Is It Time To Evolve Our Opinion Of Danica?

Danica Patrick & Tony Stewart Are Fast Friends 2013 USA Today

Danica Patrick & Tony Stewart Are Fast Friends
(Photo: Davis Turner, for USA TODAY)

Danica Patrick Enter The 2013 Sprint Cup Series
by Springwolf

If you’ve read any of my Nascar posts, you know I’m pretty critical of Danica. Just check out “Why Nascar Fans Don’t Like Danica” and you’ll find the reasons why.

This year she will be driving the GoDaddy #10 Chevy full time in the Sprint Cup series for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Now as a major Tony Stewart fan, I’ve been conflicted about Danica from the beginning. I want to support him as both a driver and an owner. But it’s been hard where she’s concerned. Even knowing how much Tony likes her and believes in her abilities. (Danica and Tony are Fast Friends by Nate Ryan – USA Today)

Make no mistake, I think bringing her on board at Stewart-Haas Racing is a great business decision. She’s immensely popular. She garners a great deal of attention no matter what she does or where she goes.

As the Marketing reps say…there’s no such thing as bad publicity. You merely need to look at the response to this years Superbowl GoDaddy commercial to see that concept working in reality. As soon at that supermodel/nerd kiss commercial aired, Twitter lit up with comments. With each and every one of them mentioning “Go Daddy” in their disgust. But that gross commercial, pulled in record business for the and that’s what it’s all about. Sales!

So yeah it’s a great business decision having her on the team. But business decisions don’t play out on the track with fans hoping for a win from their favorite driver.

This weekend two things have occurred that got me thinking about Danica, her reputation and her status in Nascar. And both involve Rusty Wallace.

First was an article I read about the return of Rusty Wallace Racing to the track (NASCAR 2013: Rusty Wallace Racing returns, Steve Wallace to run 10-15 races). The comments on this story match up with the comments on the racing blogs I peruse as well. They’re not at all favorable. Steven Wallace apparently has never met a track wall, or side panels of a competitor’s car that he didn’t like. When fans want a caution during a race, for whatever reason, they’d ask “Isn’t it time for Steven to hit something?”. As long as he wasn’t hitting their driver or starting a crash that affected their driver in the process.

Supposedly, “Rusty Wallace started the team in 2004 and developed it for his son. The organization has just one Nationwide victory — in 2004 with Jamie McMurray.” If Rusty want’s to develop his son as a primer race car driver, then maybe he should start at the beginning of the “16 Tips and Hints To Become a Successful Race Car Driver“.  That starting point IS NOT in the premier series of Nascar’s Nationwide or Sprint Cup arenas! It’s not even the Camping World Truck series. ARCA, maybe. But they may not even want him there.

This news made me think of how much Danica has improved with her limited 1st year run and especially the full time Nationwide run last year. I never said she didn’t have talent or couldn’t drive a car. What my criticism was all about, was the entitlement she has received when other drivers who have earned the right have been passed over.

I still hold that view. I still believe drivers like Johanna Long are more deserving of a top quality ride like Danica has secured. Put Johanna in the quality equipment that Danica has and let’s see how she fairs in comparison. But put that aside and Danica has made an effort to enter the sport as peacefully and respectfully as possible. And that I do admire.

She didn’t simply announce “I’m coming to Nascar bow to me now”. She talked to other drivers who moved from open wheel to stock car and she listened to their advice. No one more so than Tony Stewart. He has become a great mentor and adviser to Danica. ..well of course he has; that’s Tony. And give her credit, she has listened. And his decision to put her in one of his teams has paid off.

Last year with each race under her belt, she continually improved her stats. No wins, but she did win poles. She did finish races. And unlike Steven Wallace, she rarely caused an incident. Most, if not all of her DNFs were not by her own actions. She had a lot of help. She did race as clean as possible, which was noted by many race commentators throughout the year. Even if other drivers didn’t give her the same respect.

Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick  GoDaddy #10 Cup Car

Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick
GoDaddy #10 Cup Car

That respect brings me to the second thing that got me thinking about Danica this weekend. It’s weird how your mind starts thinking about things when you’re doing chores.

I was thinking about Rusty Wallace being inducted into the Nascar Hall Of Fame. My opinion of that is an entirely different story. But what I latched onto was Rusty, the race commentator. Of all the things he has said from the booth, two phrases stick with me.  “Flat flying” which is honestly annoying. What’s “bumpy flying”. I’m not the only one with an annoyance of that phrase, but we’ll move on.

The second comment was something he said last year about Danica. “She’s a good little racer”. As a female fan of Nascar and racing in general, I do love seeing women drivers who are equally as talented and successful as their male counterparts, on the track. Danica and Johanna are two of those women. Calling them “little” racers because they’re women is demeaning, disrespectful and chauvinistic. Even SirEvil said “Oh he didn’t really say that!” in response to Rusty’s comment of Danica.

I want to see Rusty Wallace say “Ty Dillon is a good little racer.” Then I won’t have an issue with his comment. But that’s not the way he speaks of younger male drivers who are up and comers. It shows a prejudice that I really would rather not see in my favorite sport. But he got away with it..and my guess is, if he does it again, he’ll still get away with it. And he shouldn’t!

Under all this pressure and criticism, Danica has maintained a professionalism that not many would be able to carry. Compare her actions and words to someone like Kurt Busch who also under went some tough criticism and attention. He didn’t handle it so well. A “big” racer like him letting the pressure get to him. But he still has fans and he still has a ride in 2013.

All this thinking has seriously ..evolved.. my view of Danica. She’s held her own. She’s improved her attitude and her skill on the track. I think it’s time that race fans let go of the fair or unfair avenue of thinking that got her here. She’s here now, let’s move and start treating her like any other Sprint Cup Driver. If you like her, great. If you don’t, well it’s a love ’em or hate ’em kind of fan base. That’s why we LOVE Nascar!

Go Danica and good luck in fighting for the 2013 Rookie Of The Year! ..even if it’s against Ricky.  😉

© This material is the intellectual property of Author Springwolf
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