Thursday, October 18, 2012

Patrick Facing Critical 12-Month Period

The next 12 months will be a critical period in Danica Patrick's NASCAR career. 

The former IZOD Indy Car Series star is about to complete her first full season of NASCAR competition, and currently ranks 10th in NASCAR Nationwide Series championship points, with two Top-10 finishes and a pole in 29 starts. Her best finish to date was an eighth-place showing at Texas Motor Speedway in April, and in seven companion NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, she has managed no finish better than 25th. 

Despite that shaky start, Patrick will graduate to the headline NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time next season, driving for the potent Stewart Haas Racing team. Many question her readiness for that move, but with a high-profile sponsorship from in tow, Patrick is on her way, one way or another. 

In fairness, Patrick’s 2012 results have been no worse than those of several other drivers with similar backgrounds and experience.  Former F1 and Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya had only three Top-5 finishes – including a road course win – in two seasons of part-time Nationwide Series competition at the start of his NASCAR career. Three-time Indy Car champion Sam Hornish, Jr. struggled mightily in his transition to stock cars, managing just two Top-5 finishes – and one win –until finally blossoming as a Nationwide title contender this season. 

Patrick will almost certainly require an equal amount of time and patience to adapt to full-fendered competition. Unfortunately, with her unusually high profile comesunusually high expectations. Patrick is not a run-of-the-mill NASCAR racer, allowed to learn and grow in the shadows of anonymity. She is profiled on virtually every pre-race show, regardless of where she qualifies, and is interviewed following every event, no matter where she finishes. Like a nomex-clad Tiger Woods, she receives a postscript mention in every race story and highlight package, enjoying “by the way” status that has nothing at all to do with race day performance. 

Barring some semblance of on-track success, Patrick cannot hold America’s interest forever. In fact, there are signs that her “First Lady of NASCAR” storyline has already begun to grow stale.  

USA Today reported this week that Patrick's Q Score, an indicator used to track public opinion and likeability, has fallen from a high of 29 in 2010 to 19 this season. That ranking is still relatively high for a race car driver, but Patrick's recent drop in likeability indicates that she no longer connects as strongly with consumers as she once did.
That fact is not lost on the decision makers at 

Barb Rechterman, chief marketing officer for Go Daddy, told USA Today this week, "What we're trying to do is redefine sexy to be a small-business owner running a successful business.” Patrick has not been featured in recent ads for the company, and Rechterman said she is not expected to be part of GoDaddy’s annual Super Bowl advertising campaign in 2013. That decision could cost Patrick her seven-figure annual salary as the company’s top spokesperson, though her multi-year racing sponsorship would remain.
Photos: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America


  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Glitz will only take you so far.

    1. Anonymous2:02 PM

      Go for the substance everytime. She needs seat time and experience in traffic, but you do not see her on off weekends running at a local track learning the "rubbin is racing". Look a Johanna Long, has last weekend off, but still goes down to Five Flags and takes 2nd in front of the home crowd.

  2. Anonymous12:44 PM

    The best thing for Danica to do is to spend another year in the Nationwide series. Her lack of knowledge/experience in the sport is really starting to show. Name me another driver on a Hendrick team that lasted 60 races with her type of results.
    Will she succeed or will she be like the growing list of other open wheel drivers who have tried to cross-over and failed -- who knows. But in my opinion, allowing her to drive in the Cup next year will result in either her or someone else getting hurt because her rushing into something she is not rady for.

  3. Brandon5:45 PM

    Plus she's going to have to actually qualify for races next year. Her boss can't buy her way in anymore. She misses a few races, it could be downhill from there.

  4. Comparing Patrick's flatlined (and crash torn) stock car career to that of Juan Montoya or Sam Hornish ignores that Montoya and Hornish at least had legitimate racing credentials to cite where Patrick has throughout her "career" (be it Indycars or NASCAR) been handed quality racecars based solely on her gender and the absurd loyalty of GoDaddy sponsorship. She's not a run-of-the-mill racer because she uses her gender as an entitlement to be a superstar regardless of whether she warrants even casual attention.

  5. I think Cup next year is far too ambitious. One thing I have noticed from all her in car shots, compared with everyone else. She is sawing on that wheel like there's no tomorrow. Jerky, tight, uncomfortable, and probably white knuckled under those gloves. While the others have a light grip on the wheel, smoothly turning, maintaining speed.

    You can't drive a Cup distance race like she does. The driver can't make it, and as a result, the car usually doesn't make it.
    She came, she tried, she got all the media attention for being an 'also ran'. I know I have tired of the attention she gets for being a back marker. I have seen improvement on the Nationwide side, but its also been tempered with bad finishes, followed by finger pointing, or should I say wagging? I just don't see her as a threat to do much of anything in NASCAR.


  6. Michael in SoCal10:23 AM

    She's gonna have a tough time next year. She needed at least one more year in the Nationwide Series.

  7. The Mayor will be the main Go daddy spokesman within the next 2 years because he'll get results and he has the reputation of being a great person. Danica? Not so much.