NASCAR fans need to realize that Danica is good for sport

Scripps Howard News Service Published:

By David Moulton | Scripps Howard News Service

She can't win.

I don't mean the race because if you're in it, you can win it.

Danica Patrick can't win over the race fans that see her as nothing more than a glorified publicity stunt.

Then again, I'm not sure she ever will. She won a race five years ago in Japan but "it was on fuel mileage." The gear heads were not impressed. If she passes someone down the stretch of a race because of driving skill and wins, and maybe, grudgingly, they'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe.

Yes, she would not have this opportunity if she were a man. Yes, her resume is not impressive if she were a man. It's decent. She has shown in Indy cars, and now a stock car, that she goes fast well.

Otherwise, she's a work in progress. Big time.

But what I don't get is who cares? She is interesting. Her very existence in the sports world is to be celebrated. A woman competing against men on an even playing field. The only other places this can happen in sports is horse racing and bowling. This isn't manufactured or a novelty act. She's a racer. Recently, Sarah Fisher was a racer, and most felt a pretty good one. Her Indy-car career was haunted by largely inferior financing or equipment. Many wondered if she had had an even playing field, how would she have done?

Patrick is getting that opportunity. So what's the harm in standing back and seeing how she does?

To me, if you are rooting against Patrick you are some combination of threatened or jealous.

She's not a Kardashian. So she has opportunities, fame and fortune because she can attract sponsors? There's been a few guys who have had golden opportunities because they were born into the right racing family over the years. Some of them could race, but some of them were not much more than Patrick, only instead of a pretty face, they had a special last name.

Don't all of you who resent Patrick realize how good for the sport she is?

Jimmie Johnson is one of the greatest racecar drivers of all-time. He won an unprecedented five straight Cup titles. During his reign, ratings and attendance went down.

Patrick is different. She is unique. She brings sizzle to a sport that -- c'mon, admit it -- had gotten stale because almost all the drivers looked and talked alike. Heck, she's even dating another driver. If nothing else, every man now gets to wonder whether they would wreck their woman to win a race? Of course, they may not be too crazy about her answer if the situation were reversed, but that's fun too!

NASCAR needed Patrick. Television ratings and attendance were heading in the wrong direction. The most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is closer to 40 than 30, and still without a title. The reigning champion is Brad Keselowski. Heckuva driver and good quote, but the casual sports fan still has no idea who he is.

Now America is paying attention to NASCAR again. Sure, many are only doing it because of Patrick, but their curiosity with her is not gonna be just a one-week thing. She may not win ever, but while she's trying, there's a good chance for NASCAR to introduce its current stars and next-generation ones to a brand new audience.

Hey, race fan, don't you want more people to watch and appreciate your sport?

Some have joked this was the Patrick 500 not the Daytona one. It may have been for many, but big deal.

In fact, what is the big deal? She was in this race last year. Don't remember? She started 29th, got caught up in a wreck on the second lap -- so did Johnson -- and finished 38th.

So why all the fuss? Oh yeah, she actually did something by winning the pole this year. And by finishing in the top 10. So she has something to offer besides her looks. The real question is, how much?

That's why I'm going to just sit back and enjoy the ride over these next few years, and see what that answer is.

Until then, I just don't see the downside to Danica Patrick.

Nor why you would root against her.

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