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How long will Danica-mania last?

By admin | February 17, 2010

By Richard Allen

Had it not been for a pothole, Danica Patrick would have been THE story of SpeedWeeks at the Daytona International Speedway. The female racer who has come to NASCAR from the open wheel ranks completely dominated media coverage throughout most of the time leading up to the Daytona 500.

As well known for her commercial making prowess as her driving, Patrick has become the face of overexposure for average talent. It’s not that she is a bad driver, but she isn’t equal to the hype. But then, no one would be.

This week’s media frenzy surrounding her arrival bordered on the obscene. One media member even went so far as to present Danica with a rose at a press conference. Every move she made was covered by television, radio and print media to the nth degree by swarms of reporters.

And this groveling was not limited to the media. During practice sessions large crowds of people would stand aimlessly at the back of her garage stall just to watch her come and go.

Had this been the first time a woman had ever run in a stock car race all of this overexposure might well have been understandable. However, anyone with a sense of racing history knows that Danica is not crossing bridges already crossed by Janet Guthrie and several other female drivers. For that matter, there were a total of six women racing in the ARCA race at Daytona and two ladies in the Nationwide Series event. And as for winning, women drivers have been doing that at the highest levels of drag racing for decades.

Admittedly, Danica’s presence did indeed drive higher ratings in the ARCA event. There were an estimated 87% more viewers watching that race over a year ago. And, her performance was respectable. She overcame a spin to finish in the top-10 of her first ever stock car race.

Her performance in the Nationwide Series race was far less noteworthy. After riding near the back of the pack and having difficulty with the style of racing needed on the high speed Daytona track, she was eventually caught up in an accident which ended her day.

The coverage had been so over the top in favor of her that one reporter from another network was prompted to comment via twitter that, “ESPN may turn off their cameras now that Danica is out of the race.” Trouble with that statement was it had been made by a pit reporter on SpeedTV, which had been even more over the top than ESPN.

The real problem here is that other drivers, teams and sponsors are being cheated out of publicity for the sake of covering a novelty. The term novelty refers more to her commercial appearances than the fact that she is a female driver. She has become one of those people is simply famous for being famous. If she were running at the front of the pack it would be one thing for her to get so much coverage, but she was not. She did not lead a single lap of either race she competed in.

Even if she were indeed running at the front of the pack she would not deserve the hype that was given to her, no one would.

The question is, how long does this continue? Danica has twelve more races to run in the Nationwide Series this year. If she continues to run outside the top-10 in that series does she still command so much attention?

Keep in mind, this is not an anti-Danica column. It is an anti-hype column.

My guess is that no matter how well Danica Patrick does, the other drivers might as well not worry about getting any camera time. Who knows, that might actually be a good thing for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The media may actually leave him alone for twelve weekends this season.

(And yes, I laugh at myself for pointing out the excessive hype while yet writing a column to bring more attention to it.)

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

10 Responses to “How long will Danica-mania last?”

  1. Damon Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Were you making this same argument last year when Kyle Busch was ruining the Nationwide series by finishing 1st or 2nd seemingly every week?

  2. Richard Allen Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Damon, I’ve been arguing against limiting Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series for quite some time. And that certainly includes Kyle Busch.

  3. Gene Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    No doubt she improved TV ratings, but this year there was a blizzard on the East Coast during that ARCA race which no doubt led to more viewers. They also benefited from the Danica hype during 500 pole qualifying this year directly before the ARCA race. Yes, it was on a different network, but that didn’t stop Fox from marking out over her.

    Then, Saturday during the NNS race, we had another snowstorm. This time not only the East Coast, but also most of the South. Captive audience = higher ratings.

  4. Gene Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 7:44 am

    We already have NNS without the Cup drivers…. it’s called ARCA.

    That’s what NNS would become without the Cup drivers. You would have three or four Cup “developmental” teams and drivers, and 40 worn out racecars with drivers who don’t have the talent to make the big show. Do we really need two series like that?

  5. The Mad Man Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 11:10 am

    How long will Danica-mania last? Until the sales of her merchandise are no longer profitable.

  6. Frank Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    How true, Danica is famous for being famous. She is an average driver in the IRL that usually falls back and rides around, then as some of the few cars drop out, she picks up positions. One of the reasons she is doing NASCAR is that she no longer receives all the attention in the IRL anymore. As she points out, it is all about her “brand”, not her racing abilities {or lack of}.

  7. Gina Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I love it. Famous for being famous — sort of like Paris Hilton. I’d like to see less Cup guys in the nationwide series, too since they hog and will continue to hog a lot of coverage for this series.

    Cover what is actually happening during the race broadcasts, the race, not the hype and I’ll bet a lot of race fans would be happier.

  8. MartyC Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I agree with you 100%. I have nothing against her coming to NASCAR and I’ll admit it does deserve SOME media attention. But, talk about over-kill, I’m surprised they didn’t have a camera and full crew to cover her potty breaks! I would have said when she showers, but Go Daddy already has done a commercial with her and another girl together in the shower!!!

    Did she deserve all the coverage when she fell back to 27th place and pretty much stayed there? She’s a rookie doing a mediocre job at best. It might have been a good thing that she was involve in the crash, that way the media could brag on how she almost made it through instead of that she had fallen back to finish 38th or whatever. Actually, the best part of the crash was that once they were done interviewing her after it and she went back to her motor-home they didn’t have any choice but to actually broadcast the race!

  9. Gary Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Danica hype is yet another NASCAR mistake, another in a long line of mistakes that is hurting ratings and attendance. If Danica continues her mediocre ways then NASCAR will look foolsih again. May as well put Paris Hilton in a car — all NASCAR is doing is trying to capitalize on the sleazy side of celebrity. NASCAR forgets that it was more popular when really good local drivers could end up with Cup rides. Now it’s heading toward the road that killed CART (fields full of unknowns who bought their rides). Danica hype is the type of stuff that turns away the formerly loyal old NASCAR fans, and only attracts the flavor-of-the-month fan who will be gone next month. Now that the second tier series is no longer immune from NASCAR tampering, maybe only the Truck series will be legitimate - but for how long?

  10. steven Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Novelties are nothing new in Nascar. Tim Flock once raced with a monkey in his car. Soon people will realize that Danica is way out of her league especially with her flawed part time strategy and complete lack of technical knowledge. The only reason she is out there is because of the Go (pimp) Daddy money which makes car owners drool. Good thing that Donald Trump isn’t looking for a ride.