Danica Patrick: Is NASCAR the Only Way to Save Danica-Mania?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMay 23, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 26:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, stands next to her car in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 26, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Danica Patrick's less than stellar performance with open-wheel cars this year has followed her to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Her qualifying position for the Indy 500 is 23rd, at 224.217 mph. In five starts for this race, she has never started worse than 10th.

The fascination with the attractive, petite female known for her sexy photos, glamour shots, GoDaddy.com commercials, and race car driving has been dubbed "Danica-Mania."

Those who follow her ventures in open-wheel racing may be losing their zesty support for the driver, who's now ranked 16th in the Izod IndyCar points standings.

After qualifying, she stepped from her car to be interviewed. She immediately blamed her poor performance on the car.

Apparently the interview was heard over the loud speakers in the stands. To the shock and dismay of Patrick, the fans expressed verbal disapproval of her comment.

The driver appeared visibly shaken, not only by the poor setup on the car, but by the fan reaction as well.

Danica-Mania may be in jeopardy in the IndyCar world.

Two other female drivers—Ana Beatriz qualified 21st, and Simona DiSilvestro qualified 22nd—finished ahead of Patrick in the field of 33 cars.

Granted, Andretti Autosport struggled with their cars during the month at Indy.  Patrick may have had reason to be upset with the handling of her car.

She may be having a tough time at Indy, but that can't excuse her driving statistics so far this season.

Patrick's driving ability has eroded since her trip to NASCAR-land earlier this year.

Could it be her confidence is not what it once was in open-wheel cars?

The security of a car with a roof and fenders, a NASCAR Nationwide stock car may be the type of racing she is more comfortable with after all.

Before the Danica fans jump all over this article, let me state it does take talent and certainly confidence in your ability to drive a car on a track at speeds averaging near 225 mph.

Now, back to the point of this article.

It appears the more seat time Patrick gets in her Andretti Autosport racing machine, the worse her overall performance is.  She has five seasons of racing these cars on her resume'.

If she is to preserve her status with Danica Nation, a return to the JR Motorsports No. 7 stock car can't come soon enough.

Patrick is scheduled to run June 26 in Loudon, New Hampshire in the NASCAR Nationwide series. 

She will be doing a couple test sessions with the Nationwide car prior to the June race.

NASCAR fans still anticipate what kind of impact Danica Patrick will have in the Nationwide series during the races she is scheduled to run the second half of the year.

Danica-Mania is alive and well with those who follow her in NASCAR.

Many hope and believe she will do well, hone her stock car driving skills and go on to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Others believe she has no business in NASCAR, and should stick to making TV commercials.

A third group of people, which may include some NASCAR drivers really don't care one way or the other.

Drivers who will be on a track racing against her just want to feel she is capable of handling the car.

So far this year she has shown she can handle the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet under the tutelage of Tony Eury Jr.

The downward spiral of Danica Patrick in open-wheel racing may endanger her popularity level.

Of course, she could win the Indy 500 next weekend and all would be well, but lets not bet too heavily on that hand.

NASCAR may be the only way for Patrick to maintain her status with those who buy her merchandise and support her.