Thursday, July 16, 2009

NASCAR TV Networks Drooling Over Danica

There are a lot of professional athletes who know how to use the media, but none may be doing a better job right now than IRL driver and cover girl Danica Patrick.

Her Monday visit to the shops of Stewart-Haas Racing set the reporters typing, the radio hosts talking and the NASCAR TV networks drooling. In an era where the tail often wags the dog, Patrick is proving to be media savvy beyond her years.

Click here for the story from Jay Busbee at Yahoo! that has details and links to the Danica visit. NASCAR has famously been a sport where women had a very hard time getting a toe-hold. Often, that was a two-sided issue that pitted sponsorship against performance. That may not be the case any more.

Although the smart money is still on Danica using her NASCAR flirtation as IRL contract leverage, the question remains. What if she jumped in a Cup ride?

Scan the NASCAR grandstands on any race day and the one group with the most in common are the female fans. Driven more by the personalities on the track than by what brand is stamped on the engine, this group may come into play if and when Patrick puts a serious eye on the sport.

Jimmy Spencer on SPEED's RaceDay was very clear in his opinion that Patrick could not handle a Sprint Cup Series car. He referenced the long line of open-wheel racers that had come and gone, including the high-profile Dario Franchitti. While Spencer's view is based on performance, there is another school of thought that exists.

The entire 2009 IRL schedule consists of only 18 races. The season did not start until April and ends in October. There is no support series where drivers can double-up on a race weekend. The most recent IRL race in Toronto had a grand total of 23 cars. There are only 5 races on ABC. The remaining 13, including the final 7 events, are carried on the Comcast-owned Versus cable TV network.

While Patrick may be trying to play the field, there are several things that make the lure of NASCAR attractive. As we said at the outset, Patrick is a media personality who works her off-track activities perhaps even harder than her racing. It may be fair to say that her exposure in Sport Illustrated's swimsuit issue might have gotten her a little more attention than finishing fifth out of 21 IRL cars at the Milwaukee Mile this May.

Waiting for Patrick in NASCAR land would be the Fox Broadcast Network, Turner Network Television, ESPN and her old friend ABC. The 24 hours of NASCAR radio on SiriusXM would make her a topic of discussion daily. It seems ironic that a move to the Sprint Cup Series would actually get Patrick more race exposure on ABC than the entire IRL season. It's a little thing called the Chase for the Championship.

Whatever amount of merchandise Patrick is moving at the Danica Racing Store, she can count on that number soaring if she adds her NASCAR sponsor, her team name and the little NASCAR logo to the t-shirts and caps.

In our society at present, we follow and admire people as much for their exposure in the media as the things they might have done to get it. Sometimes. they may have done relatively little and still become media darlings. Patrick has been a consistent IRL performer, but few wins have come her way. That has not stopped the public from making her a household name.

While there is little doubt Patrick's first season in NASCAR would be a learning curve, there is one thing to keep in mind. In terms of sponsorship, revenue and exposure she may only have to make the field each race to keep her incredible media presence alive and growing. With the right team, that might not be too tall a task.

NASCAR Now, RaceDay, and the Hollywood Hotel would be filled with Danica-mania if she were to show-up in February at Daytona. SportsCenter, Wind Tunnel and other shows not totally NASCAR-oriented would bend to her purpose. These days, the motorsports media follows instead of leads.

How would you feel if Patrick made the move directly to the Sprint Cup Series with an established team? If she was just as serious about getting away from open-wheel racing as another former IRL champion you may have heard of...his name is Tony Stewart.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


West Coast Diane said...

It's a free country, so if she were serious, why not.

I follow IRL. Her attitude/demeanor has changed this year, for the better. She commented at the beginning of the season she was going to work on letting go of the "angry" Danica. I think that is a major reason she is 5th in the points and has top 5 and top 10 finishes.

On the NASCAR side she would have to sign with a top tier team to make sure she had the best equipment. The transition just seems to be too difficult for open wheelers to go to a lesser team.

There could be resentment from fans if she went direct to Cup, instead of doing the Arca, Trucks, Nationwide approach. So, while she would still be the "story" for all branches of the media, it could backfire. NASCAR fans tend to get testy when the media dotes on one person extensively....even my beloved Junior...LOL! Joey Logano had some of that backlash intitially, but seems to be winning over fans (like me, who liked him, didn't like him, liking him again).

With all that said, I think she might be interested in NASCAR in the future. Although, not sure she is into the length of the NASCAR season. So, I'm thinking she is negotiating her contract with AGR or another team.

Amy said...

On one hand, more power to her if she gets the media attention she needs/wants by doing the NASCAR rounds. And a hearty laugh at the media for falling for the trick. On the other hand, hearing more about Danica moving when there's no reason she would leave IRL.. *yawn*

Richard in N.C. said...

Coincidentally it would seem that Tony George's demotion by his sisters and mother and the implications for the IRL might make NASCAR more attractive for Danica.

At the same time it could just be a smokescreen for the latest NASCAR mystery - does the newest Gillette Young Gun (Joey L.) really know how to shave?

Anonymous said...

Danica isn't fit to wash Tony Stewart's laundry. She needs to spend more time learning how to win instead of building up her 'chick brand'.

Kenn Fong said...


Jimmie Spencer's comments about Danica are laughable. After what he said about Kelly Earnhardt two years ago, he made it clear that the Geico caveman wasn't the only neanderthal in NASCAR.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting, that is for sure. I have my doubts about her ability in a stock car, but it seems guys who come to the series from other series, and are determined to suceed through hard work do show improvement: Marcus Ambrose and Juan Pablo come to mind.

After visiting her store, I noticed one thing to keep track of...what is happening with the #7 in NASCAR. Are there negotiations for Robbie Gordon's team to use another number? Would he give it up to her?

Tom said...

Jimmy Spencer has always made comments that are at best....uniformed....(to use a nice term), and at worst, misogynist. As a former fan of his local racing days, I cringe now just seeing him open his mouth. He has every right to his opinions, just as I have every right to speak against them....or not watch him.

Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
50 yr. fan. said...

I think it would be great to see
her in Cup. She does have a
burning desire to win which certainly isn't reflective in the
"Most Popular" driver. (lost 3
spots in the last lap last week)

batchief said...

I would like to see her try it for a year. The up side for Nascar, if she has even a small amount of success, would be tremendous. If she doesn't succeed, no harm no foul and she can return to the open wheels. The one year ride from this spectators perspective would have been a blast. I would love to see a third Stewart/Haas entry with her in it. Tony would transfer his car points to her car so she would be in the show each of the first five races and he would easily qualify his car, like he did this year, on time.
C'mon on Danika, we are waiting.

RLGuido said...

I cant wait to see her do 500 laps at Bristol !

This is not going to work out period and anyone whoe thinks otherwise has bumped their head.

Besides, she just hired Anna Kournokova's manager.

Janet Gutherie gave it a shot in the 70's and was actually respectable until she ran Bristol and had to get out of the car.

Women have better reaction time and reflexes than men but they do not have the physical endurance.

Running Nascar's top series is no joke with several 500 mile races, a 600 miler and 4 short track races that are 500 laps each.

This deal may pump up her brand but she will never be a success in the Cup Series.

Anonymous said...

I think she has a great amount of talent and given good equipment and time to learn she could do well. It would be a mistake to assume success would come in the first year. If she is not willing to stick it out for 3-4 years then I would say do not come into Cup.

GinaV24 said...

JD you said "As we said at the outset, Patrick is a media personality who works her off-track activities perhaps even harder than her racing. It may be fair to say that her exposure in Sport Illustrated's swimsuit issue might have gotten her a little more attention than finishing fifth out of 21 IRL cars at the Milwaukee Mile this May." In a nutshell, this is why as a female I HATE the idea of Danica Patrick in NASCAR -- just not the role model for women that I can support. The Go-Daddy commercials are offensive to me.

Personally, I'd rather see Chrissie Wallace get a good ride -- I'm tired of the "cult of personality" being the driving force behind this type of deal.

I can tell you that I would absolutely NOT buy any of her "souvenirs".

Anonymous said...

Shawna Robinson is pretty & was a good driver. In the best of equipment, she might have won a race. Danica would be a flop.

racingwench said...

I will be in minority here but I have no respect for Danica. I used to follow her when she first started and thought that racing is what she wanted to do. She wanted to be the first women to win the Indy 500. Unfortunately that has changed. Now she is nothing but a racing version of Anna Kournikova. Marginal racing talent but she knows how to play the media.

As a woman it makes me sick that our next generation of woman drivers think that exposing their body is the only way that they will be able to go forward in this sport.

Just compare the GoDaddy commericals. Why does GoDaddy think that it is okay for Danica and others to do a strip tease? Can you imagine if Junior and Brad K did that in theirs?

Too bad Danica has sold out for money instead of being the role model that she truly could be as a woman racer.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter that I'm not a fan of Danica,think she's highly over-rated and think she would fail at the Cup level in excellent equipment. What matters to me that Nascar not mimic the WWE, but concentrate on improving their product---racing! The best thing about putting her in a Cup car is that we'll quickly see if she can cut it. It would be a risky move for her.

Anonymous said...

I might be drooling, but it's not over Danica. And why the networks would think she's such a big deal is beyond me. She drives a race car - as do how many hundreds of other human beings. She's not the hottest thing at the track if you're talking about skills. She has a nice smile, but I don't watch NASCAR races to root for toothy grins.

Why is she such a hot topic? Because she can wear a bikini? I'm reminded of a friend who votes for the Presidential candidate who is the best looking. I guess qualifications are no longer important in our society. How sad.

Matt, SoCal said...

If she is serious about it, I am all for it. Nascar will benefit as much as she will. As for the male chauvinists above, get over it. She is in great physical condition and could outlast probably half the current field in a car. Granted it will take a while, maybe a few seasons. But if she is really serious about it, and gets a top notch ride, I will be watching every move. Not just because she looks HOT in a bikini, really that's just added benefit for me, but it would be quite the precedent if she came in and did well. Danica, if you are 100% committed, come on over.

Dave Sorter said...

The best think for her would be for Penske or Ganassi to sign her for IRL with crossover possibilities in NASCAR...she runs entire IRL season, then runs Nationwide in off weeks and if she shows potential, a couple of Cup races. If that works out, send her to Cup full time in 2011 or 2012.

Anonymous said...

I think it is time for a reality check here:

In all fairness, Danica has signed IRL contracts to 2 different teams just after the teams' peak. Rahal-Letterman and Andretti-Green were top-tier teams who started a downhill slide as Danica came aboard.

Also this season, Penske and Ganassi have completely dominated the series this year. Who has the most points of any driver outside of these 2 teams? Thar would indeed be Danica!

If Danica does decide to move to the Cup series, going to Tony's team would be a smart move. First off, Tony is the only top-tier owner that may have an open seat. Tony is considering expansion if he can find sponsorship. Signing Danica would just about guarantee a high-dollar sponsor. A wIn for both sides.

Next, Danica would have a mentor for her transition. How can you top a 2-soon-to-be-3-time Cup champ as a teacher (who also just happens to have an IRL title!)?

Whoever stood up for Chrissy Wallace, I applaud you. Sha has shown some actual talent behind the wheel. She richly deserves a ride in a good Nationwide car next year (Tony has given her a lot of help in the past few seasons as well).

Although it might be risky, a move to Cup makes sense for Danica right now. Unless she can get a ride with Penske or Ganassi (unlikely), she has no further upside by staying in the floundering IRL.

cvt said...

Look, Mark Martin is 5 ft 6 in and 135 lbs. He works out with weights (strenuously) everyday to be able to race a COT in the Cup schedule.

Danica is 5 ft 2 in and 110 lbs.She's at huge disadvantage, one I don't believe she could overcome.

Jeff Burton nailed it. Take a COT to a track and test. You'll find out real soon whether you could do it.

MRM4 said...

I think she needs to win races where she is at before jumping into something else. Just like the David Ragans and the Scott Speeds who hadn't won squat and still got Cup rides they are struggling in, the same applies here. She'd obviously need some seat time in Nationwide and/or ARCA before making the move. I'd hate to see her be like some of the others that learn as they go in Cup.

Until she says for sure she is going to NASCAR, I'm not going to pay too much attention to this story.

RLGuido said...

Matt, what are you guys taking in SoCal ?

The girls need to stick to the drag strip. There are so many things going against women in the highest level of Oval racing.

I do not begrudge Patrick anything but she is not going to make the Big TIme in Nascar.

RobFromCanada said...

The media is all a twitter about Danica..that she's the next coming of the great racing hope...the advertisers are drooling on thier laps..the public..couldnt really care less.
the public is what the advertisers are gonna forcefeed danica-nascar mania down our throats even though the real race fans are more or less yawning at the whole thing.
She's a 2nd tier racer in a 4th tier racing series..thier are female racers in the nascar feeder series that could run circles around her that arent even being looked at because they dont shower with frau hawtie in commercials.
So let her come will give the paprazzi more to do..will boost ratings amongst the "newest fad" crowd for a couple months...then die off when she returns to indy because she bombed miserably.
The reason drivers like JPM..tony stewart..robby all..that came from open wheel are succeeding is because thier portfolios were diversified...all did other forms with success...JPM did indy..F1..carting..sedan racing...tony did open wheel..sprint..robby did open wheel and they were able to mesh the attributes they gained to become fine nascar drivers..all danice has done is drive a spec open wheeler to results that speak.."the second group"..her one win was due to her crew chief keeping her out and sqeaking out the gas mileage.
So..let her come..insert laughter here.

Anonymous said...

No way she'll get in a Cup car. It would be a disaster that would make Patrick Carpentier's Cup career look stellar by comparison.

I wouldn't be surprised to see her try some Nationwide races under the radar -- but nothing has prepared her for the heat and physical exertion required to drive a stock car, let alone the different set of skills which she has so far untested.

That said, I'd still like to see her come to Cup - if nothing else just for the pure excitement and attention it would bring.

Anonymous said...

My wife doesn't like NASCAR, or racing really in general. But she always watches Danica in the Indy 500 and she had told me that if Danica came to NASCAR she would start watching races with me.

Now you can think what you want about my wife's closed-mindedness, but my guess is that there are millions of other wives out there like her.

So I say bring Danica to Cup - she can replace Jooooonior in souvenir sales and put more butts in the seats --- and better looking butts!

Anonymous said...

My experience working in college athletics and watching various women's sports leagues be created, then folded, is that women are not really a good market to rely on for watching other women compete (except maybe gymnastics and figure skating). So to assume that all the women in the stands would be Danica fans, or that she would bring new female NASCAR fans, well, that hasn't panned out for various other women's sports leagues (basketball, soccer, etc.). Just a thought.

Sophia said...

If Danica were REALLY thinking about coming to NASCAR it would be under cloak and dagger meetings. NOT announcing to the world every step she takes.

It's simply the media falling into her PR deal.

I detest the GoDaddy commercials but have nothing against a person using their looks or personality to garner sponsors.

She is a better driver than she was a couple of years ago but I still would like to see another woman get in better cars to see how she does but she is not a glamour deal in most people's eyes (Sarah Fisher) If Danica were built like Tony Stewart (and I LOVE TONY) would she still be getting all this attention. Methinks not.

Also NASCAR schedule is grueling compared to open wheel and she has been told that by those who tried the change.

She has it good where she is..and she is a much better female driver than the other "good looking woman" Milka Duna.

bevo said...

Not going to get dragged into this one :)

The one thing I will say in general is if you don't think a woman doesn't attract more female fans at a race or on television go to an NHRA event and see how many little girls and teens show up with shirts and hats on getting autographs and pictures made with Ashley Force Hood, Hillary Will, Melanie Troxel, Peggy Llewellyn, Angie McBride, Karen Stoeffer or Angelle Sampey.

Anonymous said...

She'd be crazy to jump until she has exhausted her IRL career.
The phycical demands are not as tough in NASCAR as they are in open wheel, nor are the risks.
She can compete in IRL for 7 more years and still be fit/young enough to get a decade out of NASCAR.

Bray Kroter

Anonymous said...

Media savvy versus performance.
Read: Michael Waltrip
Media exposure means nothing in NASCAR. You can oversaturate the market with all things Danica, but I WILL GUARANTEE NO ATTENDANCE JUMP.

Richard in N.C. said...

Maybe her visit to Stewart-Haas was just for the media, and her real destination was to meet with the U.S. Gran Prix team?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard, like a famous man once said in a dark garage...follow the money.


Vicky D said...

I believe Danica outsells merchandise than any other driver in IRL so coming to Nascar would be a plus for them. I don't know whether she could/would compete in cup, I still think she would bring out the girls and women. I wouldn't mind seeing her at least the media might stop talking about Jr. for a few races.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:50PM,

Please feel free to repost without the hateful speech. We try very hard to be family friendly here. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I don't see Danica having a chance in NASCAR. Many better drivers have tried, and failed. In 5 years in Indycar, how many wins does she have? 2? If it were not for her looks, she would've been gone long ago.