Daily Dump: Danica Patrick's Courtship of Fools

Matt TarrContributor IJune 29, 2009

BEIJING - AUGUST 16:  Jennie Finch of the United States pitches against Chinese Taipei during their softball game at Fengtai Softball Field on Day 8 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 16, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

If you’re anything like us, chances are you have at least one acquaintance in your life who takes his love for NASCAR just a wee bit too seriously. Could be that co-worker who inexplicably totes around a Dale Earnhardt Jr. wallet. Or that neighbor with the back-window sticker of Calvin urinating on Kyle Busch’s No. 18.

Then again, we live in Florida. Enough said.

But if you do have an auto racing fan in your life, and you’ve ever dared to talk sports with them, then surely you’ve had to hear about how NASCAR drivers are “real athletes,” NASCAR is a “real sport,” etc., etc. Well, the next time you find yourself mired in this debate, try this response on for size:

“Would the New York Yankees sign Jennie Finch to be in their starting rotation?”

That, friends, sums up in 14 words what separates “real” sports leagues from auto racing’s most popular circuit. Because as scintillating as she would look in pinstripes, the former Olympic softball pitcher/hottie would never get an offer to pitch for Major League Baseball’s most powerful franchise—no matter how many posters or coffee mugs or sexy bobbleheads she could sell.

The NASCAR courtship of Danica Patrick, on the other hand, seems to be heating up by the day. With television ratings, live attendance, and advertising revenue lagging, NASCAR’s elite racing teams—Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing—appear headed for an all-out bidding war for the Indy Racing League’s perennial also-ran, according to a report posted Friday by Mike Mulhern:

“This much appears clear—That Patrick could probably generate as much as $60 million in sponsorship interest, if packaged correctly, which in these strapped economic times, is quite appealing.”

Appealing to car owners and NASCAR? Yes. Appealing to anyone who enjoys watching a quality race among elite drivers? No.

Patrick’s IRL career has been a financial boom off the track, and a colossal failure on it. She’s won a grand total of one race, and within racing circles, her driving ability is regarded as (at best) mediocre and (at worst) abysmal. And as Mulhern points out, even successful IRL drivers—such as three-time champ Sam Hornish Jr.—have struggled in making the transition to NASCAR.

But little things like racing ability, credibility and respect for their hardcore fan base won’t stop NASCAR’s top teams from throwing mountains of money at Patrick. And as long as the sport’s top circuit continues to make decisions that are in the best interests of their advertisers rather than their fans, you’ll have to forgive us if we don’t accept NASCAR as a “real sport.”

- Hendrick team could have edge in signing Danica (MikeMulhern.net)

But enough Danicamania, let’s fire up today’s poop machine …

- Must-read for hoop fans: Kevin Clark of The Wall Street Journal on why AAU basketball has become a blight to the game. (WSJ.com)

- British artist awarded grant to look at women’s butts. Now we all just feel stupid for giving away our talent for free all these years. (The Sun UK)

- Jelena Jankovic blames Wimbledon loss on a visit from Aunt Flo. (Yahoo)

- Photographic evidence of Kendra Wilkinson wearing white on her wedding day. In a stunning development, lightning did not strike the ceremony. (Jerseychaser.com)

- Aaron Rodgers reportedly linked to hot grapefruit heiress. Then again, he hasn’t asked the socialite vixen to visit him in Green Bay in the dead of winter yet, either. (New York Post)

- What Sunday’s loss to Brazil in the Confederation Cup finals means for U.S. soccer. (The Bucky Channel)