Danica Patrick is at the center of a debate this week regarding whether she deserves to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, with two writers going head-to-head about the sport’s most popular female driver.
While Patrick hasn’t wowed fans with her stats — she stands at number 19 in the Sprint Cup rankings — she has reportedly improved quite a bit just this season.
“She brings everything to us. It’s a whole different level. With our sponsors and our driver lineup, she brings something that the others don’t — and that’s really what you look for — adding to the pot. Danica adds to our pot — and her performance is getting to where she is more comfortable,” said Joe Custer of Patrick’s sponsor Stewart-Haas Racing.
Writer Steven Cole Smith says that Danica should be praised for her skills as a female in a male-dominated industry, George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel argues that it’s not just her skills on the track that make her such a bankable driver.
“Maybe he never heard of Janet Guthrie. She was the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. Danica would become the second, therefore, she didn’t break any barriers… And Danica has survived ‘season after season’ because she is a marketing queen. Big time. And she has done so because she competes for one of the super-powers in the business, Stewart-Haas Racing, that provides her with the best equipment, technical support and resources possible,” Diaz wrote.
Indeed, Danica Patrick has built a name for herself via endorsements and appearances in music videos and sex-drenched ads for Go Daddy, and the fact that she’s a woman has both helped and hindered her within the sport. Racing legend Richard Petty said last year that if she had come onto the track with her stats as a man, she would go unnoticed and would only win the Sprint Cup Series under one condition.
“If everybody else stayed home. If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack. This is a female deal that’s driving her. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport,” Petty said.
Petty’s son Kyle agreed, saying that Danica Patrick is much better at qualifying than she is at racing, and that’s a problem.
“Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can’t race. I think she’s come a long way, but she’s still not a race car driver. And I don’t think she’s ever going to be a race car driver.”
[Photo courtesy Jimmy Kimmel/YouTube]