Is Patrick just a pretty face??

FM Group RacingCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2008

For now, Patrick just a pretty face

by Steve Kaminski | The Grand Rapids Press
Tuesday February 19, 2008, 7:00 AM

AP PhotoIRL driver Danica Patrick posed for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition.

The Indy Racing League has to be thrilled that she did it, considering any publicity for the struggling North American-based, open wheel series is good publicity.

Sports Illustrated sure has to be happy.

I wasn't disappointed, either, to open up this year's SI swimsuit edition and find Danica Patrick on the beach wearing only a white bikini.

But did Patrick do herself any favors by posing?

I say no. Many already are drawing conclusions that she is more style than substance, and this doesn't help with that stereotype.

With each passing season, Patrick has been drawing more comparisons to retired tennis player Anna Kournikova.

Courtesy Photo/SI.comDanica Patrick

Patrick is about to begin her fourth season on the IRL circuit, and she still hasn't won a race. Patrick burst onto the national spotlight in 2005 when she qualified fourth for the Indianapolis 500, and finished fourth.

However, she has yet to capitalize on her early-career success. She joined the Andretti-Green team a year ago, which was supposed to launch her into racing's elite. While she did finish a respectable seventh in points, she still came up winless -- while teammate Tony Kanaan won five times.

Patrick will be 26 years old when the IRL season opens March 29 in Homestead, Fla., so she has plenty of career left. But the pressure for her to win continues to grow, especially since some of the IRL's top stars have defected to NASCAR.

If it's Patrick's goal to become a celebrity, then she is doing just fine. You don't have to be a race fan to know who Patrick is. She has made a big splash into mainstream America.

But if Patrick wants to be considered a serious player in open wheel racing, posing half-naked in a bed sheet on the back page of the SI Swimsuit issue isn't going to be enough.