on a savior? One who has one victory but dozens of mindlessly “hot” television commercials?

Racing made Dale Earnhardt Sr., not the other way around. Racing made Mario and A.J. and Force and Jimmie.

If NASCAR needs Patrick in order to survive, doom is assured. If IndyCar needs Patrick to survive, it is dead already.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 26 2011
13 Comments

13 Comments »

  • Jerryg203 says:

    Your Comments On DP suck and don,t suck. The press perpetrates the questions and pushes the buttons and you seem to blame that on Danica.
    I agree with Angela keep the rabid press away, and the hoopla will stop. I would cut off at least half the talking heads that now cover who goes potty on the track and how many times they did.
    It gets to seem like we have a reporter for each driver, crew chief and owner, and even the gate thicket taker.

    But at least you agree that her coming to NASCAR is a good thing.

    I watched her races all the time, and if she was ever given a car that could win she may have.

    Maybe in NASCAR she will actually be given a car that can win, Then we will see if she can really drive.

    Yes I’m a male and I think we can use a little extra on the NASCAR circuit.

  • Damon says:

    Simona finished 19th in points last year, Danica 10th.

    Simona had 2 top 10 finishes in 17 races last year, Danica had 2 2nd place finishes last year in 17 races.

    If you want to talk about hype, it’s the Simona hype that’s ridiculous.

  • Will i made a comment but got lost along the way.This is not a sport any more Just entertainment.The only reason i still watch is MARK MARTIN.

  • NASCAR HAS GONE TO THE OUTHOUSE.SO SORRY 2 see this. At one time in history was Great be on words. Now its just another nothing as a sport. Is it still a sport or entertainment?

  • F3 says:

    That fact is that she and her PR team do control the media hype. That is part of the problem. She is a brand and has stated that several times. She is not a racer. Her one win was orchestrated, as Roger Penske radioed Helio to slow down and let her pass because she was not on the lead lap. That pass was for the win. His pit box has telemetry to know she was on the lead lap. The fix was in as Tony George needed something to hype the series at that time. In IndyCar she had tier one equipment. Andretti Autosports had one of the most feared stable of drivers. After she came on board, the team went downhill. With no one to set up her car, her performance the past couple of years has dimished. Her crew thinks very little of her, especially after she threw them under the bus last year. Simona de Silvestro is in the oldest, heaviest chassis in the IndyCar field and consistently outperforms Danican’t. Danica is the rudest person in the IndyCar paddock and I doubt that will change in NASCAR. BZF has ruined NASCAR with his marketing ideas, mainly because he knows marketing and not racing. I for one will watch much less NASCAR now that the Queen of Hype is heading there.

    • jim says:

      you are a freakin’ idiot. Anyone who denies her life as a racer and thinks “the fix was in” for her victory probably has to take off his pants to see daylighy-’Nuf said.

  • Matt says:

    Not a huge Danica fan, but I do respect her.

    She is the first and only woman to win an Indycar race, or any big-league American series race, and that says something. (Not sure what exactly.)

    She has also proven on several occasions that she will not back down just because she’s a woman when other drivers in various series have tried to bully her. Blinky Wallace in particular seemed to love crashing her at one point, and she didn’t let it deter her one bit.

    We’ll see how she does. Good PR people and good looks will only carry her so far, we’ll see where her talent takes her from here.

  • steven says:

    Tim Flock ran a few early Nascar races with a live monkey in his car. Now we have Pimp Daddy’s monkey DRIVING the car!

  • ex-Na$car fan says:

    On the track, I think that alternately pressure, second-tier equipment and racing circumstance have defined her IndyCar career as disappointing.

    what do you mean – 2nd tier equipment???? She’s in some of the best out there. Simona Desilvestro drives circles around the Queen of Hype & she’s definitally in 2nd tier equipment. She finishes ahead of DP in every race she doesn’t have mechanical problem. She just doesn’t ‘whore’ herself out for the money.

  • Jim Allan says:

    Danican’t is a PR dream, granted, however that goes a long way to most of what you wrote. The problem is and has been for some time that those in control are fixated on providing a SHOW not a RACE! King Brian has ignored all criticism and stayed on the course of what he wants. Problem is he might be the only one left watching when all is said and done. Oh, I forgot he doesn’t watch the manipulated show, my mistake.

  • Patrick Galliano says:

    Thanks for this article. It is very close to what I have thought for the last couple of years. I recall the days when most of the drivers in Indy cars could , and would drive anything, anywhere, anytime. In Nascar, the drivers were mostly very mechanically astute and could do a lot of the work on the cars themselves. The Nationwide Series was a showcase for drivers and teams who were really good and had potential. It wasn’t impossible for a good team to put together a car and take a shot at doing something in NASCAR with the hope of attracting a sponsor. Not only are there no more AJ Foyts and Bobby Allisons, but the races themselves are massively boring. I find myself looking forward to watching a Patriots preseason game instead of the night race at Bristol. It could just be that I got old but I think there is more to it.

  • Damon says:

    The Indy 500 made Danica a household name in America and don’t try to spin it otherwise.

    As for popularity, Nascar’s most popular driver is Dale Jr. and he has 2 Cup wins since the start of 2006, but we’re often told how important him winning on a consistent basis again (think 2003 and 2004) is to the sport.

  • Angela says:

    All the media has to do is stay away from her and the mania will go away. Fans did not create this stupidity. The media did.