Danica Patrick has become a bad distraction for the IndyCar Series.
As much as she’s done for the open-wheel series, she’s been a real pain for the series the last three years. She hasn’t been terribly competitive on the track, and the focus on the ‘will she or won’t she’ leave scenario is taking attention away from where it should be, on the real front runners, and the sponsors that power them.
Dealing with the annual rumors of Patrick’s departure will at long last come to an end today when Patrick and her sponsor—Go Daddy—publicly announce her plans to drive over to NASCAR full time next year.
There is no shortage of media outlets pontificating on how Patrick’s departure will lead to the demise of the IndyCar Series. Like a band-aid covering a scab, it’s time to tear Patrick away from the series. Be done with it.
Patrick isn’t the series’ biggest problem, and she’s certainly no cure-all either. The current attendance figures and television ratings bear that out.
But Patrick’s daily flirtations with everything NASCAR have to be a serious distraction for IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard and a cumulative detraction from all the progress he’s made.
The focus on Patrick’s saga is only part of the damage she’s brought to IndyCar. She not only takes focus away from competitive IndyCar drivers and the growth of the series, but it also puts the spotlight on the notion that all IndyCar drivers want to leave for NASCAR, well, because that’s where all the money and fans are. So what’s the IndyCar Series? The only alternative is the minor leagues.
The open-wheel series needs to distance itself from that idea, and Patrick in the process. Here’s hoping she doesn’t return to Indianapolis. That race can get along just fine without her, and the sooner the world realizes that, the better.
Another thing I fear that Patrick has done is create this idea that every woman who wants to make it as a race car driver has to be a sex symbol.
While there are women with real talent and dedication in racing such as Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz who do not try to make themselves into a cover girl, there are no shortage of young women in racing feeder series nationwide—even globally—who have taken a cue from Patrick’s Maxim magazine spread, and are as worried about their glamour shots as they are improving their on-track results. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably following at least one of these women on twitter.
Long live Danica—thankfully starting next season that will be in NASCAR. Hopefully, her legion of wannabes will follow after her to the land of the fendered cars.
For my part, I think it would be better for the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 if someone like de Silvestro or Beatriz—someone who is truly and totally dedicated to the sport of open-wheel—becomes the first female winner of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
There was a time when Patrick winning the Indy 500 would have been the greatest thing for the series. Now, it would only serve to sour the milk in victory circle.