Flat Spot On: Patrick And The Nega-Tweeters
By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – So the great Danica Patrick debate is on and the tweets are in.
There’s no escaping the question: Does she belong or is she just another pretty face?
It’s even become a mainstream question, which is always an accomplishment for motor racing. Patrick’s arrival in the Daytona 500 is the biggest thing in sports since, well, Jeremy Lin got off the couch. Without so much as starting or finishing a Sprint Cup points race, she’s this week’s sports story of the century.
It’s safe to say racing fans of all ilks have an opinion about Patrick. They either want to see her do well or take satisfaction when she doesn’t, such as when she crashed in the Gatorade Duels on Thursday or in Saturday’s 300-mile Nationwide Series race. (Never mind that other drivers caused the accidents or that all the races have been crashfest this year under new rules attempting to curb tandem drafting.)
If Saturday’s Nationwide race was a battle of the sexes, Patrick won the cursing contest portion. After her teammate’s errant tandem draft attempt in Turn 3 failed miserably and put her into the wall, Patrick inquired “What the (bleep) was that?”
The outcome in terms of where she finishes could go either way in the Daytona 500 for Patrick. Whatever happens in what drivers are calling a lottery, she won the pole for the Nationwide event and will leave Daytona with that accomplishment. It’s no small potatoes that she’s already done more for NASCAR than
anybody since her Nationwide team co-owner and advertising buddy Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Daytona Is Dantastic!” blared the local front page headline after Patrick won the pole, catching the mood of things.
And that’s what rubs the nega-tweeters the wrong way. Just by showing up and being a good-looking woman who drives a stock car, Patrick generates a lot of excitment, particularly in the media and garners millions in sponsorship. (“The first woman to win a pole at Daytona,” gushed the local front page –incorrectly.)
Between the instant excitement and the assumption that she wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity unless she was a pretty face capable of posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Patrick draws a crowd when it comes to the nega-tweeters.
Of course, a race fan would have to be a clod or living under a rock to think Patrick isn’t a capable race car driver. And perhaps that’s the biggest rub. Patrick actually isn’t just a novelty act and isn’t just another pretty face. She’s more in line with road racing winner Lyn St. James or that famous man-beater and drag racer, Shirley Muldowney.
Outside of racing, there’s not much consideration about what it takes to succeed and Patrick is indeed a novelty act. That’s precisely her drawing power, the contrast with the usual type who wheels a stock car at 200 mph. It’s just that shallow – and deep.
But can Patrick win races – and is that the criteria of whether a racer really belongs?
We all know the answer to this question. When Patrick won an IndyCar race at Twin Ring Motegi the nega-tweeters were quiet – only because the Twitter Industrial Complex was not yet fully up and launched at that time.
But in that hoary old tool of communication known as “Comments,” the deep-in-denial types clearly communicated the conspiracy theory about the Penske Racing team letting Patrick win on purpose. Or that somehow anybody could drive at the harrowing Motegi oval and win on fuel mileage.
Sort of like bumper cars at the fair, right? Just steer clear.
Given all the crashes this week, including the big one at the end of the Nationwide race, it does seem like it’s more a matter of guts than talent when it comes to driving Daytona’s high banks no matter which sex is behind the wheel.
And as long as we’re on that subject, it’s time for the sex drive joke, you know the one about motor racing being all about testosterone and estrogen… .
– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments