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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ignore the hype: Danica Patrick isn't coming to NASCAR

Here we go again.

Every couple of years, when her contract comes up, the talk of Indycar sensation Danica Patrick ("that girl who drives Indycars" to the non-racing fan) looking to come over to NASCAR from Indycar racing is brought up. Her deal expires at the end of the 2009 season, so the talk has returned.

The major racing media eats it up and hypes it … It’s a match made in heaven to them – the most famous female driver in the world in the most popular racing series in America.

And Patrick stokes the fires, saying things like this:
"I'm very flattered everyone is curious," Patrick was quoted as saying in a New York Times story. "It's interesting to me as well. Do I stay where I am? Do I try to change? It's all about evaluating options, and I think that's something any good business person does. One of the things I think of is the exposure level that you get in NASCAR with the ratings and viewership. Their numbers are so much larger than ours and with that comes a bigger following, comes more popularity, comes more demand for you to endorse other products. So I think it would be an exponential sort of growth."

But there’s one big problem: It’s not going to happen.

While I’m sure NASCAR would welcome Patrick, and all the publicity she would bring, with open arms, it doesn’t really work out to her advantage.

For starters, where would she race? Someone of her status in racing wouldn’t come to NASCAR to drive for some small-time team.

But what’s available?
--The Hendrick cars are so overbooked they don’t even have a slot for Brad Keselowski.
--The Roush team will have to drop a team after this year to achieve the four-team limit.
--I suppose Joe Gibbs could add her as a fourth car, but he’d probably be smarter to sign a NASCAR free agent like Martin Truex or Jamie McMurray.
--Stewart-Haas is emerging as a strong team and has Hendrick support, but I don’t know if Stewart would want to take a chance hiring someone who has never driven stock cars.

And since she’s never driven stock cars, she would have to drive a year in the Nationwide series to hone her skills. Somehow, I don’t think she’d appreciate being sent back to the minor leagues.

But let’s say I’m wrong and she can squeeze in at one of the top teams. Still, it doesn’t work, because she has no reason to switch.

In Indycar, she is the top dog. With Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and others are taking all the victories and championships, Danica steals all the headlines, despite having won only one race in just over four seasons. She probably makes more money from sponsorships than all the other Indycar drivers combined, and that will continue even if she never wins another race in her entire Indycar career because is basically the only star in the entire series.

Let’s say she moved to NASCAR. She would no longer be the face of the sport. She would be one star among many, including the big dog himself Dale Earnhardt Jr.

But still, it has to be tempting. If you read her quote, any move to NASCAR would be made for one reason ... big piles of $$$$$$$$$. But she probably has some smart business advisers who will tell her that if she comes to NASCAR and finishes in the back of the pack every week, that money might not be there in the end.

That brings us to the biggest reason of all it won’t work: She doesn’t race stock cars and it would be a disaster if she tried to do it. For comparison, let’s look at Sam Hornish Jr. He won several Indycar championships before coming to NASCAR, showing much more talent than Danica in the process. Yet he is still struggling for the most part in Cup. He’s had some good runs recently, but his spin per race ratio is probably higher than 1.

If a three-time Indycar champ like Hornish has yet to achieve significant success in NASCAR, how well do you think someone like Patrick, with her one fuel mileage win, will do if she’s racing a car she’s completely foreign to against guys like Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. I’m pretty sure they’d leave her in their dust.

Until a contract is signed somewhere, the media will speak all year of “What’s Danica going to do?” … But it’s pretty clear to me that she’s going to stay in Indycar, doing what she does best, most likely at the same team.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess this rumor will die when Danica retires from racing.

Danica isn't needed in NASCAR

May 11, 2009 at 3:28 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The talk is just more hype, & self promotion. I would bet if the offer was made with a quality team. She would make her fastest run yet. AWAY from it. She is right where she needs to be. Where a journeyman, or in this case journeywoman, in a decent ride can easily post a top 10 finish. That is if they can manage to get on, & off pit road.


May 11, 2009 at 6:27 AM 
Anonymous Ed said...

I am glad you wrote about this. It happened last time when her contract was up as many people have said. It's a blatant media ploy that is like amature hour. I for one don't think she is that good at all. And her childish blowups are just double amature hour. Before anyone says it, got nothing to do with being a female. No problems there. If she can drive and win all the more power to her. But the way she works the media machine, some say that is a good thing and it certainly is for her, but it is so self-serving and she doesn't back it up with wins.

Lookit Kyle Busch can be a child too but the Boy Wonder has 50 wins in NASCAR the last what 4-5 years? Where is Danica? All she has is SI and Danica Manica. To me it's like the way Jerry Punch et al was pushing the "phenom" issue with Joey Lagono so hard. Used to a driver had to earn his stripes before all the hype. Now all the hype arrives and really does a disservice to the driver and team. Lagono will be good in time. But no one can stand that kind of scrutiny so quickly. Already whispers he is out. Bull! Give the boy a chance. But Danica? Geeze all anyone talks about is she "is better than sliced bread." For me let her prove herself in wins before the media machine rolls out. So she won one in gas mileage. Talk to me when she has REALLY won the Indy 500 or a 5-6 win season. Till then she is just an "empty suit"...driver's suit that is.

May 11, 2009 at 6:50 AM 
Blogger Tim Wohlford said...

Having talked with one of the "Big 3" NASCAR owners last summer about Danica, I can assure you that there is zero interest in Danica over in NASCAR land.

If there is an offer, it would be simply to take her from the IRL, with no real expectation that she would be competitive. Certainly Sam, Dario, Sarah, "Pat", and John have made it clear that Indy drivers don't have any advantage over a raw 18 year old rookie picked from the late model ranks.

If anything, there will be a migration from NASCAR to the IRL - witness the Richard Petty effort at Indy. The NASCAR guys are noticing that they can have a nice race team in the IRL for about 1/3 of the cost of a good NASCAR team, and half of the IRL season is over on Memorial Day.

May 11, 2009 at 9:09 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to laugh at her commercial where she says that she "deserves respect" - I rarely see her give any to the other drivers. It's always someone else's fault... I wish she were out of AGR as I support them but cannot stand her any more.

May 11, 2009 at 2:14 PM 

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