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Danica is more a sex object than a race car driver

Danica Patrick plays right into auto racing's long and widely known history of women as objects, as firecracker beauty queens and Hooter's girls and hood ornaments

Your sexpot American sporting press welcomed Danica Patrick to NASCAR late last week. Barring cataclysm, or a better offer from "Dancing With The Stars," Patrick is expected to announce in a day or two her intention to travel full-time next season with the big roundy-rounder tent-and-revival show. Abandoning the "IndyCar Series," whatever that is these days, she'll drive the 2012 Nationwide circuit in a car with fenders owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

She was presented with a pair of high heels at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last year. It's worth asking how often that happens with male drivers. Her agents, managers, publicists, stylists, sponsors, accountants and fans are no doubt delighted by this, as are the hundreds of selfless board-certified radiologists who camp the Turn 3 infield at Daytona every year offering free mammograms and margaritas to passing women of every shape, size and age on race day.

As Patrick joins this coast-to-coast V-8 burlesque, and is variously praised, criticized, leered at or attacked for her performance on the track and off, it will be worth remembering that while NASCAR presents televised stock-car racing as a mostly family-wholesome "PG"-rated entertainment, the trackside and grandstand facts have always been closer to a hard "R." (Camp a race week at Talladega or Bristol or Darlington if you don't believe it. The Saturday firelight vibe is 75/25 Caligula/Cale Yarborough. If you were expecting a motorhome commercial come to life, or a living sermon on service to community, NASCAR Dad's "Show us your t---!" exuberance can come as kind of a shock.)

But sex and death have long been favorites in the human theater, and racing, along with perhaps bullfighting, deliver the risk and hope of both in their purest form.

Thus Patrick's arrival, dragging behind her a series of soft-core commercials and unzipped magazine layouts, is in keeping with auto racing's long and widely known history of women as objects, as firecracker beauty queens and Hooter's girls and hood ornaments. More at ESPN.com

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