Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Danica To The World: Show Me The Money!

Danica Patrick's father clarified his position today, tempering the comments he made last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway about moving his Indy Car-driving daughter to NASCAR, as soon as next season.

"I'd be a fool not to want her (in NASCAR),” said T.J. Patrick, who also serves as his daughter’s manager. “If you were her father, you would, too. But it's not my decision, and I don't believe she wants to do it. She wants to stay (in the IRL), she wants to run Indy, she wants to win the Indy 500. That's her goal."

T.J. Patrick spoke to his daughter as she returned from a vacation in Mexico, warning her of the media tempest he had ignited. "She laughed and said, 'What did you do?'" he said. "It's gotten blown out of proportion. No one said a thing when I went with her to the NASCAR race in Phoenix. She talked with Jack Roush, and stuck her head inside Kurt Busch's car. No one said a thing."

Speaking to USA TODAY in Los Angeles, where she will serve as a presenter at tonight’s ESPY Awards, Danica said, "It's important for me to know what's out there, who is interested in me, and who will give me the best chance to win. NASCAR is so big, how can you ignore it? If the right opportunity comes up, you have to look at it.

"As long as we're in this series, we're compensated well for what we do, we're enjoying ourselves and it's safe, then this is where I want to be. As long as that happens, I can see myself racing in IndyCar forever, unless a bigger, better deal comes up and my heart changes."

“I think I'm capable to taking on the challenge (of NASCAR), but it would have to be with the right team, and the right deal. Then, I would consider it. Until then, I'm investigating what the interest level is."

Patrick called her 2006 IRL season at "frustrating and confusing," citing Rahal-Letterman Racing's total of just two top-five finishes among its three drivers. "My priorities haven't changed," she said. "I still want to be a winning IndyCar driver. If I'm given an opportunity to drive for an IndyCar team and win races, I'm going to do it."

If Patrick is serious about switching disciplines, there will never be a better time to do it than now. NASCAR’s driver development pipeline has temporarily run dry, and she could sign a top-notch Busch Series deal almost immediately, with a fast-track plan to advance to the Nextel Cup ranks in 2008. She becomes a free agent on September 10th – after the final race of the IRL season – leaving her time to run the final seven Busch Series races.

Patrick and her father are fully aware of her value to the Indy Racing League. She is the most recognized, most quoted, most valuable driver in the series, and she rightfully expects to be compensated as such. Her estimated IRL salary of $350,000 -- plus a reported 40% of purse and point fund winnings -- is dwarfed by the amount she could make in NASCAR. Even a mid-level Busch Series driver easily eclipses her current Indy Car earnings, and if Rahal-Letterman Racing is unwilling to up the ante, she is left with no choice but to look elsewhere. Tony Stewart faced the same quandary a decade ago, ultimately choosing to leave the Indy Racing League and take his considerable skills to Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR.

He is a very rich man -- and a two-time Nextel Cup champion – as a result.

"I hope to be compensated for what I'm doing to help grow everything," said Patrick in May. "I want to help grow the sport. But you can't drive for 30 years, and if I can't get compensated here, I'll look at options."

Patrick’s current stance is one of two things; either a genuine bid to find a place in the world of stock cars, or an ingenious attempt to force some IRL team owner’s hand into paying her what she is worth. My guess is that it’s the latter, but either way, it’s going to be entertaining to watch.

14 comments:

  1. Lance from PA1:37 PM

    Believe it or not, I agree with her and I would do the same thing.
    1. She deserves to be paid her market value, whether it's in open wheel or stock cars.
    2. She has done a tremendous amount for the IRL, which in a way you can't put a price on.
    3. Racers have a finite career span and should make every penny they can, just like any other sports professional.

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  2. Jason In California6:52 PM

    What ever happened to working for your money Dave? If she has a base salery and then gets a 40% cut of the cars winnings the solution to making more money seems pretty clear cut to me. She needs to finish better, hell maybe even do something as crazy as winning a race and then she would make more money. See how easy that was?

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  3. The time is now for the two open wheel series to get back together, before they lose all their big names. They don't have the luxury of posturing around for a few years anymore.

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  4. NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A fellow IRL driver says Danica Patrick has what it takes to succeed if she switches to the paint-swapping world of NASCAR and she's plenty aggressive in open-wheel racing when it's "the right time of the month."

    Ed Carpenter, who trails Patrick by four slots in the IRL IndyCar Series' points race, made the comment when asked how Patrick might handle NASCAR racing during a radio appearance to promote Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200.

    "I think Danica's pretty aggressive in our cars," Carpenter said Wednesday on WGFX-FM in Nashville.

    "I mean, you know especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there," he said. "But I think she'll hold her own. Who's she's going to drive for is hard to say. I don't think she's leaving, so we'll see."

    Carpenter later told The Associated Press he didn't mean to be disrespectful of Patrick by using a female stereotype.

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  5. carrie11:15 AM

    What Danica is really worth as a marketing opportunity = $$$$$$

    What Danica is worth as a racecar driver = $0

    Maybe her fellow drivers would take her more seriously and not make 'time of the month' comments if she concentrated more on her driving/racing/team than on her marketing opportunities?

    Of course, it was Ed Carpenter that made the comment so it's kind of ridiculous consiering his record. But, it doesn't matter who says/does anything that sounds like they are taking shots at Danica, the media will always throw them under the bus.

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  6. carrie-

    Stupid people throw themselves under the bus, that's why they're stupid :)

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  7. Carpenter's comments were ill-advised, to say the least. I would think a married man would know better than to say something that stupid.

    Here's something to ponder. IF Danica has indeed gotten a "free ride" because of her gender, what makes her different than Marco Andretti, Kyle Petty, Dale Jr., Larry Foyt and others; all of whom jumped VERY quickly to the top of the competitive ladder due to their surnames, without necessrily proving themselves to be great talents first. And how about Bill Lester, whose stock car credentials are average, but will almost certainly have a full-time Cup ride next season, due laregly to his race. If last names and skin color are enough to get a driver a chance at the bigtime, why not gender?

    In closing, thanks everyone for making this such a civil, respectful place to exchange ideas. I appreciate the willingnes to let others express their views, without all the name calling found on some other sites.

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  8. carrie7:33 PM

    The difference is none of those guys continue to use their name to further their careers. They've used their racing abilities to do that or they have floundered.

    Larry can't find a ride with anyone except for AJ and Kyle still drives for himself/the family. Marco has won races and championships in his car career before he got the ride at AGR.

    If we are honest, only Dale Junior has gotten anywhere near the reaction, for his last name, that Danica has gotten for having two X chromosomes. But he has championships, wins and several very good seasons under his belt to say he's earned at least some of that attention.

    Danica has used her sexuality almost since day one, by her own choice. She could have chosen to take the route that Erin Crocker/Katherine Legge/Sarah Fisher took but then you, I and SI wouldn't be talking about her would we?

    I don't blame her for using her sexuality or gender to her advantage to get a ride. Nor do I blame Danica for the media hyperventilation over her.

    But she does deserve the blame for starting herself down that path in the first place and continuing to milk it for all that it is worth. Without it, she's Sarah Fisher and no one cares she might jump series or cares enough to ask every driver that isn't Danica what they think of Danica.

    She also deserves the backlash when race fans call a spade a spade and compare her to Anna Kournikova or Michael Waltrip. It's not about the sport. It's not about what she's really shown as an athlete. It's about the face time and the money they can milk from it. Her actions and comments, and those of her management, have all proven that.

    Bevo: But is Carpenter stupid because of his comment (of course) or because it was about Danica? That's what I was getting at because we've all seen the media go bananas over every comment or action re: Danica that is less than sunshine and roses.

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  9. Two years ago, I think Danica proved, or should have to all in open wheel racing that she was for real. She was the fasted at Indy in all practice sessions leading up to the race. Ran a hell of a qualifying run after gathering up a what looked like a crashed car on the first lap and then came close to winning the race. Since that time she has always ran competitive in races,and even though she has had to put up with a real turd of a car this year, she is doing better than former Indy winner Buddy Rice, hasn't wrecked cars, and let's face it, her dad is the one doing all the talk about money

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  10. I want to see her win a race in an open wheel car before I decide she is anything more than an average race car driver. Although these days average is good enough to make a nice income for some people in auto racing.

    It will be a long time (if ever) before a woman exceeds (meaning wins) in cup. Unless some changes are made in either the rules for the cars, or the technology used to build them, the Cup cars will be too heavy for a woman to win a 400 or 500 mile race in.

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  11. Jason In California2:51 PM

    Cup cars are to heavy? I knew the "She's only 100 pounds and can't handle a heavy stock car" argument, would come around and that argument is bullsh*t, pure and simple.

    An IndyCar/Champ Car is much more physically demanding to drive than a NEXTEL Cup stock car. Stock cars have power steering -- open-wheel Indy-style cars do not. Stock cars also don't subject the driver to anywhere near the G forces of an open-wheel car because they don't have anywhere near the downforce or speed.

    Rusty Wallace noted just how tough it was to turn the wheel when he tested Penske's IndyCar Series car this year at Homestead-Miami. He said the wheel was much harder to turn than in a stock car.

    Stock cars require stamina and endurance due to the sheer amount of time spent in an almost-closed cockpit. But Danica would have no trouble adjusting to the physical demands of driving a stock car. She's a very fit woman.

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  12. Tell me she would have no trouble adjusting to the physical demands of a 3800 lb stock car after she has done a 500 lap race around Bristol.

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  13. For the time being, Danica will remain in the IRL (reports today indicate she's signed with AGR for 2007). Good for her. Prove yourself now.

    It's entirely too bad that Katherine Legge doesn't have the media juggernaut pounding on her door. I mean, think about it. All she's done is win 3 races and post 5 podium finishes in her rookie campaign in Formula Atlantic, and was (up until Toronto) one of only a handful of Champcar drivers to finish every race this year. She currently sits second in the R-O-Y hunt. Hmmm...

    What's Danica done again? Led a few laps at Indy (no small feat, I accept - however she still didn't make the podium). Oh yeah, posed for FHM - forgot about that racing milestone.

    Danica has talent, there's no doubt, you couldn't make it as far as she has without having some ability to wheel a race car. But let's not mistake hype from the media for substance on the racetrack.

    Katherine Legge has the substance(multiple wins in the Atlantic series - First female to claim a pole in the British Formula Ford Zetec series - number of other "firsts" for a woman driver) to become a race winner and perhaps, with enough luck, champion in the Champ Car WS. She hasn't needed to do cheesecake pictures to further her race career, her numbers on the track have done it for her.

    Why can't the media get past the sex-appeal part of Danica-mania and concentrate on the real "female" future of racing right now.

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  14. Tom in Plano5:31 PM

    Why is it that only the female drivers elicit the "I'll believe she's for real when she wins a race!" comments?

    Seems to me that there are quite a number of other drivers in all of the top series that have never won a race in their current series.

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