Danica Is Not NASCAR’s Savior

All you have to say is her name and most fans have an opinion. In fact, at this point, she’s pretty much beloved by all. A lot of that has a lot to do with her performance which so far has been mid-pack at best. She qualified 15th and finished 15th on Saturday at Kansas Speedway, which is acceptable, She didn’t challenge for the win, but finished in front of 28 other drivers. I imagine she felt like it was a successful day and it probably was.

[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”218″][/media-credit]Of course I’m talking about Danica Patrick. Patrick, with first class Hendrick Motorsports equipment, has not been awesome in her first year on the Nationwide Series circuit, but making the move from the lightweight Indy Series cars to the heavy NASCAR cars has to be challenging. That said the theory behind why NASCAR so desperately wants her in their camp is flawed. Danica Patrick is not NASCAR’s savior.

When NASCAR’s popularity began to wane a few years ago, it was widely hinted that the death of the sport’s icon, Dale Earnhardt, had pushed many fans away. I don’t doubt that. You can still go to tracks and see the No. 3 flags and listen to fans fondly talk about the man they called “The Intimidator.” But it’s been a decade since Dale left us, and I see his fans everywhere at tracks. Maybe some gave up on the sport, but that wasn’t the reason for the decline.

Later on, the story was that the elder Earnhardt’s son, Dale, Jr., wasn’t winning and only if he could get to victory lane, things would fall into place. Earnhardt, Jr. left his father’s team and headed to the greener pastures of Hendrick Motorsports where success was bound to happen. After all, this was the team that had the fastest cars in the sport. Earnhardt has one victory since joining HMS and usually finishes well out of the running. He has shown improvement lately, but that isn’t the reason for the decline, either.

Finally, the Great Recession hit in the fall of 2007. That was blamed for the lack of butts in the seats, but no one to this day will ever blame the product that is put on the track week after week. That’s the problem. The fact that everyone is in denial means that other methods are examined to boost the sport, and that starts with one Danica Patrick.

The decline of NASCAR started with the development of the Car of Tomorrow. Yes, the old “twisted sister” that was used for years didn’t look like the showroom car, and the new car was much safer to NASCAR’s credit, but it took most teams, with the notable exception of Hendrick Motorsports, a couple of years to figure it out because it was so different. In the meantime, it was the same thing every week. Which Hendrick car would win or which Joe Gibbs Racing car would win (after they switched to Toyota). Richard Childress Racing, the home of Dale Earnhardt, and Roush-Fenway Racing were out to lunch. It also started the reign of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Over and over, Johnson won and won again. He will probably win again this year. The suspense is gone. It’s just a matter of time until Johnson wins again. Today, he sits four points out of the points lead with six races to go. Why? The creation of the NFL playoff clone called The Chase. The barrage of intermediate tracks in the “championship run” is tailor made for Johnson and the COT, but that’s not the problem according to many. It has to be something else, like new faces in the series. Enter Danica Patrick.

The theory is that Danica will bring in men. Lord knows she is a nice looking lady. Women want someone to root for and Danica is perfect. But will she get people to come out to see her race? Will TV ratings go up when she participates?

Ignoring the obvious problems with the product cannot be cured with the entrance of an attractive woman who is a media expert and a good driver. Until the day that the powers that be can figure out that flaws exist in the product they have given fans, nothing will turn around. NASCAR needs more Darlington’s and Bristol’s that offered slam-bang racing. That was what made the sport so exciting to the fans. Instead, NASCAR became, and has become, a sport where the usual happens on cookie-cutter tracks that all look the same. So don’t expect that little lovely lady to save us. It will be nice to have her around, but it isn’t the answer.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


  1. You are right on the money Ron. NASCAR and the networks are making the same mistake with Danica that they made with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Fans of other drivers grow weary of overhyped, underachieving drivers being shoved down their throats.

    No one driver can carry a sport, especially when the people running the sport make colossal errors in judgment–like implementing the Chase over the very loud objections of longtime fans.

    I doubt any woman who has been passed over for a promotion at work for someone who is less qualified but prettier will become a fan of a female driver who achieved her fame and status not because of any great accomplishments on the racetrack but by her airbrushed swimsuit shots off of it.

  2. The empty seats for the NNS race at Kansas proved that Cup drivers don’t bring in fans and neither does Danica. Come to think of it, just about ever race she’s been in under the NASCAR banner, the grandstands have been less than half full. So she’s obviously not pulling in fans, male or female. Add to that her stretching the truth about not coming to NASCAR and she’s not in it for the money. She clearly stated she was worried about her “branding” and marketing in NASCAR. So she has no credibility.

    As to her skills, well, her one win in IndyCar came under some somewhat dubious circumstances with the computer scoring and a gas mileage race to get her only win and after how many years in IndyCar?

    It’s pretty obvious the boys in Daytona have backed the wrong horse yet again in a desperate attempt to raise NASCAR back up to pre-COT levels.

    • You are a dolt and have no clue what you are talking about. There are hundreds of thousands of people who were only interested in Indycar because of Danica. That is a FACT.
      I will be watching every Nationwide race next year because of her.
      You have no clue. What is your expertise? Reading racing comic books? Reading commentary from sports writers who have no clue either? Or just checking out your ouija board?


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