Life without Danica presents serious challenges for IndyCar

February 23, 2012
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Whether open-wheel racing fans like it or not, the biggest question facing the IndyCar Series right now isn’t how the new 2012 car and engines will perform.

It isn’t whether a former Formula One star will join the series or whether the series will be embraced in China or other overseas markets. It isn’t whether IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard will survive another year or whether the series will finally register a profit after 17 years in business.

The biggest question is whether the series will be better or worse off without Danica Patrick.

As a native of Indianapolis and a reporter who has covered the business of open-wheel racing and Indianapolis Motor Speedway the last 14 years, I’d like to say the series will be better off.

She rarely steered her way into the winner’s circle. Her driving ability would never be confused with that of Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon or Will Power—all of whom remain with the series.

Her tantrums became old and tired years ago and the sideshow that followed her everywhere had long been a distraction to many drivers and hardcore open-wheel fans.

And worst of all, she took valuable air time and column inches from other drivers. Now that Patrick is gone, open-wheel diehards have to be hoping that ABC and NBC will spend more time putting the spotlight on the people who really have a shot at winning on a regular basis.

Rookies and other rising stars such as James Hinchcliffe, J.R. Hildebrand and Katherine Legge—and their teams—could be the biggest benefactors of Patrick’s absence, as the media that covers racing rushes to fill the void.

Of course, there’s another fear. That the racing media—and worse yet, casual race fans—will turn their backs on IndyCar Racing altogether and flee to NASCAR with Patrick. The diminutive driver is certainly causing quite a media frenzy leading up to her debut at the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Patrick’s upside cannot be denied. And it is quite quantifiable.

Fans voted her the most popular IndyCar driver in each of the last three years. Her merchandise in recent years has outsold all other IndyCar Series’ drivers’ combined. The line to get her autograph before qualifications and races was easily five times as long as the series’ other most popular drivers.

GoDaddy and her other sponsors have pushed her image, along with IndyCar’s, into the public conscious.

A quick search under Google News this week finds there are almost twice as many stories written about Patrick as about the entire IndyCar Series.

To be fair, in the week heading into the Daytona 500 the media is getting pretty amped up about NASCAR, where Patrick now makes her living full-time.

The common thinking among many in the IndyCar paddock is that Patrick’s absence may hurt in the short term, but in the long term will help a more well-rounded series grow. After all, the thinking goes, IndyCar has so much more to offer than a one-win driver.

Still, the concern for Bernard and his staff is real. Like it or not, he has to find a way to sell a Danica-free IndyCar Series.

And he has to wonder if the series’ modest attendance gains and its 28-percent TV ratings increases of last year will continue in 2012 or fade away in a puff of smoke.

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  • For AOW, I'm happy
    I'm happy that she's gone because she was used as a tool to sway public opinion in favor of the DEAD IRL SERIES.

    She had a certain "Jeremy Lin" quality early on, but that wore off about 2006. She was (outside of Vitor Meira) and IRL journeyman (pun intended). By her being in the series, it lessened everything about the series.

    Sadly, she's touted as the Indycar's best, earning a shot at NASCAR. We all know that she's nothing but a media prostitute selling her body to the sport, nothing more, nothing less. That would have been different if she did something while in IRL/Indycars....but she didn't.

    But, I will follow her now because she's Jeremy Lin in a whole different league. And that's the problem the IRL and Indycar will take many years to make work...because it never worked before: Keeping drivers in the Indycar Series as a destination, not a retirement series or stepping stone. Not being able to keep Tony Stewart, JJ Yeley, Sarah Fisher, Ryan Newman, Casey Mears, Sam Hornish, Danika, or any other open wheel roots racer in the past 16 years clearly indicates the complete failure the IMS/IRL/Indycars have been at developing and keeping talent.

    Unfortunately, IMS is responsible for all of it. but, I'm happy! Go Danika!!!
  • Good
    If Danica was as big a draw as some would have you beleive, then INDYCAR would have sold out every race on the circuit last year. They hype is just that, hype. It's bought and paid for by the mainstream media.

    Chief is right, there are no drivers that stick with open wheel. Helio, Dario, TK, Dixon, Andretti, Rahal, Hunter Reay, Servia, Power, Hamilton, Tracy, Bourdais, Sheckter... Those aren't real people.
  • Meanwhile, An Adult Speaks
    I am happy for Danica in NASCAR, but she needs to perform and deliver or that group of fans won't have much tolerance for the hype her brand generates. She may well make it but time will tell.

    Her move sort of makes the hype about winning Indy we've heard since 2005 sort of hollow, but marketing today is geared toward those with really short attention spans.

    It will be interesting watching Indy Car refocus promotional efforts without the Danica factor. Personally her presence did not move the needle much, so I can't imagine the needle moving lower without her.
  • Danica
    Danica who???

    She would not be happy with the new car! Had trouble with the old car after 10 years of development...(e.g. 2010 and 11 Indy 500).

    Best wishes to her in NASCAR!
  • Danica
    I thought we were done with her.
    • Where is the problem
      How hard is it to find a short-plump woman with a herman munster hair line willing to use her sexuality to get what she wants. You obviously don't have to be a good driver to replace Danica, so go to any strip club and you'll find plenty of girls who are willing and able to do EXACTLY what danica did. What's so hard about that?
    • chief - its Danica
      And you think you can bring it on Open wheel racing? Get hooked on phonics then have a take!
    • Who?
      Who is this person you speak of? There's been so much positive discussion of new engines, full fields, sponsor activation (thank you Fuzzy's!), etc. that I don't really recall this Danyca person....
    • Really?
      Danica wore her welcome out a long long time ago. Boring.
    • Danica
      While admittedly having top equipment during her tour in O-Wheel, Danica didn't really compete that well when compared to the other drivers who had Ganassi, Penske, or Andretti-Green equiment. Also, I suspect that with the recent O-Wheel modifications emphasizing increased driver skill, she would likely drop back further in the standings.

      She is a beautiful woman with a captivating personality & was great for marketing, but I believe demonstrated little more mid-pack driving skill......and her time for impact in O-Wheel had likely passed.
    • Chief Happy? C'mon
      Chief says he's happy. Who are you kidding. I have never seen anyone so miserable in my entire life. You misspoke. It is Cart that is dead not Indycar. You try to make claim that everyone in open wheel racing is a function of Cart. Many of the key backers of open wheel racing were around well before Cart. They were exceptional owners/drivers/engineers before Cart and remain so after Cart's demise. Cart didn't have a business model that could survive (how do spell Indpls Motor Speedway). The Indy 500 was is and will continue to be one of the greatest single day sporting events we will ever see. You call Danica a media prostitute and then you say you will follow her because she is the new Jeremy Lin. As always you try to have it both ways and that is why your positions are so incredibily insane. Nobody Cares if you hate the IMS and open wheel racing. There are plenty of sports and racing fans that enjoy open wheel, NASCAR ,midget and sprints, drag racing, F-1 without having to make up imaginary reasons to pit one against the other. Why don,t you just sit down and enjoy a race sometime. You will be surprised at how good that might make you feel. Then again that just might be impossible. Danica was good for The IRL and she will be good for NASCAR but neither require her to survive
    • Popping off...
      Let's let someone else that fancies himself a fan of Indycar make a statement to prove that it has nothing to do with hating...just general feelings that are based on facts:

      "We as fans struggle with the idea that almost nobody even knows about IndyCar racing in the nation where it was born. We struggle because at one point our society incorporated the Indianapolis 500 as an integral part of its cultural zeitgeist, but now it barely outdraws a regular-season NASCAR race in the TV ratings. We struggle because NASCAR is now considered to be "auto racing" in America, and everything else could just as well be jai alai or competitive oil painting."

      And that was not written by Chief!

      I don't know if Anthony likes to have other blogs mentioned...so I won't. But it is not hard to find others that have many of the same feelings of some of us that were huge fans of the sport but don't follow it as we once did.

      So the blowhards can bleat all they want...but they can't change the actual minds of the thousands that are turned off. I guess they will try to shut up the few that care enough to vent though.

      • New Era
        Why would people vent about something so stupid? The challenge is not attracting those who have left....the challenge is attracting new, younger fans. Those who left are gone. It does not matter what the reasons are. How is the sport going to attract new customers?
      • Life Without Danica
        Danica Will Not Be Missed In Indy Car.
        In Her First Cup Race At Daytona She Almost
        Got Killed. The Winey One Is Not Going To
        Ever Win Another Race. I Say Good Riddance.
      • RaceFan
        Who cares about Danice? I've met her on quite a few occasions & she is a complete, stuck up SNOB who drinks her cool-aid. She's her biggest fan, not to mention her husband lost his license to practice physical therapy for having SEX WITH A MINOR !! Look up that story, it's written by Brooks...her PR team squash the headlines when ever they pop up.
      • Popping off Part 2
        There are way too many that live in a dream world and want everything to be the way it used to be. Ain't gonna happen. Sport fans have so many options today and in hard economic times like we have experienced the past 5 years certain sports have taken a beating. Auto Racing at the top of the list. Look where horse racing and boxing are today. look at major league baseball,NBA, NHL. None have the fan base they once did because people are tired of the big money--they have other options. I happen to still follow most of the above because I am a true sports junky but I get it that people don't have the interest they once did. Just because people don't have the peak interest anymore doesn't mean the sports can't been enjoyed by those who truly pay attention and watch them for the shear athletic competition they are. Those of you who want to crucify anybody and everybody that you think has ruined "Your Sport" do nothing more than contribute to the apathy that people have. Find something positive (there is plenty to like or the sports would have died years ago).I am all for healthy discussion to make things the best they can be. Dissenting opinions bring out the best of ideas. Unfortunately many of the ideas presented her are just emotionally charged venon that accomplish nothing. I have been to 55 consecutive Indy 500s. It will never be the "Way it Use to BE". But it is still one of the most enjoyable days a true racing fan can experience
      • Just another cheap excuse
        Keep telling yourselves that all of us want things to be what they used to be.

        You couldn't be more wrong, but hey if it allows you to discount others so be it. A cheap excuse that lacks any understanding.

        Again...it is what the sport of indycar has become that is the problem. There is a good chance it will be the problem stopping it from gaining new fans too.

        Once again...a top level of motorsport needs to have some variety and creativity. Cars, engines, open rules, engineers and drivers being able to discover new approaches, new tricks, new methods. Something...anything.

        A tightly controlled, heavily speced series has none of that.

        NASCAR is finding that out now too.

        And go on and tell us that is evolution and a need due to the current situation. That too would just be another excuse.

        No one wants 1995 to come back...well except for IMS and Randy. Sure seems like they want some kind of a return to that popularity. But the approach is all wrong. Randy is a marketer...not a racer. We need some dang racers input.

        No, some of us want a creative, top notch racing series. And there are many ways to achieve it, none of it being done by IMS and Randy.

        And many don't see that in the future either. A sport stuck in the mud of the split...the damages done by all that brought the sport down to where it seems it may never have the finances, popularity and human drive and desire to bring it back.

        Now race fans (yes, even those that consider themselves REAL race fans...a most arrogant term of self back slapping as there is) are going to be stuck with a single chassis, tightly-speced engine, not-allowed-to-touch the-cars series for how many more years?

        Even youngsters get bored!

        And go ahead and deny that it is the older fans that bring the younger fans to a sport. It was my father and elder brothers that brought me to it. How about you?

        If it was one track in Indiana and not what was on that track then you would never understand a lot of the turned off fans anyway.

        And no, I am not bagging on the track. I am bagging on what made that track, the entire sport unique...that is missing today.

        • Missing Today?
          Fans with maturity and class who understand fundamental evolution, not to mention economics and civics. Not obsessed enthusiasts stuck in the early 90's.
        • Really, I'm quite happy!
          After yesterday's race, I find myself WANTING Danica to do well. Also, I've realized it's one less thing to dislike about the IRLndycars.

          So, Mario....I am happy. I'm happy the Indycar Driver's Association is FINALLY putting their money where their mouths have been. I'm happy the series will be FORCED to make strides to make the sport safer. I'm happy the legacy of Dan Wheldon won't be one of neglect and ignorance toward the bettering of the sport. I'm happy the previously frigidness of Sarah's engine deal is thawing (it really showed what a pathetic local yokel series this is).

          These are GOOD things. I am happy. I thought IMS was gonna get off "scott-free" for the killing of Dan...it pleases me that they, perhaps indirectly, will have to face up to it. Did ya notice all of a sudden there is awareness that fly cars DID HAPPEN with regularity, and something must be done about it. All we ever heard was "OUR CARS DON'T FLY" and "panty-wearing Euros can go home if they don't like it", and " Let's have a race at Las Vegas with 34 cars, constant 225mph, rookies and pack racing". Watch that 2011 Las Vegas race again, it is surreal how ominous it is now. Yet, some people kept their jobs, some got re-positioned in the company, some just quit. I'll be even happier when those folks collectively resign.

          Things are looking up for this series...
        • Open rules
          Hey Carter. My kids wouldn't miss a race for anything. They have grown up with it and they are not yet 15. What would turn them off would be the good old days when races had the winner lapping he the whole field. Remember Al Sr and the Johnny Lightening car great innovation and totally boring racing. Same for the Chapparell and the ground effects. Niece creativity by Jim Hall but lackluster racing when one car completely dominates the field. Nobody wants cars running in a pack either all day long. You haven't had to turn on a NASCAR race on for years until the last 25 laps. You can jam on the powers that be all you want (and no they are not perfect) but there has been more exciting racing, that means more dangerous racing with far fewer injuries and fatalities in the past 12 years than any similar period in the history of open wheel racing. Your view of a back slapping ignorant fan club is so off base it is not even funny
        • Indy once was. No more.
          The one guy, what's his name, Mario or whatever. Oh, he is right. Never the same. But maybe yes, so much as it will be minor league. A few races. Back in the dya, they raced in front of the small crowd at Trenton, Texas World, this thing right? Small crowd. But people did like it who followed. Indy was big but not even on live TV. Some races like Milwaukee and Texas World and this type of thing, they were on like CBS or NBC or some deal. Ken Squire and that right?

          Indy was radio. Newspaper. Tape at night. what have you. But popular to extent. Still ok. Small teams, rag weed you know? Volunteer in pits, this thing. Different backgrounds of drivers, mostly American. That is good. I am from overseas but recognized the need for America drivers. This is history of sport that made it well liked.

          Ok, now times change but still, Indy is Indy. One guy said hamburger and hot dogs or something. Other words, red, white, and blue ok? Mega traditional. The 500 is even Memorial Day weekend right?

          So, with all the distraction people have now, with other sports, multiple channels, different TV shows, outdoor activity, this and that, and many with situation where they are pinching the dollar as economy is permanent in change, well, they have to be discretionary. Ok? So they are careful where they entertain themselves. Cash is tight.

          Indy is expensive as a sport. So it can and should go back to more 70's model. I agree with the one dude. Cheaper. Part-Time and this and that. Still, there will be stout teams and the little rag weed teams can get in and make the show. People love this. Underdog always rule. Ok?

          So let's see what happens. But right now, this is not a healthy sport. Too much of everything is expensive and the one guy said akward. Yes, he is right on the spot with that one. People don't get it. Cars are really ugly.

          So what they looking at overall, big time, is cars like the old McLaren's and Eagles and this. Offy in the power plant box. Six races. Ovals, maybe one road. This thing. Make it safety standard for today. Indy will have fans and it will be more realistic for the times. See how it is? I know. Been here since '68 and seen it go all over the map. Was best in 70's and early 80's.

          But it is not a healthy thing right now ok? You know it need some change. Go old school with it.
        • No-Daddy
          No-Daddy continues to win as they dress their next cute male Indy-driver up in Danica's day-glow racing suit and send him off to be the LGBT representative..."dr. bob" won't even have to do a tacky commercial. The entire world will be LOLROFL but Dan will still be gone in the wake of the No-daddy challenge in Las Vegas and that is not funny. Of course they have swept it all under the IMS rug and will be off to Florida at the end of the month but the most significant thing will be who is not there...not who is. In light of Dan's death...the travesty will continue at the end of the month as the IMS bemoan the "pole" that killed Dan...not expecting any accountability from this group of cowards. Danica is still the no-daddy girl and she still has her brand that is extended over to the Indycar grid by her replacement...but the entire universe will be laughing behind his back, unfortunately. Who could forget the unwronged commercial:
          In the ad, Patrick is shown pulling up to a pit stop, where her car is serviced by a crew of men wearing high heels, miniskirts and bright orange tops.

          Patrick says, "What, you think this is wrong?" and then talks about how wrong it is to pay too much for phone service. A voice-over then says, "Boost Mobile - unwronged."

          dr. bob's unrated GLBT internet sites also loved that commercial..I imagine they will love the young man dressed in her Neon Greens... So wrong. You can't blame Danica for exiting at the appropriate time or for changing her direction. Danica pays her taxes and she is probably relieved to be a new environment- can you really blame her?
          Indycar is a traveling carnival now and honestly the only thing anyone cares about is his bottom line... Noticed mario is also a no-daddy rep. and proud of it...How wrong can that be? Hope I never have to see him in his thong with Ms. Michaels at the superbowl...but I think it is about exploiting woman after all....isn't it? Anyone think that is wrong?

          RIP Dan

        • The Continued Spouting of Ignorance
          Get over it, pal. Motorsports is a dangerous occupation, and it always has been. As a fan who has been going to tracks longer than most of the critics have been alive I am grateful the safety advances over the decades have all but eliminated death in the sport, but it happens. To accuse either Indy Car or IMS of sweeping tragedy under the rug is ill informed and vulgar. Such pontificating is spouted from positions of sheer ignorance and that is as offensive to me as the nature of the allegations.

          Your group needs to grow up or get out.
        • ratings bull
          "And he has to wonder if the series’ modest attendance gains and its 28-percent TV ratings increases of last year will continue in 2012 or fade away in a puff of smoke."

          Again, I have to ask for the source of the info about the increase in TV ratings. The ratings on Vs dropped last year as compared to 2010. Perhaps they went up on ABC, as St. Pete was rained out in 2010, the 500 was up a hair to the 2nd lowest ever last year, and death race 2011 was a news event rather than a boring .1rl race.
          Still, I don't see how there can be an overall increase in ratings of 28%, when most races are on vs and the ratings DROP on vs...
        • The Way The Business Works
          Dig into something other than 12+ overnight estimates from zap2it. Like the pros do.
        • irl ugly new car f1 is uglyer
          its good that she retire open wheel is rrrrreally dangerous road and oval danica did bring a lot of sponser to the series drivers allways should just shut up and drive i going to miss her
        • And what are today's fans talking about
          Hey Mario,

          You don't have to believe me, but maybe you'd be interested in a thread and posts at TrackForum, the home of the indycar fans who call themselves the real fans. Guess what, they are talking about my very point.

          And they are even putting it into a comparison about what you say you and your kids like today versus the racing of the past.

          They are talking about the 1990 Michigan 500.

          Many seem to think like I and a lot of other ex-fans do.

          Do you ever wonder why that is? Do you care that there is some truth to it?

          I wonder why they say things like: "something has to be happening every 3.9 seconds for the modern fan", "now every finish has to be within a second", "the racing isn't as creative today", "following Indy cars back then was a curiosity to the technology", "you had cars running speeds where good drivers were able to better separate from weaker drivers"

          Do you think even now some of those posters have a feel that the racing just isn't the same? Maybe something is missing?

          You can think what you want. It's a free world. But, just remember, a whole bunch of fans have been turned off over a lot more than split politics. The last 16 years or so caused a big disconnect within the product itself. And way too many don't see a current way back. Disheartened and now gone.

          What they liked then does not make them wrong now.

          So, yes things changed. But the changes may not be what was needed.

          Time is going to tell...and the last 16 years point that even that period of time has been detrimental to the sport. Even some of the "real' fans of today admit it.
        • Get over it pal?
          Had to LOLSMH that the deciples of Indie car are claiming such safety success. Why don't they sue the pole company that killed Dan? That is such a joke. The week than DW died another moto racer died and then another...It was the publicity stunt that did DW in...what happened to the rule book...it was another hotwheels carnival trick..at the expense of the drivers. Get over yourself. Not only are yu going to miss Danica and her Danica-mania...you are going to miss the best days of Indie car, Danicka is having one hour press release luncheons in DC..she is free to speak now. The "pontificating" as you call it started in your own back yard. How vulgar is it to go to St. pete and distribute this semi-profesional media menushia back into the public AGAIN? No class....They should start in China next year...and take their media circus on the carnival cruise world tours. Or just start in May and spare us all the grief of DW in St. pete...FYI the people in the general public don't all buy the Kingdom News.
          • To Those Seeking a Clue
            Again, the needless drama the darkly obsessed critics spout (not to mention the barely literate, grammar challenged, mostly incorrectly spelled missives and fat-fingered typing they attempt) reflects badly on that sub-group. Grow up. Your misinformed, vulgar attacks are both unwarranted and pegged on the crazy meter.

            Enjoy the season.
          • Bangers and Mash
            Had to LOL when the guy on the Speed chanel-Wind Tunnel said the drivers of Indycar might Boycott.

            Trying to imagine a strike for Bangers and Mash...definetely would need Ceylo Green. "Forget You"
          • Vodka and Seven
            IndyCar racing is fun these days if you get a little loose in the turns.

          • what will nascar do for open wheel
            fans come back its good racing all about driver heart politics allways sucks
          • All about the drivers
            cars need to be appealng in appearance. Drivers need to be mostly American, some international, but maybe 25 percent tops. Races on ovals. Burgers and fries. Cold beer. Red, white, and blue. Fast. Dangerous but safety first. Heartland stuff. Cut the pompous stuff.

            Indy has a HUGE image problem. Everyone knows it. Image is EVERYTHING in short-attention span notice world. Back to basics.

            Race handful of ovals. Maybe one or two roadies, tops. Tops. 10 races a season. Tops. Night races. Day races.

            Americans and red, white, and blue. Midwestern Mardi Gras.

            Indy image sucks right now. People think it is F1 or don't even know about it.

            NASCAR is everything.

            Randy is not the answer.
            • Burgers and Fries
              Burgers and Fries, NOT Bangers and Mash!

              Of course now they have another no-daddy rep - another one of Danica's new homeboy colleagues. Very irrational and clandestine to distract the kingdom with such a jesture considering that DW will always be the one in the middle who lost his life without life insurance or the 5 mil.

              Danica is here to stay and the unrated nonsence is also, apparently.

              This is why calculus and partial derivatives are important. Stuck again with high school math.

              Danica's brand is the jelly-belly of Indycar and it isn't going anywhere anytime soon IMHO.

              Crickets in the Grandstand
            • No Life Insurance?
              Is it true Dan Wheldon did not have Life Insurance? I find it hard to believe. We know he did not get to split the cash prize. But he made good money and had just won the Indy 500. Surely he had Life Insurance.
              • Chicken and Rice
                Makes for a great race day treat at IMS. Plus you'll get some leg during the race.
              • Life Insurance
                DW was unemployed in October..so the leaugue would like you to forget. It is very difficult for racing drivers to get life insurance and they don't have pensions, or any other kind of representation for that matter. Even jockeys have a guild, and certainly DW was the current Indy-500 champ but with no benefits and probably little planning. RIP DW

                As far as DP goes - her brand is still alive and well at the IMS as she is the #1 go-daddy girl and since her boss is dr. boob and his "unrated" menushia is still highly represented, DP will be like a ghost haunting every race.

                Shooting African elephants for cancer is so quaint and family-friendly.
              • Rumor has it...
                ....Mr. Wheldon was tight for clink. I wouldn't doubt that he had no Life Insurance.
              • .1rl on Life support without Danica
                Lose Danica and your ratings drop 25% from last year. :lol:

                Source: http://pressdog.typepad.com/dogblog/2012/03/final-tv-rating-for-indycar-st-pete-slides-to-09.html
              • Danica who?
                EOM.

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