Danica Patrick: Is All This Marketing a Cover-Up for Her Lack of Racing Skills?

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - DECEMBER 18:  Danica Patrick driver of the #88 JR Motorsports Chevorlet prepares to drive during ARCA testing at Daytona International Speedway on December 18, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

"She's not Dario Franchitti and she's not Tony Stewart. She's not really shown over there [in the Indy Racing League] and won races and done stuff over there numbers-wise. She's just a marketing machine. Let's look at the facts and be blunt about it."

"If she gets in that car and doesn't win races it's not the car, it's not the engines, and it’s not the team. They only changed one thing. If she's successful, she'll have a huge long-term impact on the sport," Petty said.

"But if she's not successful the only impact she'll have on the sport is she wasted two or three years on a car that a good driver could have been in and could have been developing.”

Petty spoke these words last week at the Sight and Sound in Nashville, TN, which marked the unofficial start of the NASCAR racing season.

For once, Kyle Petty just may have hit on something that actually makes sense, other than some misguided commentary that he has made himself famous for since turning TV analyst.

Petty spoke some words of wisdom about NASCAR’s newest driver, Danica Patrick, which, believe it or not, actually had some meat to it.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the fans to come against Petty for what they felt were observations that he had no right speaking about, and it was all based off of his less than impressive career in the NASCAR series.

I really had to scratch my head on this one while thinking, “What does a drivers past career have anything to do with him making an observation which happens to be part of his job?”

“He does have fact to back-up his observations, which is a lot more than some fan just saying he is wrong because of his past NASCAR career, which has nothing to do with Patrick coming into the series.”

Petty’s observations were based off of Patrick’s numbers that she put up while driving in the IRL for the past five seasons, not the numbers that she has put in her bank account since the IRL made her their very own cash cow.

Ever since Patrick signed on to drive for JR Motorsports in 2010, all we have been hearing are the watered down versions of why she might become an overnight success, and most of it is coming from the fans who are weary of telling the truth about Earnhardt’s personal ATM machine.

It’s not really what could be classified as talking bad about her, but as Petty put it, what’s wrong with being blunt without sugar coating the truth?

In all actuality the only legit argument that can be made is like Petty said, “She is a marketing machine,” because her success in the IRL is the biggest misguided truth in the entire motorsports world.

How and by what standards is her success measured, because if you put a mustache on her and change her name to Danny, she would not be getting the recognition that she is receiving today.

It’s really too bad when success in her case is measured by a bust size and good looks, and even at that it is amazing how air brushing can take even the smallest measurements, and blow them up into monstrous proportions along with fixing any flaws that would take away from her good looks.

This is the same technique that is being used to cover up the flaws in her IRL career that technically is not anywhere near where her closest competitor was in 2009.

How popular is Tony Kanaan with his 13 wins in 104 starts, along with one championship, and a second place finish in the 2005 Indy 500? Kanaan finished sixth behind Patrick in 2009, with five top-five finishes in only 17 starts.

Now, give those stats to Patrick, and she would probably be considered a superstar getting ready to get inducted into the IRL Hall of Fame if there was one.

One win and three poles in 81 starts, does not account for a successful career no matter how hard her fans try to manipulate those numbers, especially when she has yet to prove that she can handle a 3,500-pound race car here in the NASCAR series.

She may have had good numbers during her recent test at Daytona, but even those numbers are manipulated by the fact that she was not running in an actual race.

How many times over the years have we seen driver after driver, get behind the wheel of some of the sports fastest race cars during practice, only to falter once they were put into an actual race only to not meet the expectations that were put on them?

The list is a very long one with some very notable drivers who have given NASCAR their best shot only to fail, and Petty did mention a few of them to back up his argument.

The fact of the matter is, the only reason she is getting this much publicity is because she is a female trying to make it in one of the toughest, and most popular motorsports series in the world today.

Not only is she a female, but because in the sex-sells society that we live in, her success that she has had in the IRL falls more on the heels of selling herself as a sex symbol than a race car driver.

With this alone she has basically closed the door for any other female to have a legitimate chance in the series, unless they can match her willingness to tease those who are willing to take notice of her unique marketing techniques.

Whether or not she is NASCAR’s saving grace, or for that matter if she will make it in this grueling series will not be seen until she takes to the asphalt and concrete battle grounds once the season begins.

As far as how much of a time frame will she be given to prove herself, is another area that has yet to be discussed.

Each one of us has our opinion pertaining to the success that she could possibly have in the series, and she will continue to be scrutinized until she can prove that her career is not based off her marketing power and more on her driving abilities.

“Patrick is stepping into a situation with a car that has won races,” said Petty.

The opportunity is there, and now its up to her to take full advantage of a ride that any driver would feel honored to be behind the wheel of.