Danica Patrick is a thief.
Throughout the week leading up to the 2012 Daytona 500, she has stolen the spotlight from far more deserving NASCAR superstars. As long as the sport takes the stance that all publicity is good publicity, Patrick will continue to do so.
According to David Kallmann of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, racer Trevor Bayne said leading up to the race that:
We look for these kind of moments. NASCAR keeps talking about star power. These are the kind of moments that are going to help our whole sport, not just Danica or not just that team. The more eyeballs, the more people are watching us, that's all better for us.
Well, as long as Bayne acknowledges who those eyeballs are tuning in to see…
Patrick has always been more style than substance, but that style continues to reel in an audience. ESPN’s David Newton began a column titled, “Women Driver? Danica is just a good driver,” by saying: “It may be time to stop referring to Danica Patrick as a female driver. Pole-winning driver will suffice. Period.”
First off, since when is Patrick a good driver? Are we grading these competitors by the weak yet classical argument, they’re professionals, they’re good? During her seven-year IndyCar career, Patrick won a whopping one race.
But after years of coming up short, Patrick is now a top-notch competitor after winning a Nationwide Series pole position…try again. Will pole-winning driver suffice? Since when do professional auto racers live to win poles?
Patrick should, without a doubt, still be seen as a female driver because that’s the lone reason why any of her hype exists. And the notion that she fits in with the rest of the pack is puzzling, to say the least.
While legends like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson go toe to toe in Monday’s Daytona 500, all eyes will instead be on Patrick, and definitely not because she’s a good, or pole-winning, driver.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.