By admin | April 2, 2013
By Richard Allen
I have been a fan of NASCAR for as long as I can remember, and unfortunately, that’s a pretty long time. It’s in my blood to be a fan of the sport. My dad was an old dirt tracker back in the day and he named after Richard Petty when I was born in the midst of a season in which ‘The King’ won 27 races(see if you can figure my age without google).
All that said, there have been veryÂ few times I can remember when there was as much buzz about NASCAR as there has been these last couple ofÂ weeks.
And the fact that might amaze outsiders, and even some insiders, is thatÂ none of that buzz is related to Danica Patrick. RememberÂ when we were being told that sheÂ wasÂ doing the sport a favor and would save it from its lowered TV ratings and empty grandstands? Yeah, that was something like four weeks ago.
After a lackluster Nationwide Series campaign in her first full year in NASCAR last season, Danica moved up to the Sprint Cup division and many in the media, particularly television, latched on to her star immediately. And that focus of attention seemed somewhat well placed when the former IndyCar driver put her Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet on the pole for the Daytona 500 then subsequently drove to a top-10 finish at the checkered flag.
Danica’s performance in Daytona certainly did stir a buzz among the more mainstream media outlets. But as is often the case with NASCAR, that mainstream attention was short-lived.
Since the season opener, the much commercialized female driver’s finishes have fallen off drastically. Over the last four races, Ms. Patrick has scored finishes of 39th, 33rd, 28th and 26th. HerÂ qualifying efforts since claiming that early pole have been even worse. She has started 40th, 37th, 41st and 40th.
It should be noted that Danica crashed in Phoenix after a tire failure and qualifying in Las Vegas was rained out which caused the lineup to be set based on owner points.
So what has caused all the excitement centered around NASCAR lately? Well, it hasn’t been the focus on one or a few individual personalities over the on-track product that has created the buzz.
Instead, the racing over the past two weeks has been much improved over that seen throughout much of 2012. There has been passing to take place over the entire course of the events and finishes that were hotly contested. Further, drivers have demonstrated emotion and passion.
As has been demonstrated in unofficial polls conducted by this website on Twitter and Facebook, fans have overwhelmingly approved of what they have seen from NASCAR on the tracks in Bristol, Tenn. and Fontana, Calif. And more, drivers Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano certainly did their part to spice things up by adding heated rivalry to the mix.
To further create interest, it hasn’t hurt that the sport’s most popular driver has assumed the lead in the Sprint Cup standings either.
With all that has taken place over the last three weeks in NASCAR, I find myself asking “Danica who”? EvenÂ one of her most vocal supporters, Darrell Waltrip,Â stated during the Fox TV broadcast of the Fontana race that it was time for her to pick up the level of her performance.
Danica Patrick is not going to save NASCAR. Whether she succeeds or fails, the sport will continue. TheÂ best medicineÂ for this form of racing, as has been demonstrated over the last two weeks, is good competition and the demonstration of some personality.
If competitive and entertaining racing continues throughout the season, the grandstands will fill back up and television ratings will rise. And it won’t matter if Danica is running 1st or 41st.
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