It’s time for Danica Patrick to build a resume on the racetrack
If you didn’t know Danica Patrick was coming to NASCAR full time long before Thursday’s announcement in Phoenix made it official, you just weren’t paying attention.
|Danica Patrick is going to have to start winning races. Sex only sells so long in racing|
From a marketing standpoint, Patrick’s move to stock cars embodies the same consummate logic with which she has built an indelible brand in the IndyCar Series. Quite simply, it was time to find greener pastures. Green, as in the color of money.
To be blunt, the bloom is off Patrick’s rose in IndyCars. Patrick’s only win in 111 starts came three years ago in Japan. She has shown no fondness for or mastery of the road courses that make up a substantial portion of the schedule.
To make matters worse, Patrick no longer is hands-down the best female driver in the series. Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro beat Patrick in five of the 12 races in which they both competed this year, and the quality of Silvestro’s equipment is no match for Patrick’s.
That’s just one reason Patrick’s move to stock cars makes enormous sense. The Nationwide Series plays to her strength—oval tracks. The level of exposure she’ll get in NASCAR racing, particularly in the limited number of Sprint Cup races she’ll drive for Stewart-Haas, will dwarf her efforts in IndyCars.
And—first and foremost—she’ll be able to compete for a title.
“I’d like to contend for the championship,” Patrick told Sporting News. “Being in the top five, running with the full-time Nationwide drivers would be a good goal.”
Again, the timing is impeccable. Starting with the 2011 season, NASCAR instituted a select-a-series rule that forces each driver to choose the one series in which he or she will run for a championship. Accordingly, Patrick will be racing the Ricky Stenhouse Jrs., Elliott Sadlers, Jason Lefflers, Justin Allgaiers and Steve Wallaces of the world for the Nationwide crown.
That’s not to say those guys aren’t accomplished drivers—they are. But they are not double-duty Cup drivers Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, the past five Nationwide champions in the laissez-faire, everyone-is-eligible era.
Patrick ran the first four Nationwide races this year. She finished fourth at Las Vegas, the best result ever for a female driver in any of NASCAR’s top three touring series. After that race, the third of the season, she was fourth in the series standings, 13 points behind Sorenson, the leader.
Given the quality of her equipment (the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet), the high profile of her ownership (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the wisdom and experience of her crew chief (Tony Eury Jr.), Patrick will be a disappointment if she DOESN’T place in the top five in the Nationwide standings.
“I think she’s going to do really well on that circuit,” says Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of GoDaddy.com, the sponsor with which Patrick is joined at the hip. “I think she’s going to be a winner—it’s just a question of when and how often.”
But can Patrick back up the hype? Her appearance at the Phoenix news conference in orange hooker heels suggests she is still just as interested in selling sex appeal and celebrity as performance on the racetrack.
Performance, however, is something she’ll have to find—and find soon—in the Nationwide Series, particularly if she’s to be taken seriously in exponentially more difficult Sprint Cup competition. As driver Jeff Burton is fond of saying, “You are what your record says you are.”
In Patrick’s case, the record in the series she is joining must show considerably more substance than the one she established in the series she is leaving.
After NASCAR, there is no other move to make. Sporting News