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Monday, May 7, 2012

Even haters can agree: Danica Patrick winning a NASCAR race would be the best thing that could happen for the sport

Danica Patrick continues to rack up milestones in her young NASCAR career, this week becoming only the second female driver to lead a lap at Talladega -- on her first trip to the track.

The driver, easily the most divisive figure in the garage, has a lot of fans who lover her and a lot of people who hate her and think she doesn't deserve a ride.

But if she continues to do what she did this past weekend -- run up front at one of the biggest races of the year and legitimately present herself as a potential race winner -- she might end up winning over a lot of those haters.

There are qualifiers of course. This is a plate race, so it's not quite like she led laps at Darlington or another track that's more driver oriented and less about drafting.

But I was very impressed by the overall way she ran this weekend, and so were millions of others who watched. She is progressing as a driver, and has improved tons since her terribly clueless runs early in her part-time NASCAR days.

So what did I come away with regarding Danica after this weekend; well, a theory, one that most people will probably agree with since it's just common sense.

Point blank: Even the biggest Danica haters must admit that if she does end up winning a race this year, in Nationwide or Cup, it would be the biggest boost the series could hope for and do more to help the sport's popularity than anything else that could happen -- with the possible exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning a bunch of races in a row.

Danica has tons of fans, and if she's winning, they'll tune in more. This is not a theory, it's a fact. They love to root her on if she's running 20th. Imagine if she's running 1st or 2nd.

And the mainstream sports media will pick up on it. they normally hate to even mention NASCAR, but Danica is a good story so they would run with it.

The most diehard haters of Danica, or course, will never change their minds. But all I'm saying is this. Ratings are down pretty much across the board this year so far for NASCAR broadcasts.

If lightning were to strike and Danica could start to win -- even just one time -- this year, those tides would turn, and the sport would gain more exposure, maybe even a lot more exposure depending how big of a race she won.

I'm not saying it will happen, I'm just saying the effects on the sport would be positive if she did. And even the haters have to agree on that point.

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Blogger matriarch said...

You can't be serious.

May 7, 2012 at 6:41 AM 
Anonymous mrclause said...

She leads one lap and she's a potential race winner? Then she goes on to pull the petulant child act she is famous for and cheap shots Hornish and can't find enough class to accept his explanation. Enough with the hype already. Let her rise or fall on what she actually does.

May 7, 2012 at 7:30 AM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

Actually matriarch, I am serious. In terms of increasing the popularity of the sport, nothing would help more at this point in time than Danica doing well and winning races. She brings fans with her to the series and more will come if she's successful.

And mrclause, it's not about one lap led; she ran good all day and is starting to get the hang of this. That's a good sign for the future. People can no longer say she is clueless out there and doesn't deserve a ride.

May 7, 2012 at 7:53 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, thanks for the chuckle this morning, i needed it. Actually John Close's item at closefinish hits the proverbial nail: p

Also, I read yours and several other items today about Tony Stewarts childish antics in his presser. I saw no hilarity in it, in fact I am insulted as a NASCAR and Tony fan. Always two steps forward and one back for him.


May 7, 2012 at 10:49 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also read John Close's article and I have to say I agree more with his take than I do with yours. I will admit however that you are right in that more people will tune in to watch the races. They won't be fans of racing however, they will be fans of hers and, like all of those other fair weather fans that Brian France got to tune in a few years ago, will quickly fins something else to fill their short attention spans and leave.

May 7, 2012 at 1:01 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, In your opinion, Why are some people "diehard haters"? Likewise,Why do some people like her?

May 7, 2012 at 2:00 PM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

I would say that Danica is just one of those figures -- like a Tim Tebow -- that transcends the sport they are in and thus will cause extreme reactions on both sides. The diehard haters, no matter what she does well, will always say she didn't earn her way into a top NASCAR ride and just got there because of a pretty face and marketing ... which is only partially true. She does have talent.

These haters would point out all the talented young drivers racing on short tracks each week who could likely do much better than Danica on the big stage but will never get the breaks she has. That is true, but life isn't always fair. You can't blame her for taking advantage of what is available to her.

On the other side, the diehard fans see her as the hope for female racers and will support her no matter what she does. Sometimes to a fault, defending her when she shouldn't be defended.

I would say the numbers on either extreme are pretty close to each other. I find it fascinating, and she is easily the biggest story to hit NASCAR in the past decade because of the extreme reactions she brings out in people.

May 7, 2012 at 2:18 PM 
Blogger mark said...

Funny how this used to be a sport before we "needed a minority to win". That's BS

May 7, 2012 at 3:09 PM 
Blogger mark said...

She can't run with them. If you give her a head start and a bathroom break she might do better.

May 7, 2012 at 3:11 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best thing that could happen is if Johanna Long won a race. She earned her way into the field and hasn't traded on her looks. She also isn't a whiny little punter.

May 7, 2012 at 6:02 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best thing that could happen is if Johanna Long won a race. She earned her way into the field and hasn't traded on her looks. She also isn't a whiny little punter.

May 7, 2012 at 6:41 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haters ? what kind of adolescent terminology is that ? If you don't respect someone for whatever reason you are a "hater" ? Grow up.

May 7, 2012 at 9:33 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Danica is a joke. But she can make the France family richer and increase TV ratings.

May 7, 2012 at 10:07 PM 

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