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Will Danica Patrick’s Accomplishment Help the Sport… Or Just Danica?

By admin | February 18, 2013

 Danica Patrick will start the Daytona 500 from the inside of the front row.

By Richard Allen

In the event that you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, Danica Patrick won the pole for the upcoming Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon with a lap of 196.434mph around the big 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway. In so doing, she became the first female driver to accomplish such a feat in the history of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

Having success or not, Danica has always garnered a great deal of attention throughout her racing career. Whether it be in the IndyCar, ARCA, Nationwide or Sprint Cup racing, the cameras and microphones have never been in short supply whenever she has been around. And that’s not including her television commercials for which have aired during the Super Bowl as well as other programming.

The bottom line is, having attention cast in her direction is nothing new to this driver.

But in the end, will this historic achievement serve to benefit the sport of NASCAR racing, or will it only serve to further feed the Danica attention getting machine? Without doubt, there will be new eyes cast on the Daytona 500 simply because of who will be starting first on Sunday. Viewership, at least at the beginning of the race, will almost certainly be higher than it was last year.

But will those viewers be watching NASCAR or will they be watching Danica Patrick? There is a very big difference.

When NASCAR’s hierarchy adopted innovations such as the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the Car of Tomorrow during the last decade, it seemed rather obvious that they had decided to move in the direction of promoting personalities over the actual racing. But in so doing, there is the risk of losing long time fans who value racing over individuals. And, there is the possibility that those who were drawn in by the personalities will not stick around once the next big thing comes along somewhere else.

Judging from the empty spaces in the grandstands of NASCAR tracks over the last few years and the somewhat steady decline of television ratings in that same time period, it seems as if the sport has fallen victim to the issues mentioned above.

As those of us who have followed NASCAR for any length of time know, racing at the big tracks of Daytona and its sister track in Talladega, Alabama is an entirely different animal from racing at places such as Martinsville, Darlington and Charlotte. There are sure to be struggles for the relatively inexperienced Danica throughout the coming season.

So once the novelty of her pole at Daytona wears off, will those who were drawn in by that accomplishment still be around? Or, will this happening only serve to feed the marketing machine that has become so associated with Danica?

This landmark achievement could be good for NASCAR if new fans who like what they see are pulled into the sport and ultimately decide stay around. Or, this could simply be a brief bubble of opportunity that grabs a few headlines and makes the driver, not the sport, the center of attention for a fleeting moment then goes away.

Time will tell which of those options will actually occur.

In order to play along for your chance to win $25 by predicting the race winner of the Daytona 500, you must follow @RacingWithRich on Twitter or “Like” the RacingWithRich page on Facebook. Your pick MUST be submitted on one of those two social media locations. Submissions will ONLY be accepted between 8:00am and 1:00pm(eastern) on February 24. Twitter followers MUST use the hastag #RWRDaytona500while Facebook submissions can simply be made under the post announcing the opening for submissions. Click here for full contest rules.

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14 Responses to “Will Danica Patrick’s Accomplishment Help the Sport… Or Just Danica?”

  1. Ken Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Rich, this person has gathered far too much attention, and it is getting too much for a lot of fans. It’s bad enough that all you will be reading about this week is about her, totally ignoring the fact that on Thursday, there will be 44 other drivers racing, and on Sunday, well, you might as well not bother watching. It will be all Danica, all race long. I dread even the thought of having to listen to D.W. falling all over her.

    The hype and hoopla over her has worn out her welcome. I’m not sure how much is NASCAR’s fault, but between Brian France and the media, more fans will be driven away because of the obsession over her. In the last few years, NASCAR has been compared to WWE. Danicamania proves it! if by chance she does win the 500, I will wash my hands of this joke of a sport! Just my opinion!

  2. Bill B Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 7:14 am

    NASCAR couldn’t have planned it better if their goal was to make a splash across the entire internet. Within an hour every major news website had the Danica story on the front page.
    Consider an artificial spike in NASCAR interest and some free publicity.
    I’d be saying it was fixed if the other Stewart-Haas cars didn’t qualify equally well.

  3. Old Bill Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Ditto what Ken says. And let’s not forget Ricky’s newly aquired pouty face. Waahhh, my new girlyfriend went faster than me…sniffle. New story. Was there REALLY any person that didn’t KNOW that Terry Labonte would pull a “start n park” ?? REALLY?? He should never show his face again at ANY track. What a class act for a former champion….NOT !!

  4. kirk303 Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    The dwindling nascar fan base who actually want to watch racing and not personalities grew tired of Danica last year. I find it hard to believe that casually interested people in a girl with a bright green suit driving in nascar will contribute in any way to boosting viewership or track attendance. In a nutshell, Danica is not going to do ANYTHING to help increase ratings or fill seats. If anything… she is doing the opposite, which is pushing out the hardcore fans that nascar should strive to keep. Most race fans don’t care for TMZ.

  5. Ed in GA Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I can just hear Mike Helton making his rounds in the Garage next Sunday….. “Now, I’m not telling you to let her win the race. I’m just saying don’t rough her up, or wreck her, if it looks like she might be able to win.” “Just think how good it will be for NASCAR if Danica wins the 500.”

    Probably the same conversation he had the last time the Yellow and Blue Wrangler, #3, ran in a Busch race at Daytona. If you recall, that car, and driver, did “win”(?) that race.

    “Just think how good it will be for NASCAR.”

  6. Mike Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Naysayers. Embrace reality. Wishing it were not so will not make it so. Tony Stewart is right, she’s going to be here a long time, so saddle up.

  7. k Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Agree with Ed in Ga…True fans of the sport find her a major distraction. I found it insufferable watching the Quals that her..ahem “love life” was even a topic of discussion, she still is married; correct? Not cool. A picture of Little Ricky watching Danica lap, a camera on Danica watching Little Ricky. Dw as usual trying to get the courage for what seems to be a marriage proposal, the gushing is just sad. I am a women and I am insulted that the attention is on the fact that she is a women, not for the accomplishments she HAS NOT achieved. She will be pasted 20 feet into the race. This is not what real race fans want or deserve. Sunday was sad commentary on how low we have sunk. The mute button was on and then I turned it off. The people in charge who think this is good for the sport are delusional.

  8. k Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    oops, bad spelling..sorry.

  9. Chris Fiegler Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Do you think that there will be another Female Driver in the Future to win a Sprint Cup Series Pole Besides Danica Patrick?

  10. jerome Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 7:21 pm


    Yes another female driver will win a Sprin Cup pole, especiall if she gets top tier equipment, major sponsorship dollars, and has NASCAR wanting her to succeed.

  11. Tony Geinzer Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    The Danicamaniac Circus is neither cool or fun, because it is having more Clowns than Krusty.

  12. RacingFan Says:
    February 19th, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I have felt for a long time that the person recognized for the Daytona 500 pole should be either the crew chief or the engineering team. The racer drives with his pedal to the metal the entire lap, so there isn’t much the driver can do. Possibly, taking a slightly different line through the corner could help.

    Both Danica and Jeff’s lighter weight might give them a little more speed in the corner than the rest of the field, by allowing the crew chief to put any needed weights (to bring it up to the minimum allowed) where they might help the car turn a little better in the corner and not have to pinch the car down with the steering wheel, effectively acting as a slight brake.

    But, a comparison of Jeff’s lap with Danica’s showed that she pulled ahead on the back stretch. Her advantage over Jeff wasn’t cornering speed. It probably was a gust of wind or maybe her engine had a little bit more top end. Even if the engines both came from Hendrick, there could be a slight difference.

  13. Lynn Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Danica is why I turned off all coverage of speedweeks and all NASCAR broadcasting. As a long time fan, I have had enough. We also will not be attending the two races a year we used to. She and the NASCAR push for her has turned us off the sport.

    Indy fans are thrilled she is gone. The dislike for her was just as it is in NASCAR.

    Keep cramping on the fans and see more empty seats.

    The chase is also a reason to dislike NASCAR.

    We ate actually getting into hockey.

  14. Lynn Says:
    February 26th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    As for Tony Stewart…enjoy racing to half empty tracks and losing tv coverage. Maybe if we let his sponsors know we don’t like her….