Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Richmond: And sheeee's back: More Danica Patrick for y'all

  The President gets a pair of NASCAR driving gloves from Mr. Five-time, Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   So you haven't had enough Danica Patrick yet?
   Brace yourself – she's here.
   And so is the growing controversy surrounding the Indy-car racer who just announced two weeks ago she'd be moving from the Indy-car world over to NASCAR next season.

   If 'controversy' is part of NASCAR's championship playoffs marketing plan, it would seem to be going quite well:
   First, Sunday's scheduled 7:30 p.m. ET starting time for the Atlanta 500 – if the race had started about 1 p.m. instead, when things were relatively dry, the event might not have had to be postponed until Tuesday.
   Second, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon -- who waged a great battle Tuesday in the rain-delayed Atlanta 500, Gordon barely winning – went to the White House Wednesday to meet President Obama and to lay a wreath at the Pentagon, in commemoration of 9/11.
   NASCAR drivers Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer also attended the White House event. However Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards all declined to attend, citing 'schedule conflicts,' creating a bit of controversy.
   Now, ironically, President Obama will be here in Richmond Friday, at the University of Richmond, to talk about his economic game plans, in a public forum at the Robins Center.
   That's about eight miles from Richmond International Raceway.
   Obama is to speak here about 11:30 a.m.
   NASCAR Nationwide and Cup will be running practice laps throughout the day, with Richmond 400 qualifying set for 5:35 pm, and the Nationwide 250 set for 7:30 p.m.
   There is no word yet if the President plans to visit the track.
   During Wednesday's brief White House ceremony Obama cracked a few jokes for the NASCAR men: "NASCAR is a sport where anything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point during the season…similar to being president."
   The White House gig isn't the only part of NASCAR's fall marketing game plan: the sanctioning body will celebrate the grand opening of the first NASCAR Car Wash, just outside Chicago, next week.


Danica Patrick: Can she really cut the mustard in NASCAR...or just another pretty face? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Saturday night's Richmond 400 is the final event of the regular season, and nine of the 12 playoff drivers have locked in.
   The final three spots will likely be as meaningless, in the big picture, as several other playoff spots…particularly if Johnson goes down the stretch as strong as he usually does. Note: over the last two months, the five-time championship has averaged a sizzling 6.1 finishing average. And consider that August is typically a slow month for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus.
   Still, making the chase is prestigious. And NASCAR says that all drivers through 23rd place right now remain eligible for a spot in the chase.
   A quick look at the men who are battling for those final three spots in the playoffs:
   Dale Earnhardt Jr. can clinch if he finishes 20th or better…even if Keselowski knocks Earnhardt out of the top-10.
   Tony Stewart needs a finish of 18th or better….even if Keselowski knocks Stewart out of the top-10.
   Denny Hamlin, if he wins, he's in. However Hamlin doesn't have to win -- if he stays ahead of all other 'one-win' drivers, and there are no other 'two-win' drivers inside the top-20, he makes it. And if Keselowski cracks the top-10, Hamlin could still make the chase if there is a 'two-win' driver from 11th to 20th… as long as he's still higher in points than any other 'one-win' driver.
   Anyone other than those three needs a big surprise, or two or three:
    Paul Menard, the Brickyard winner, will make the playoffs if he wins here. Same with Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose, and Daytona winner David Ragan.
   AJ Allmendinger needs to win, period. And some bad luck to his rivals.
   Clint Bowyer, winless too, also needs a win, plus poor finishes by rivals.
   Greg Biffle, likewise winless, needs to win, and some poor finishes by other.
   Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya are in in the same boat – they need to win and they needs bad finishes by rivals.


   The official White House lineup(L-R): Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, President Obama, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer. And the guys missing from this picture? They may need to be extra careful of speeding on pit road.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Meanwhile, Patrick has been getting the benefit of the doubt – and there are more than a few – during her year and a half of fiddling around in NASCAR Nationwide racing while focusing on her Indy-car job.
   But there are signs that free-ride may be running out.
   First, when she finally decided to make her NASCAR announcement, it came in a botched PR effort, and not from Bristol Motor Speedway, where NASCAR itself was playing that week, but rather from her hometown in Phoenix. A rather arrogant way to kick off this thing? Could be seen that way….since NASCAR drivers are quite used to flying in and out of PR appearances around the country. (In fact, these next few weeks will try the patience of even the most patient NASCAR star as NASCAR marketing people shuffle them all around the country to promote the upcoming Sprint Cup championship playoffs.)
   Second, she has yet to announce the tracks she'll also be running those 10 to 12 Cup races next year.
   Third, Cup team owner Tony Stewart, whose own team has been very ragged this season, says he's still trying to find sponsorship for the other 25 or so Cup events that Patrick doesn't want to run, and a driver (like Mark Martin) to run those races. If Stewart doesn't have that team in the top-35, then Patrick would have to qualify on speed at many Cup tracks, which could be iffy.
   Of course there is speculation that Stewart may resolve Patrick's qualifying issues by simply giving her No. 14 and letting her use his own 2011 points.
   Can Patrick drive a NASCAR stocker? Maybe so. Can she drive a NASCAR stocker competitively? Probably not.
   And how well will Patrick make the transition from Nationwide stocker to Cup stocker, on any given weekend? The two machines are quite different.
   Patrick's reputation hangs on racy internet commercials, focusing on the fact that she's a woman, and on that lone Indy-car win in Japan in 2008 (gas mileage), and on some good runs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
   The question of course is if she were a guy would she be getting this much attention and this opportunity?
   Well, not to be snide, but winning has never really been a prerequisite to marketing success in NASCAR. To the point, Dale Earnhardt Jr. – who is official car owner of the Nationwide stockers Patrick is driving – just signed a new five-year contract with team owner Rick Hendrick, despite the fact he's won only one tour event in their four years so far together…and that, a gas mileage win at Michigan in the summer of 2008.
   To her credit, Patrick has managed to deflect all the criticism so far. And she has been very polite about it all, and diplomatic.
   In the NASCAR garage, fellow drivers too are generally willing to give her a nod….perhaps in large part because if Patrick succeeds, even modestly, her marketing charm should help persuade potential sponsors of other teams to join this game.
    And, for example, giant NASCAR sponsor UPS just announced it would be taking its marketing money out of this sport and over to NCAA college football, and fellow giant NASCAR sponsor Diageo announced a major cutback in its NASCAR spending….and there is a list of other NASCAR sponsors either cutting back or thinking about it.
    On top of all that comes the curious announcement that Richard Childress will now be taking over Kevin Harvick's two Nationwide teams next season, just a year after Childress announced he would be turning the Nationwide operations over to Harvick. Just what that really means isn't clear.
   However it indicated Detroit is cutting back its support of the Nationwide tour.
   Plus, NASCAR's Truck series seems to have some issues too. Detroit has apparently all but given up major support of the Truck tour too, and team sponsorships are hard to come by.
   Now NASCAR has announced it is scheduling a Truck event at Rockingham Speedway Sunday April 15th next season. That's the same weekend the Cup and Nationwide tours are running at Texas Motor Speedway.
   Plus Darlington Raceway, which is just an hour down the road from Rockingham, says it will not host any Truck races next season.  Darlington has had Truck events the last two years.


   N.C. governor Bev Perdue, with Richard Childress' No. 3 Truck, at Rockingham Speedway, which hasn't seen much official NASCAR action since 2004, when its two Cup dates were moved to Texas and Phoenix. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




Danica had better read up on

Danica had better read up on the NASCAR careers of Dario Franchitti and Jacque Villeueuiuaoeueu (another problem he had in NASCAR) if she wants to be a driver in American Racing. Full-bodied cars have momentum to deal with that the open-wheeled skid cars don't. Better drivers have failed in adapting to that (and, judging by the Nationwide race at Montreal, Jacque STILL hasn't).

Of course, as you said, she'll be a financial success, as actual driving hasn't been on her resume, ever. I hope for the best; fear the worst; and will enjoy the circus anyway.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com