It's Danica time

Kay Bell | January 01, 2012

‘Danica’s good for NASCAR’ myth

Let’s set this straight right now. Patrick is not necessarily good for the sport. But the sport is good for her.

Sure, casual fans will watch a race or two and maybe go see her in person. But few of those folks will become hardcore stock car fans.

Despite all the hoopla and NASCAR executives’ hope, there is no proof that Patrick has ever driven ticket sales or TV ratings. She got a lot of attention for leading a few laps at the 2005 Indy 500 and her win at Motegi, but ticket sales and TV ratings for subsequent races didn’t exactly pop.

Where you see bigger crowds is around Patrick’s souvenir trailer, and that brings me to my final bit of trepidation about her arrival in my favorite racing series.

Patrick is a short-timer

No one doubts Danica’s determination. Regardless of gender, racers have to be committed to cope with some daunting physical, mental and psychological challenges.

But many, me included, question exactly what Patrick’s determined to do.

As a racer, she certainly wants to win. But how many wins does she need? One trip to a NASCAR victory lane, and she then could say “I’ve done it” and move on, parlaying that trophy into all sorts of ancillary money — which she’s already darn good at doing.

As Bobby Rahal, the IndyCar fixture who gave Danica her start back in 2001, says, “I guess I presumed she’d be in TV commercials and in Hollywood some day.”

She’s already cornered the market on racers starring in ads. And if she ever does take a NASCAR checkered flag, no need to continue the grueling schedule. I can hear her now: “I’m young, I’m pretty, have you seen my trophy? Call me when you’re in Los Angeles.”

Kay Bell is an Austin, Texas-based writer. When she’s not yelling at her television during NASCAR races, she blogs about taxes and other financial topics at www.dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com.

 

LOOSE LUGNUTS

Speaking of Danica

As skeptical as I am of Danica Patrick’s jump to NASCAR, at least she’s not leaping right into the Sprint Cup Series. Of the 10 races in the big series she’s planning to run in 2012, only a few are in the season’s first half — meaning she’ll get a lot of Nationwide Series seat time to get more used to stock cars.

Patrick will make her Sprint Cup debut at Daytona in February, then race at Darlington in May. After that, she’s scheduled to run at Bristol in August; Atlanta, Chicago and Dover in September; and Texas and Phoenix in November. She also plans to add two more starts at some point. Debuting at Daytona is more about publicity than prudence, but at least she already has some superspeedway experience. And by the time Bristol rolls around two-thirds of the way through the season, she should be comfortable enough to at least hold her own.

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