Tireside Chat-Danica Patrick
Good morning Jeff, and thanks for joining me here by the tire stacks. They provide a nice private place to have a little chat, away from cameras and microphones. Last week you broached a topic that I’ve never discussed for our reading public, and that is Danica Patrick and my feelings about women in racing. I told you that one day I might, and today is that day. As you might guess, having been one for all of my life… so far… I’m all for it, with the one qualification being that she have the talent to be competitive. In my estimation, Danica has that talent.
Oh, I’ve heard all the comments, just as you have. Yes, she won only one race in an IndyCar, but hey, that’s one more than I have and one more than any other woman, living or dead. She has raced seven times at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with six of her finishes in the top ten. (A crash in 2008 relegated her to 22nd place) I’ve never even had the privilege of visiting there, let alone race there, but her record of performance in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is most certainly not only competitive but downright impressive!
So she does overtly teasing commercials, which you know I find in somewhat poor taste, but her sponsors must be getting their money’s worth and then some, and that bottom line is what it’s all about these days. Too many teams can’t even get sponsorship in this economy, yet Danica has seemingly no problem and an open invitation to do more.
One thing I admire greatly about the lady is her ability to handle herself and even assert herself in a sport that has always operated under total male domination. Don’t misunderstand; you know I love men… well, most of them anyway… but I don’t take any abuse from them and most certainly, neither does Danica Patrick. I love her analogy of herself as a Honey Badger… “He doesn’t give a [flip]!” My mind goes back to Atlanta in 1994, when Shawna Robinson put her car on the POLE in the cup race. Shawna was put into the wall on lap one by one of the “gentlemen”, just as he had said he would do. Try that with Danica… or you could just ask Sam Hornish. Does she take advantage at times of the fact that she is a woman? Does Kyle Busch at times resort to the chrome horn? You do the best you can to be the best you can be.
This lady that many describe as non-competitive, is in the midst of making the huge transition from open wheel to NASCAR racing. That’s something that some of open-wheel’s very best have not been able to accomplish. Dario Franchitti, four-time IndyCar Champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner tried and failed to make it in stock cars. Juan Pablo Montoya, CART Champion, Indy 500 winner and accomplished F1 racer has been almost lackluster since making the switch to fendered cars, with only two wins to show for his efforts, both of those coming at road courses. Will Danica’s attempt prove successful? Only time will tell, but she has as good a chance as anyone else.
To my mind, Danica is as qualified to race as anyone else on today’s circuit, and she won’t even be listed as a full-time competitor in the Cup Series until next year.. Why then does there seem to be so much animosity attached to conversations about this lady? For me, as a female and a journalist, that one’s easy. The media is killing her… sometimes with kindness, to be sure, but killing her nonetheless. Despite contrary opinions, the public, by and large, is not stupid. When they (WE, the fans) have something pushed or thrown at them (US) time after time after time, we come to resent it and bristle at even the mere mention of whatever or whoever is the media madness of the day. Dale Earnhardt Jr. can tell you all about that.
To my colleagues and brethren of the motorsports press, I would urge you to back off; stop making such a fuss over Ms. Patrick. She may be the “Go Daddy Girl”, but she is also someone’s daughter and someone’s wife. Oh, by the way, she is also a racecar driver, in case no one noticed. Most certainly, if she is running exceptionally well or makes a great move, give her coverage. Give her great coverage! When she is running thirty-something, no one cares. Cover someone that is making those great moves or running near the front. If one of you could work up the nerve to ask her, I’m quite sure you would find she agrees. Cover her fairly, not as The Go Daddy Girl, but as a racecar driver. I believe that we would see a great improvement both in her confidence and her racing ability if all forms of media coverage would just cut her some slack and leave her alone.
What say you Jeff? Agree or disagree? I let you pick the topic this time, and I’ve stated my thoughts and feelings concerning Ms. Patrick. I’ve always loved little private chats with other racing enthusiasts, and I hope we’ll see many more in this format in the future.
PattyKay, I appreciate the invite to share thoughts with you on this, or any subject for that matter. I’ve always enjoyed hanging around the tire stacks. I love the smell. I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge. After all, you are a professional journalist and I’m a rookie wannabe. I’m not even sure if I’m a wannabe.
Being somewhat new to this concept, I’m feeling my way through this first one. I have to say, after reading your first shot (you demanded the right to fire the first shot), I thought we would have disagreed on more points. But there are some for which we certainly have an opposing angle and I’ll be happy to correct you there. I wish I could watch you bristle at that remark. I think I can imagine it. Ah yes, there it is.
For starters, let me make a point. I’m all for the idea of women in racing, if they have the talent to be there. We agree on that. And for the record, if we’re going to have women in racing, I have no problem with them being beautiful. Danica is certainly beautiful and does possess some talent. You’ve heard me say folks shouldn’t blame Danica for passing through the open doors presented her. And I’ve gone on record to say that a certain amount of talent was required to have those doors opened. Her beauty alone would not have presented the opportunities from which she has benefited.
Now that I’ve established that basis, I must say, I think she is in way over her head. Yes, she is talented, but I don’t think she will ever be a consistent winner at the Cup level. She is certainly not championship material, in my opinion. I actually expected her to have more success in the Nationwide series and I do hope she gets a handle on it. After all, she is driving the best equipment money can buy. That equipment in the hands of a well-rounded race driver would most certainly produce better results at that level. That point is where many (non-Danica) fans draw the line.
She is privileged to have the opportunity to compete in the best equipment. That privilege comes as the result of her marketability rather than her absolute skill. Other drivers with more skill and less opportunity might produce better results. This is a basic fundamental change in racing that is not unique to Danica. Gone are the days when sheer driving talent opened doors. But, Danica did manage to attract sponsors and associated opportunities to drive an Indy Car…and she does have a win there to her credit. She was certainly competitive enough to make that happen and parlay those opportunities into a shot at NASCAR on a large scale.
Here is a point that will draw some lines between us Ms. PKL. I think her GoDaddy commercials are superb! I see nothing distasteful about them. I am a man and I appreciate beautiful women….the less clothes-the better. Hey, it’s the truth, and obviously I’m not the only male who thinks that way. I am a loyal GoDaddy customer, but I have been since before Danica came on board with us. I have enjoyed her association. Notice, I said us…and association…I’m part of the team, too. I gladly help pay her salary.
As I go through this, looking back at your submission, I’m finding more things with which to agree than to argue. That bothers me a little; I was in the mood for a fight. The one thing about the whole Danica “situation” that I dislike most is all the media hype surrounding her. Whatever happened to the idea the media should be impartial and fair in the subject matter they select and the way in which the portray it? Oh, now I remember. This is NASCAR’s new circus act and they better damn well cover it or else. It’s just not fair to those who race well and achieve better results to be literally walked over to interview Dancia. Hell, that’s not even fair to her. And don’t get me started on DW. He has made a complete fool of himself babbling about every move she makes.
Now here is where I get up on the fence a little. I know she is good for the sport. The marketing horsepower she brings to NASCAR comes at a time when we need it most. I only wish we had more of a choice in raising the value her stock. NASCAR is charging toward the goal to attract new fans, but may be contributing to the bleeding of core fans with the overly-obvious, managed publicity.
As you stated, she can handle herself with her predominantly male peers. But can she…on an equal level with them? I think not. If she were male, she may have already been pushed and shoved around some. She may very well have been punched…if she were male…and had dumped someone other than Sam Hornish. This is one of those areas that I feel gives her an unfair advantage. The potential for after-race consequences of ones on-track actions, though lessened considerably in recent years, has always been a factor in racing. Here again, this is not necessarily unique to Danica. We’ve heard Kurt Busch talk about whipping ass without any worry of having to back it up. But Ms. Danica will most likely never have to back up her actions to other drivers in a physical manner…unless of course we could get a rivalry going between her and Johanna Long. The possibility of an after-race cat fight might just bring some men back to the sport. Hmmm. Now, there’s a concept worth exploring. I wonder if NASCAR has considered this for a circus act. My money, by the way, would be on Johanna. Sorry Danica, I think she can take you.
PattyKay, this has been fun. But I prefer arguing with you over this rather bland exchange I’ve just completed. Since I’m picking the next topic, and will get the first shot, I’m going to have to put some serious thought into it. You can expect a real doozy. Stand by.
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