Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NASCAR's Danica Moment

NASCAR used to be rolling in cash, sponsors, and fans. It can boast none of that now. The sour economy has impacted NASCAR like no other major sport. Sponsors have been fading away quicker than the ink on Sarah Palin's hand. Fans? There's still a huge fan base but many fans have become bored with NASCAR, especially after the generic Car of Tomorrow has taken hold and fan favorite Dale Earnhart Jr. has struggled in the last few years.

Now comes Danica Patrick. How important is Patrick to NASCAR? Very. Just look at the ratings jump for Speed Network for Danica's ARCA race last Saturday--her first race in a stock car (she finished 6th). The ratings jumped 87% over last year. These numbers are out of sight and excellent news for a sport losing fans--especially the lukewarm fans that it needs to stay connected with the sport.

The big question is: will she be able to handle a stock car? At 5'2" and around 100 pounds, a stock car will be a beast to handle compared to the open wheel IndyCar she is used to driving. Also, much of NASCAR is about bumping and grinding--stuff that gets you killed in open wheel racing.

Yes, there will be challenges for her and success right away will be unlikely. However, she has the confidence, demeanor, and talent to run with the big boys. Although she's only won once in 81 starts since 2005, she finished fifth in points in 2009. I expect she'll make the jump to the Nextel series in 2011 and bring the best ratings to the Nationwide series ever.

Although the dinosaurs of NASCAR, fans and drivers alike, are likely rooting against her, those interested in seeing NASCAR flourish should be rooting for her because NASCAR's Danica moment could be the only compelling reason for many band wagon fans to jump back on the wagon and make NASCAR a profitable enterprise again. I know I'll be doing something this Saturday I haven't done in a long time: watching a Nationwide Series race. How Patrick handles Daytona International Speedway will certainly be on the minds of most. I think she'll do just fine.


KnightinBaldingArmor said...

Richard Petty stated, "I just don't think it's a sport for women, and so far, it's proved out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity; it gives them publicity. But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough."[

Richard Petty said...

Some people might say that this is a gimmick

DC said...

Petty's the King, but he's also a dinosaur. Some will never accept women in the sport even if they prove themselves.

One of the major impediments to women becoming race car drivers is that as a society, it's not exactly encouraged. You have your girls play soccer or gymnastics or dance or cheer. The boys end up playing baseball, football, baseketball, and maybe do a little racing if they want to. I think it's changing & we'll see a young generation of female drivers but it will still take awhile.

Let's see how Danica does this year. We'll see if she washes out (as many would predict) or can hang with the boys. As I stated in my post, I think she'll be able to hang.

KnightinBaldingArmor said...

I kid you not - the guys on ESPN just called her running with NASCAR a gimmick - the word they actually used! It's not just the King saying it or JMH or JAH! She's won one race, because everyone else ran out of gas, this does not make her deserving of a ride on the NASCAR circuit.

Ask Michelle Wie how this turns out!

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