|The IRL built IndyCar on Danica and no other drivers. When she leaves for NASCAR what will happen to the series when its biggest asset walks out the door?|
Chris Jenkins from the Associated Press and I were talking during IndyCar testing Wednesday at the Milwaukee Mile. I asked him if he was there working on anything in particular. He was just there to write about what Danica Patrick had do say. Or, more accurately, didn’t have to say.
The chances of her spilling anything on her future were nil, and yet . . . yet . . . yet . . .aaaaggghhhh, Chris was right. (And he’s a guy who covered Brett Favre and NFL labor, so he knows a lot about covering stories that need babysitting.) The media that have told Patrick's story ad nauseum, complicit with the fans who have continued to read and watch, and have made Patrick’s story as much about the story as about Patrick herself.
Follow? Let me try it another way. Why is Kim Kardashian famous? Because, well . . . she’s famous. Acclaim is one of those sorts of things that can just build on itself. She of the ample backside and “reality" series will sell perfume and someone will buy it not because she had a track record for producing pleasing if slightly overpriced scents but because she’s the one selling it.
Because Patrick had some success on her way up in racing, she was able to sell her brand. Sorry. That’s just stating reality. She became Danica. Not Danica Patrick. Danica. The Danica brand drove interest in Danica Patrick, the driver. And the driver built the brand. Because she was popular, she was more of a story, and because she’s more of a story, she has more opportunity to crack the public consciousness — to become popular — than someone who isn’t out front.
(Norman Chad-like interruption: I say Patrick is both the most popular and most unpopular driver in IndyCar racing. Think about it.)
In this day of instantaneous news, everyone is afraid of missing something. And that’s good to a point. In cases of the Danica-to-NASCAR story, like the Favre-to-a-tractor saga, there’s a hunger to be fed with the tiniest and most stale of crumbs.
. . . All of which brings us to a handful of TV cameras and a few guys with tape recorders trying to stay out of each other’s way while asking questions that have been asked and answered a couple hundred times. (And will be asked and answered in front of a different group Friday during the NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.)
“I’m considering all my options," Patrick said when asked about comments Sunday from Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of sponsor GoDaddy.com, suggesting a Nationwide-plus-Indy-500 schedule for 2012. “It’s pretty early still to be making decisions.
“I haven’t made any of them, so those speculation rumors that came out a week or so ago . . . I had to watch the news to know what the news was, to know what my news was. I had to read what my ‘Danica’s deal’ was. Those are things that we’re just evaluating. I’m fortunate that I have a great team around me that takes care of a lot of that and allows me to just drive the car. I don’t have to worry about that stuff at this point. Once things get to a critical point where they need my decision-making, then that’s what we’ll do."
Timetable? Yeah, right. She’ll know what she’s doing next year before next year begins.
What? You wanted more? It’s just as likely you wanted less.
If you’ve stuck around this long, though, I can tell you that the one bit of actual news from the day came late in the morning session, when rookie James Jakes backed his car into the wall in Turn 2.
Between of the wind and the grungy track and some fatigue from the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, there wasn’t a real rush to get going. Vitor Meira and Tony Kanaan challenged each other via Twitter to get out and clean the track. Kanaan’s group spent the morning getting his car ready. His backup was the car Tomas Scheckter drove in the 500, so it had a certain Frankenstein look to it.
As you can imagine, everyone talked about how cool it was to be back at Milwaukee. They’d been doing that for months.
KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser asked about ticket sales. I told him the same thing as anyone else who’d asked; they were soft before Indy but the pace apparently has picked up.
As crowds go on a day such as this, there was a pretty good one watching from outside the track.
Testing isn’t open to the public for liability reasons, but there’s nothing stopping anyone from sitting on the hill long Turn 2 or in the parking lot immediately south of the track. A few fans peered between sections of grandstand.
There’s an actual, organized watching party planned by promoters for the Friday session with the Penske and Ganassi teams and Panther, with heartbroken Indy runner-up J.R. Hildebrand. It’s the same as an ad hoc party, but with an open concession stand and ample opportunity to buy tickets. (What, you thought you were getting free beer, too? Sorry. You’ll have to settle for a sales pitch from the AB Promotions folks instead.) JS Online