Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NASCAR Needs Danica At Daytona

It will be February 13th when ESPN begins its fourth season of covering the Nationwide Series. The upcoming Saturday afternoon race is shaping up to be just like last year. High-profile Sprint Cup Series drivers cross-over and dominate. Even the ray of Nationwide sunshine named Brad Keselowski is now a full-time Cup driver.

The Nationwide Series is the only NASCAR series that ESPN televises from start to finish. While the network handles the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races, that coverage does not start until July. When the current TV contract was announced, ESPN President George Bodenheimer called the Nationwide Series "a diamond in the rough."

Over the last three seasons, instead of polishing that diamond, ESPN has thrown it on the floor and stomped on it. Instead of televising the Nationwide Series as a feature presentation, the TV production team has instead singled-out the Sprint Cup Series drivers in each race and made them the entire story.

"ABC Busch Series Pre-Race Show Never Mentions The Race" was the TDP column from April of 2007. Click the title to read it. Infield studio host Brent Musburger led an hour long pre-race show that spent the entire time discussing the Sprint Cup Series race the next day while fawning over the big name drivers. It was embarrassing.

Only months later, ESPN did it again. This time it was Dover with Suzy Kolber hosting. Click here to read the column. Dale Earnhardt Jr. signing Jeremy McGrath to a development contract in a regional series dominated the program. The stories of the series about to race could wait.

After throwing the Nationwide Series on the floor, ESPN begins to stomp on it at the exact same time every year. On the first Saturday of the college football season, the Nationwide Series becomes an afterthought. Gone is the pre-race show because of football games scheduled to run right up until the start of the races. This past season was particularly brutal.

In the blink of an eye a NASCAR series that has been televised since February becomes nothing more than a dirty rock on the floor bearing the shoe prints of the ESPN programmers. The vast majority of the Nationwide Series practice and qualifying coverage during this part of the season is done by SPEED.

On many weekends, the NASCAR on ESPN team simply shows up to do the race and then the networks returns to endless college football once again. Nationwide Series highlights do not make it to SportsCenter unless there is a spectacular wreck. ESPNEWS will never cover NASCAR on a Saturday in football season. That is sacrilege.

The only person who can change ESPN's brutal approach to the Nationwide Series is Danica Patrick. Fresh off a three day stock car test in Daytona, Patrick is now deciding whether or not to enter the Nationwide Series race in Daytona or wait until the following week in California.

Patrick is exactly the kind of sports personality that ESPN understands. She attends the ESPY Awards, runs in ABC's IndyCar races and graces the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She comes with the hype of a high-profile sponsor and is a face recognized by fans outside the sport.

The story of her potential presence at the Daytona race will instantly change the TV coverage from endless interviews with Sprint Cup Series drivers wearing their "Saturday firesuit." ESPN will be forced to follow the storyline of a driver who is not going to compete even once in the Sprint Cup Series this season. Instead, she will once again be trying to win the Indy 500 on ABC.

Daytona is the perfect place for Patrick to make her first start with the goal of getting seat time and earning respect from the veterans. The build-up to the race would be beneficial for all parties concerned. Patrick gets sponsor exposure, NASCAR gets the national media attention and ESPN gets a story it can hype across all the networks and websites in the ESPN family.

Once the Fontana weekend rolls around, the only thing being discussed by the media is who won the Daytona 500. The Fontana Nationwide Series race is not the place to make a debut under the shadow of that major story, especially if it was compelling.

We should know shortly about Patrick's plans for the 2010 season. There is no doubt that ESPN, NASCAR and many fans are waiting to know exactly where this story will begin.

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


Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? It's the Daytona 500! It doesn't need Richard Petty, or Jeff Gordon, or any driver. It is the biggest event in racing without Danica. It will sell out without Danica. It is so ridiculous for her first race to be bumper-to-bumper when no one trusts her in a stock car and no one will help her. She is starting at Fontana because she's being smart. Unlike that column, which was stupid.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR doesn't need Danica Patrick.

After month of checking the mainstream media when they go overboard with the Danica coverage, it's flat-out ridiculous to lead with "NASCAR needs Danica". If Danica has a heart attack and croaks tomorrow, NASCAR will be just fine.

What a lame headline.

Karen said...

If she's as excited about stock cars as she says she is, she'll run the NW race. I can't wait. I was skeptical at first but after listening to JRM's radios all weekend, she sure sounds like she enjoys it a lot. NASCAR does need her and she knows it and so do the fans. I hope we were all wrong about her ability. She might just surprise us all.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree. Unless she runs up front and earns the focus it's just another reason for ESPN to ignore the race and focus on a scripted storyline. She's not running the full schedule so it's no different than the focus on the Cup drivers you mentioned: an outside storyline that has nothing to do with the actual 35 race championship series. Anything that attracts more eyeballs to Nationwide and ARCA is a good thing; I just don't want her presence to ruin the overall race broadcast, which recent past history unfortunately suggests is a very strong possibility.

Daly Planet Editor said...

This column talks about Patrick helping the Nationwide Series with media exposure.

Anon 1:04AM - She is not running any Sprint Cup Series races this season, which was stated in the column.

Anon 1:05AM - NASCAR is not fine. Last season on TV was the worst ever. The Nationwide Series this season is working to transition to their own COT style car.

Anon 1:34AM - Because Patrick already is involved with ESPN on the IRL side she is absolutely IMHO going to get the script away from Kyle, Carl, Brad and Joey.

The entire focus of this column is to point out that having Patrick at Daytona, no matter how she runs, is a plus for the TV exposure for the Nationwide Series.

No bigger agenda than that, just encouraging all the media attention possible on the ESPN race with Marty Reid at the helm for the first time.


Richard in N.C. said...

Racing-wise it does seem to me that she has little to gain from running the N-wide race at Daytona since it is so different from other races. At the same time, if she does have any thoughts about running at Daytona in the N-wide race, it seems to me that she needs to do some practicing in stock cars to make sure she is comfortable with doing so. It seems to me that the worst thing she could do, from her standpoint, is to say she is going to run Daytona and then find she is not ready and has to back out. She can always change her plans and try to get in the N-wide Daytona race, but she'd have difficulty undoing the damage to her image of backing out.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps the media needs Danica and perhaps Nascar needs Danica to fill a lot of empty seats, but I think a lot of fans could care less about Danica. Nascar would be better served if it dealt with the real reasons the fans are deserting. The Cot needs changes that will make it race better and lower costs would put more cars in the Truck/Nationwide series. I'll admit that I'll watch the over rated Danica run poorly and probably get beat by other women racers. Danica is unique in that most Nascar drivers are extremely good public speakers. Danica is awful to listen to.

Vicky D said...

Good column, JD. I think DP is a big plus for Nascar and especially the NW series. Although if the broadcast just focuses on her and the cup drivers it'll be a disaster for us fans of the full-time NW drivers. I guess we'll soon find out and I'm looking forward to the ARCA race in February.

Anonymous said...

She'll end up like Patti Moise and Janet Guthrie et al

Bumped punted wrecked and gone

this is an idiotic move on her part

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Anonymous said...

I wonder what the racing media will say that if,in 2-3 years Danica starts turning into a stock car racing version of Shirley Muldowney? That would be fantastic!

KoHoSo said...

Whether one likes it or not, Danica will be a plus for the NNS as far as television exposure goes and probably for track attendance as well. What concerns me is two things that Mr. Daly wrote in his article.

Instead of televising the Nationwide Series as a feature presentation, the TV production team has instead singled-out the Sprint Cup Series drivers in each race and made them the entire story.

Patrick is exactly the kind of sports personality that ESPN understands.

Of course, I hope for great improvements as ESPN has shown for a second time that it does indeed listen to the fan base...eventually. However, if Danica is merely a replacement for focusing on a Cup driver and she does not retain that attention of the casual fans by contending for wins, I don't see that as accomplishing the goal over the long haul (not to mention it will result in tons of unhappy comments here on TDP with people complaining about ESPN's Danica infatuation).

Then again, any positive attention would probably be good for the NNS at this point. I'll also say least Danica is a driver actually in development as far as stock cares go. Considering how the dominance of "Buschwhackers" has sapped almost all of my interest in the NNS, focusing on some new blood in a series that was supposed to be dedicated to such of thing probably cannot be all bad.

red said...

bear with me here, there's a point coming in a coupla paragraphs!

i'm against having cup drivers run in n'wide period. don't care if they own the car ala harvick and earnhardt jr or if they run both series fulltime or any other combination of scenarios. n'wide should be limited to racers who do NOT run in cup. it was intended to be a developmental series, not a supplement to cup!

but, the explanation most often given is that the tracks need "the big names" in order to fill the seats at n'wide races. (i'm not necessarily buying that, mind you: it's just the most common explanation.)

so, with these as starting points, it's clear to me that n'wide needs patrick to run daytona and as many races as possible. her presence at the track will certainly drive people into the seats, if only out of curiosity. (heck, if she runs at dover, i may actually make an effort to do both trucks and n'wide that weekend! ) in addition, folks WILL tune in to watch on tv: remember the interest her first season in irl?

listening in this weekend, she seemed to gain a level of confidence as the sessions went on. the questions she asked, the feedback she provided, the lines she tried, the learning that took place made it clear to this fan that she's serious about making this work. she understands the impact of her decision on the people on the team and in the company.

will daytona be rough for her? absolutely. but it has proven to be that way for every rookie. she'll have no friends, she'll get hung out and she may get caught up in someone else's mess. those who've not watched races very much may be unimpressed but those who have a better understanding of what it takes to run daytona will be more patient.

i'll say it again: i respect danica, the racer and i want her to succeed in this -- for herself, for JRM and for the sport.

and this: the media needs to back it down or else the "overkill" will cause many to literally tune out. balance is called for in covering patrick's effort in n'wide -- but many in the nascar media has proven to be spectacularly bad at that!

Vicky D said...

Red, well said. I agree with you on every point. I just hope that ESPN will announce shortly who will be on-air for the Daytona NW race I hope it's Marty, Randy & Rusty.

MRM4 said...

Where the Nationwide series has become nothing but Cup Lite, DP will take a lot of that attention away and the up-and-coming drivers will still not be noticed unless they win a race or two. They'll (ESPN) beat to death DP and throw her and the rest of the series to the side once football starts.

Anonymous said...

It does not matter to me if she is there at Daytona or not I'll be in the Weatherly tower watching the NWS race with her or with out her. For years you had to get experience on the short tracks the intermediate tracks to get approved to run at Daytona or Talladega I hope she does not cause the big one early because of her inexperience and ruin the race for all us how spent $150 bucks to go.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good comments and that is exactly the point. It's inexperience vs. PR for the Nationwide Series at what many feel might be their biggest race.


red said...

and just a quick point that we discussed a bit on twitter last night: if you're michael andretti, how do you feel about one of your drivers pulling this split between series? what happens if patrick is injured in a n'wide race?
or, if you're kelley earnhardt: what happens if patrick is injured in an irl race?
wonder how THOSE contracts read!

we sometimes forget how dangerous our sport is and the risks racers run each week at the track.

before hearing the team on the arca radio this weekend, i would have said "hell, no!" to patrick starting at daytona. now, i'm thinking that if pops and tony jr feel she can handle it, can get seat time, and draw sponsors to the underfunded JRM cars, then i'm for it. she certainly has demonstrated that she's getting how different it is to run these cars and i don't think she'll be aggressive or reckless at any n'wide track -- unless it's a road course!

The Mad Man said...

Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

With the way the web and print media has gove overboard with their All Danica All The Time coverage, BSPN will do exactly the same thing which will lead us into the same complaints we've had before about them not showing the rest of the drivers in the races.

With the way they've over-hyped her and over-saturated the web and print coverage, fans are getting burned out on it. Folks may be more inclined not to watch her because of that.

I'll be watching the ARCA race to see how Alli Owens,Milka Duno, and the rest of the ARCA drivers fair. The Busch Series races will be take it or leave it because of all the Buschwackers.

GinaV24 said...

I disagree that NASCAR needs Danica at Daytona, even in the Nationwide car. She simply will not have the experience in stock cars that are necessary to make her start at Daytona.

The people who are experienced can cause a heckuva wreck due to a momentary lapse of reason. So what happens if she causes a big wreck? Will that be worth the hype?

Danica, Danica, Danica -- I was already sick of hearing her name when it was just "talk". We're in the off season and I'm not sure how much 2010 NASCAR I'm going to actually watch if the only story will be Danica.

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Daly Planet Editor said...

What's the point of all that flooding? Never understood it.

Donna DeBoer said...

Making "Danica" the story at NNS Daytona is as bad as making Cup drivers the story. THE RACE is the story!! NO SCRIPTS!! After listening to the JRM scanner from ARCA, I'd say it's totally up to them incl. Danica whether she starts the NASCAR Daytona race in Feb or not. I hope they DO NOT allow media pressure to make this decision one way, or Gil the other (heard she desperately would like DP's debut to be at her track).
If DP runs the ARCA race and everything goes good, and they feel its good, they just may decide to do NNS Daytona. But if she or JRM feels she's not ready, and wants to wait til Fontana which is a familiar track, then that's ok too. No "need" involved.

PS hey no.18 fan, buddy I like Kyle too but spamming is waaaay uncool.

Daly Planet Editor said...

This is going to be a rough year for the Nationwide Series. Teams have to have two different types of cars on already tight budgets.

The point of encouraging Danica to come and race in Daytona is strictly to get the media exposure before the race.

No matter if she runs strong or tails the field, the race will still have enjoyed a level of exposure it is not going to get with Cup drivers in their N'wide firesuits talking about their hobby.

Hopefully, other stories will emerge after the Daytona race is over so the media has something to follow-up on in Fontana.

Great comments, this is going to be a very interesting February!


Bruce Simmons (NBaP) said...

I pure accident, ESPN might have to give some form of coverage to the Nationwide Daytona race. It's bound to come up in all their non-race coverage about Danica.

On the other hand, dirty stones on the floor, can, on occasion, be useful if they're the right shape and cab n be used as skipping stones!

But you are right... any and all media attention on our sport is good media attention. Especially if it's Danica.

Now if she were to stay in our sport... then it would all be worth it indeed!

West Coast Diane said...

It would be great if Danica does the NW race. If she or Tony, etal don't think she is ready so be it. We will,as the Weatherly seat guy said, still be in our Sprint Tower seats (row 50!)

Also, it appeared many of the other drivers were willing to help Danica on the track. The ARCA and I would venture the NW (non cup) drivers know they will get more exposure, even if they focus on Danica, than if she wasn't there. Kelly Bires is a smart cookie. Already, team player, willing to do whatever for the team/team mate is the top line on his future resume.

The other thing I don't get is people worried about her causing the "big one". As we have all seen in all the series, no one is immune from causing it (Jimmy Johnson a couple of times, JR, etc, etc) or being caught up in it. The big one isn't always about lack of skill as a split second mental lapse, flat tire or "clear" a split second off from the spotter can create havoc.

Hey, many of us were all depressed not too long ago with ESPN and actually glad to see the season end. It's December and we are as fully engaged in discussion as though it was SpeedWeeks in Daytona. This is a good thing. I for one was dragging my laptop all around the house Sat and Sun listening to the scanner at the ARCA test! This from someone who uses the DVR for everything!

Anonymous said...

Although I agree that Danica would generate more interest in the NW race, I agree with those that say the additional coverage would only be about her. Therefore, I question just how beneficial it would be to the series. Look at this past weekend's ARCA test - yes, there was more coverage, but wasn't it really coverage of Danica and not the entire ARCA field? Ironically, that one-car, one-race effort for Danica at the ARCA Daytona race will probably have a bigger budget than many of the other teams will have for the year, but that is another story for another time.

However, to address your headline, I personally don't feel NASCAR "needs" DP at Daytona - she might help generate additional interest, but IMHO, it would only be a band-aid covering a wealth of other issues NASCAR has to address to bring back the fans.

Thanks, as always, for this forum!

The Loose Wheel said...

Danica needs NASCAR MUCH more than NASCAR needs Danica. She is a hype machine and guess what, this sport has had several before her and will have several more after her. You want to take an over-hyped driver and make HER the dominant story for an OVER-HYPED race?! I love Daytona but often times it never lives up to the hype billed in the pre-race.

So instead of getting back to what the NW Series should be, which is talking about up and coming drivers, this basically calls for Danica to dominate the pre-race shows leaving other drivers out in the cold.

Suit yourself.

Maybe I am just biased. Don't believe 1 driver is bigger than the sport regardless who they are Danica included.

Anonymous said...

JD, I normally agree with you but today I do not. The hype is getting excessive, as many predicted. Danica Patrick should not be needed to fix ESPN's production failures.

ESPN focuses on 15 cars and not the race. Last season we had the Jeff Gordon talk show under green flag conditions at the Fontana race. It has been openly admitted ESPN ignores half the field because they are not a factor in ESPN's eyes. ESPN produces a bad product, people don't watch. Danica can not change this.

Daly Planet Editor said...

The Kyle Petty story is on the next page, just click older posts at the bottom of the page.

I have opened up the comments so you can add yours. Thanks.


Richard in N.C. said...

Gee, sure do wish the NASCAR media in general could be as insightful as TDP posters. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR needs to make these F-1 and Indycar drivers follow the same gradual approval process as normal drivers do. Open wheel experience and one ARCA start should not qualify a driver to race a Nationwide race at Daytona or California IMHO. Whether you're Schumacher, Villeneuve, Franchitti, Dixon, Castoneves, Rahal or Danica. Get some starts in ARCA, then race some short tracks in Nationwide first, then one-mile, then 1.5, then 2 then restrictor plate like the Saturday-night short track racers have to.

Didn't NASCAR ban Joey Logano from racing N'wide at Daytona last July despite already winning a race at Kentucky and ban Kevin Hamlin or someone from a N'wide race at California this year even though he had a lot of stock car experience? Remember them not approving ARCA veteran David Ragan in Cup at Atlanta in '06 but letting A.J. Allmendinger try to qualify despite next to no stock car experience?

Be consistent for the safety of the other drivers. Male or female, cash cow or not a cash cow, open wheel champion or one-time open wheel race winner.

The Loose Wheel said...

Another tidbit. Danica wasn't the only woman at the ARCA test. 9 others were there too!!! Some who ran as good or better than her including her perhaps arch rival Mika Duno. Maybe she is the "face" of this movement, but I think some of the "unknowns" like a Jennifer Jo Cobb or Alli Owens that might actually shock everyone instead....

GinaV24 said...

@David -- yes, I would have liked to have heard more about those "other" women who did the ARCA test, not just Danica. If NASCAR/ESPN wants to generate interest in the series, they need to do it by providing real GOOD unbiased coverage of the teams and the racing, not whatever trick pony they fixate on. Danica isn't the only story -- but the NASCAR media and ESPN just can't seem to understand that and provide it to the fans. Cover the RACING. Its why I tune in and why I don't when the coverage isn't what I expect it to be.

Dot said...

NASCAR does need Danica. Are they pinning all their hopes on this, like they did JR?

I think she should wait and make her first race at CA. Much less stress, imo.

I want her to run well.

BTW, I may have missed this. Who will be in the car when she isn't?

Darcie said...

Oh for heaven's sake. Nascar does NOT need Danica. The earth will not explode or come to an end, fans will not protest and not show up at Daytona if she isn't there, people won't turn off their TV's in protest if Danica is sitting at home. I'm seeing quite the opposite---people are already getting hacked off by the overexposure of the woman by the media. We've been talking a lot here that while her presence will make good copy and bring SOME interest from those who are not especially Nascar fans, the frenzy will wear out quickly if it's proven that she will be nothing but a back marker in Nationwide. Danica will not pull Nascar out of it's doldrums, especially if this season is another boring, run in straight lines, no great racing season. The Nationwide series has suffered from being the b@$tard child for a lot of years, and one unproven female won't change this by running a few races this season. Unless she comes out of the box and runs in the top 5, or unless she's found to be having an affair with 10 of her fellow drivers, ala Tiger, interest in Danica will fade quickly, media frenzy and all.

West Coast Diane said...

Reread my post. Didn't really answer the question "Does NASCAR need Danica?". Nope. They don't need her, but she may bring new some new fans to the sport and exposure from other media/venues.

Might help dispel the myths that NASCAR drivers are a bunch of rednecks that go round in circles.

Until they fix the car to improve the racing and get TV to spread the wealth and show/talk about more than the chosen few, NASCAR will still have unhappy fans.

Danica can fix those things!

Damon said...

I hope she runs the Nationwide race at Daytona, it would give a race that's essentially
Daytona 500-lite a bit more juice.

Speaking of Danica, the ARCA race is before the Bud Shootout on February 6th, I wonder if Fox will have her in Hollywood Hotel studio with Meyers and Hammond talking about her first stock car race?

GinaV24 said...

@WCD -- you think that Danica can fix the CoT? And all the other things that most of us fans think is wrong with NASCAR racing? Wow, I wish someone would, but I'm thinking that's beyond even Wonder Woman's powers. (joking)

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