By admin | February 18, 2013
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 mileÂ Daytona International Speedway.Â In so doing, she became the first female driver toÂ 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 GoDaddy.com which have aired during the Super Bowl as well as other programming.
The bottom line is, having attention cast in her directionÂ is nothing newÂ 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 whoÂ 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 theÂ 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.
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