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Danica in NASCAR? That gambit may be fading

  Danica Patrick may need to rethink her NASCAR game plan....if she really has one (Photo: IMS)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Looks like it might be time to scratch Danica Patrick from the NASCAR game for 2010.
   Or at least mark her down for a "probably not."
   The Indy-car star, in her whirlwind tour through several top North Carolina stock car shops last week with one of her business agents, apparently didn't have a very enticing racing game plan to offer various NASCAR team owners. And the particular agent who accompanied her seemingly didn't know that much about NASCAR racing and had some unrealistic expectations, according to those talking with them.
   Now Chip Ganassi, who has both NASCAR and Indy-car teams, has taken his name out of the Danica sweepstakes.
   And Jack Roush's Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing, says his company's interest in the hot marketing star may be fading too.
  Smith said Patrick's presentation was filled with too many "conditions," and Smith questions whether Patrick is really willing to make the drastic lifestyle change running the NASCAR tour would demand.
   NASCAR features 38 weeks of Sprint Cup racing, from the first of February through Thanksgiving, and at 22 different tracks, not counting all the testing required.
   Patrick's Indy Racing League schedule includes only 16 races, from April till early October.
   The specific game plan Patrick is looking at appears to include a mix of Indy-car events and NASCAR events. How much of a mix is unclear.
   And it's also unclear if Patrick's NASCAR gambit is just to gain leverage in negotiations for a new Indy-car contract. Her current contract with Andretti-Green is up at the end of this season.
   Some benchmarks to consider:
   -- Tony Stewart, coming from Indy-cars, first got started in NASCAR in 1996, running nine Busch races while also running the Indy-car tour. The next season Stewart ran five Busch races, while winning the Indy-car tour championship. In 1998 Stewart ran the full Indy-car tour and also 22 Busch races. Then in 1999 Stewart finally made the move up to the Cup tour.
   -- Juan Pablo Montoya, coming from Formula One and Indy-cars, made a dozen or so ARCA and Busch races in late 2006, and moved up to a full Cup tour in 2007, winning that summer at Sonoma.
   -- Sam Hornish Jr., coming from Indy-cars (where he won three championships and the 2006 Indy 500), ran two Busch races in 2006. He ran nine Busch races in 2007 and the year's last two Cup events. Last season he moved up to Cup full-time.
   -- Carl Edwards was halfway through his second season as a NASCAR Truck racer when he was picked to run Cup full time in August 2004.

Team owner Chip Ganassi says Danica Patrick should stick with Indy-cars (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


The difference this time

The difference this time (compared to other open wheelers) is that NASCAR needs Danica more than Danica needs NASCAR to inject a spark into NASCAR marketing to reverse its severely dropping (over two years) attendance and TV ratings. The most likely places for her to go are (1)SHR (so she gets some Indy starts and mentoring from Tony Stewart)(2)Hendrick to split races with a reduced schedule Jeff Gordon and (3)up and coming MWR (putting racing's two best TV performers on one team, a #55 NAPA/Boost Mobile with a chance for Danica to learn the ropes without the high expectations of going to Hendrick. NASCAR as a business will make signing Danica its #1 goal for 2010.

hmmmm, interesting thinking

hmmmm, interesting thinking about mwr......let me go find some toyota people and see what they think. thanks for the tips.....

Okay, just checking back

Okay, just checking back after checking some stuff out -- according to high-ranking racing figure, who preferred not to be named: "Anyone would want Danica. She would be a marketing bonanza, and we're in the middle of a recession. So the two questions are would Danica be willing to take a step down (in NASCAR) for a couple of years, and is there a sponsor out there will to take the gamble of backing her at this level?"
That's much more positive reaction that I was getting earlier this weekend.

What about her Go-Daddy deal?

What about her Go-Daddy deal? Jr. has a contract with them for his Nationwide team. He has talked about moving that team up to Cup. Maybe she comes along?
Ron in Norcal

"a reduced schedule Jeff

"a reduced schedule Jeff Gordon"? Wow, now that's a concept, except that I would truly hate seeing her in the 24 car. I think Danica is all about Danica and a lot less about racing. When your true claim to fame is a sports illustrated swimsuit spread and those awful go-daddy commercials, well, that's not much of a racing resume to me.

NASCAR has tried putting all of its eggs in one basket before -- see Dale Jr - and that hasn't worked out too well.

I'd rather see Chrissie Wallace get a decent cup ride at least she's used to the NASCAR circuit, rather than another open wheel transplant.

yeah, that comment caught my

yeah, that comment caught my eye too. i doubt jeff would be cutting back, but i'm getting worried about that back pain -- he says that steroid shot or whatever he got last month for the pain didn't work, so he's not getting another one. and if he doesn't get any surgery (remember what mark did -- and you can see how well mark is doing today), well, i'm not sure what he's thinking. Jeff will turn 38 in a week or so (that's hard to believe, isn't it?) and most nascar drivers do their best work before 40 (mark is such the exception). I wonder if jeff is starting to look at some end game. if he can win this year's championship, there might be some movement there. but then he's got so much fire in his eyes i dont think he has any plans to cut back.
and danica -- well, i agree....but darned it, she catches your eye, that's for sure -- and that's what sponsors want. dont forget that winning in nascar isn't everything.
and i would really like to see chrissie break through.....

Mike, I don't understand your

Mike, I don't understand your last comment. Would you explain further? If Danica would be a marketing bonanza, as you put it, then why could there be a problem in finding her at sponsor for this level? Isn't it the same thing? Thanks.

well, sponsorship dollars

well, sponsorship dollars would be dependent on how many NASCAR races she would run, and how many Cup, Nationwide and Truck. Finding the right price point from a sponsor for whatever mix of races she wants to run is probably the issue. and i think she wants a pretty good salary -- i hear about $6 million.....but then if 'the recession is over' as Newsweek proclaims, maybe we'll all find more sponsorship interest out there. and maybe danica in NASCAR would be a spark for other sponsors looking at other teams too....

Let's be real for a minute.

Let's be real for a minute. Can she drive the car? Yes. Does she have marketability? Yes. Then there is no reason for a team not to want to sign her. SHR is the best shot for her. She could start a third team in cup and run a limited nationwide series. Or vice vera, she could run a full nationwide series and part time in cup for a year to let SHR build a team. It would be a win for all. If she backs down now and decides not to come, she won't later, this is her last chance. She talked about it a few years ago. Nascar needs her help. Which is a whole nother story about loosing it's core base while focusing there markets out west. Can you say marketing?

Danica wants to run the full

Danica wants to run the full IRL schedule and a part-time Nationwide schedule, just how hard is that for the Geoff Smith's of the world to figure out?

so who in nascar is going to

so who in nascar is going to belly up to the bar and put her in a Nationwide car? is there a GM-Ford-Dodge-Toyota-Honda something behind the scenes here? I'd assume that whoever is advising Danica would want a car maker to use her in car ads too....

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