ANDY CAGLE: Ga-Ga for Patrick: Danica to NASCAR a Publicist's Dream
So Tuesday morning I was sitting in my office listening to some music by my friend Patrick Davis while completing some task related to the continuation of our democracy (or playing a game online, who can remember?) when something strange happened.
Right as the song "Be Wary of a Woman" began, a Twitter update popped up on my screen telling me that Danica Patrick had signed a deal with JR Motorsports (JRM) to run a partial Nationwide schedule in 2010.
Now, is it just a coincidence that this particular song starts as one of the racing news organizations I follow tells me that Danica is coming to NASCAR next year? Probably.
Is it a bit ominous? You're damn right it is.
I think "be wary of a woman" is some pretty good advice for NASCAR fans when it comes to ol' Miss Patrick.
No, I'm not being sexist. There is not some inherent misogyny in what I am saying. I am not saying be wary of Danica because she is a woman. I'm saying be wary of that woman because she comes to NASCAR lock, stock and smoking barrel with a whole lot of hype and expectations and very little experience in heavy stock cars -- or anything with a fender, for that matter.
If you read last week's column, you know that I named Patrick my driver of the year for being able to generate this much buzz without really being, um, good. And right now her foray is a great boon for NASCAR.
In a traditional dead period for news from the sport, this week's announcement prompted the Public Relations departments from tracks from Miami to Fontana to pump out Danica-related releases about the possibility of her running their Nationwide race next year. So on that front, and don't get me wrong on this, Danica is very good for NASCAR.
There is definitely some on-track sex appeal to this story that will generate lots of new interest in the sport. Just what the floundering attendance and TV ratings need.
And if she's going to run some ARCA races, I think the October finale at Rockingham would be a good one.
I just think we all need to look at her new boss for a lesson about what to expect from Danica. She, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., is not a world-beater. She's not Jimmie Johnson in a tighter-fitting firesuit (easy, fellas). She, again like Junior, is more three-quarter rock star/one-quarter race car driver.
Honestly guys, if she didn't moonlight in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, would there be this much interest? Again, I'm not saying the interest is bad. I guarantee attendance and TV ratings will be up for the races she enters in 2010. It's just that she is going to have a big adjustment moving to stock cars from the lighter, more powerful Indy Cars, where she has won a grand total of one race in her career.
Expect lots of non-lead lap finishes for Patrick this year. She will appear in more commercials than top-10 finishing orders. Again, like her new boss.
I get it. This deal is about the marketing. And there is nothing wrong with that. We have seen this movement in NASCAR over the last 17 years of pushing the young, unproven driver over the wily, cagey, more experienced driver (thanks, Mr. Gordon).
But let's don't get ourselves too worked up over this -- that includes you, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, vice president at JRM, who proclaimed that "We are going to rock the world!" when the deal was announced.
The new Danica-JRM deal may rock out the marketing world. But when it comes to Danica and her stock car expectations, I'm going to take Patrick Davis' advice and be wary of a woman.
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