Sep 12, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT
Earlier this month on its website, Forbes released a story that will be in its Sept. 23 issue on Danica Patrick’s impact on NASCAR so far in her first full-time season of Sprint Cup racing. As you’d expect from that particular magazine, there’s a lot written about Patrick – and NASCAR as a whole – from the business and marketing perspectives.
It’s a well-written story from the author, Kurt Badenhausen. But the headline could be something more than a few race fans will take issue with: “A Winning Danica Patrick Is NASCAR’s Biggest Hope To Restart Growth.”
With all due respect to Forbes, if Patrick is indeed NASCAR’s biggest hope to return to its not-too-distant salad days, they’re going to have to hope for a little while longer.
Restrictor-plate racing notwithstanding, Patrick is not a regular contender for victory. At most tracks, she’s still just trying to gain experience. In time, she could be something pretty good in Cup, but there’s still a ways to go before she gets to that point. Let’s see where she stands around mid-season next year.
So if Patrick’s not NASCAR biggest hope, then who is it?
Come on. Who else could it be?
A winning Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’s best opportunity to augment their diehard base with the casual and mainstream fan. Unfortunately for the series, its biggest star – while competitive enough to run in the Top 10 most weeks – hasn’t been doing a lot of winning lately, with just two victories in the last seven seasons.
But while Earnhardt has cooled off a bit after starting 2013 strong, he’s still in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. And he has the opportunity to make a statement when it truly counts.
That’s the beauty of the playoffs in all of sports. You may be having an iffy year by some standards (maybe even your own), but if you can still make the post-season, you have the chance to catch fire at the right time.
One minute, you’re an afterthought. The next, you’re a champion.
And should Dale Jr. become a champion this fall, NASCAR would indeed reap the benefits. While he has been unable to win regularly, he remains the most popular driver in the sport by a considerable margin.
And more importantly, if you walked out on the street and asked any Tom, Dick and Jane if they knew of any NASCAR drivers, he’s still likely to be one of, if not the first name to tumble out of their mouths.
Should Patrick improve by a noticeable margin in the next year or two, perhaps Forbes’ assertion will come true eventually. But at this point and time, Earnhardt is the one NASCAR executives should be crossing their fingers for to do well.
May 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Andreas Bakkerud will fill in for Piquet while he’s on Formula E duty in Russia.
May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took part in a Twitter Q&A earlier this week.
May 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Two-time series champion looks ahead to a big year in Red Bull GRC with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.
May 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Gossage and Walker are in contact about how to best move forward with super speedway aero kits ahead of June 6 IndyCar race.
May 28, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT
No. 63 driver tops $61,000 raised for Susan G. Komen this month.
May 27, 2015, 4:57 PM EDT
The last seven races held in Detroit have been won by a different driver.
May 27, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT
Penalties doled out after the Indy 500, most notably to the No. 19 and 98 teams for pit incidents.
May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Gonzalez returns to No. 18 car after running it in the Grand Prix of Alabama.
May 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT
After three straight top-five finishes, Graham Rahal returns to the site of his only 2014 podium.
May 27, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Ahead of the Red Bull GRC season, Tanner Foust and Scott Speed look for better luck in the pair of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetles.
May 27, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT
Charlie Kimball says his team has hit its stride after two straight top-five finishes.
May 27, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT
Hinch heads home.
May 27, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT
Wilson and Andretti continue relationship at FE race in Moscow.
May 27, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT
Racing for Cancer to make trip to this year’s Le Mans, with Derek DeBoer in an Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
May 27, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT
The Red Bull GRC season kicks off in Fort Lauderdale this weekend.
May 27, 2015, 7:44 AM EDT
Fast facts heading into this weekend’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.
May 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Chaves best of two first-year drivers in 99th Indianapolis 500.
May 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Look out for Nelson Piquet Jr. and SH Rallycross to have a big year in 2015.
May 26, 2015, 9:04 AM EDT
Daly gets confirmed for this weekend’s pair of races in Detroit.
Juan Pablo Montoya earns nearly $2.5 million for Indy 500 win (full box score with winnings attached)
May 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Team Penske nearly doubles his haul from first Indy 500 win 15 years ago.
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- Ryan: Juan Pablo Montoya comes full circle at Indianapolis 1