It’s no secret that NASCAR used Danica Patrick’s pole win to their advantage, but the real question is, did she live up to expectations?
Minutes after winning the Daytona 500 pole position on Sunday, February 17th, Patrick’s name was broadcast all over the United States.
According to GoDaddy (via Terry Blount), from the minute she won the pole to February 19th, Danica was featured in 165 newspaper stories, 45 TV and radio shows and 466 websites.
Her celebrity status stretches far beyond the racing community and that was evident this past week when some starting calling the race the Danica 500.
It was announced that in the 24 hours following the end of the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick was mentioned 42.6% more on TV, in print and Internet articles than race winner Jimmie Johnson. When the ratings for the Daytona 500 were finally released, it confirmed what many had already expected, a rise. Up 24% from 2012, the 2013 Daytona 500 was the most watched 500 since 2008. It’s no secret that the rise in viewers was thanks in part to Danica Patrick and the way the networks used her history making pole win in their advertisements.
With NASCAR and Fox Sports exploiting her historic win, the question is, did she live up to the hype? Let’s take a look at some of her statistics from the Daytona 500 week.
~ 1st woman to win the Pole position for a Sprint Cup Series Race
~ 1st woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500
~ 2nd woman to lead laps in a Sprint Cup Series Race
~ Highest finish for a woman in a Sprint Cup Series Race
~ 13th driver to lead laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500
She stayed in the top 10 throughout the entire race, only dropping to 11th place once. The only driver in the field to have a better running average than Patrick (5.2) was race winner Jimmie Johnson (5.0).
Thousands of people all over the country tuned in to the Daytona 500 just to watch Danica Patrick. Her iconic name is bringing eyes to our sport who otherwise would have never tuned in. Many people called this year’s Daytona 500 the Danica 500 because of all of the hype and exposure she got but she lived up to the hype. She broke records and exceeded the expectations of even her biggest fans.
The real testament will be this week in Phoenix, where she returns to the track for the second time in the Cup car. Her last time at the track, she was running in the top-15 before being pushed into the wall. It was still her best finish in the Cup Series that season. Can she live up to the hype and expectations put on her this week? We will have to wait and see.
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The front page of USAToday is a picture of Jimmie Johnson after winning his second Daytona 500. Splashed in the headlines of major racing websites are articles about Danica Patrick making history again in Daytona. While both of those feats are huge and deserve the coverage, there are other drivers who need it more.
Out of the Top-10 drivers in the Daytona 500 final results, three are virtual unknowns on race day. Regan Smith, Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley all finished in the top-10 yesterday. Each of these incredible drivers is behind the wheel of an underfunded car and part of an underfunded team. The fact that they survived NASCARs Super Bowl and emerged on top is a great testament to their skills and teams.
Regan Smith had some interesting moments to close out his season in 2012. After going from the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing last season to the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing at the end of the season, Smith, basically switching rides with Kurt Busch, basically started over. He also had big shoes to fill in Charlotte and Kansas last season when he filled in for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. Taking on Daytona for the first time in the No. 51, Smith’s name was hardly mentioned during the broadcast. Even after starting 40th in the Great American Race, Smith made his way into the Top-10 and ultimately finished seventh, one spot ahead of Pole Sitter Danica Patrick.
Another driver who deserves praise after yesterday’s performance is Michael McDowell. Driving the No. 98 for Phil Parsons Racing, McDowell started the Daytona 500 in 38th position. He fought his way up through the field, made it past multiple wrecks, and raced around the big names for a 9th place finish. With sponsorship from Curb Records and the Christian Radio Station KLOVE, McDowell was able to run the entire race. Unfortunately, they may not be the case this season. With sponsorship hard to come by, McDowell and his team are only planning to run the first five races in their entirety. Its reasons like this that NASCAR needs to focus their attention on the underfunded teams. If a driver is good enough to battle through the Daytona 500 and come out with a top-10, then he must be good enough to sponsor. Michael McDowell and the rest of the No. 98 Phil Parson’s Racing team deserve a little more recognition for their accomplishment in the Daytona 500.
One more driver who cracked into the top-10 yesterday was J.J. Yeley. After starting 41st or of a 43 car field, J.J. Yeley fought his way to a 10th place finish yesterday. Yeley has been a part of many start-and-park races and often doesn’t get to see the checkered flag. For him to not only finish a race but to garnish a top-10 on top of that is huge for him and the organization he drives for.
It’s understandable why NASCAR focuses more on drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski. Those are the names that everyone recognizes and tunes in each weekend to see but with NASCAR being a sponsor-driven sport, its drivers like Yeley, McDowell and Smith who need to be mentioned as well, especially when they earn it. In order to get rid of the start-and-park teams, which many fans and even drivers agree needs to go, the funding has to be there for those teams. Giving recognition for a great accomplishment is well deserved so with that, congratulations Regan Smith, Michael McDowell and J.J.Yeley on finishing in the top-10 at the Daytona 500.
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Love her or hate her, it is not secret that Danica Patrick made history yesterday when she captured the Pole position for the Daytona 500.
Her crew, led by Tony Gibson, put together one heck of a car and Patrick did exactly what she knows how to do; she drove the wheels off of it in qualifying. When qualifying ended, the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet was at the top of the charts and history had been made. No woman has ever started P1 in NASCARs highest series.
Patrickâ€™s pole position was a headline story all over the world. People who know little to nothing about racing have heard about Danica Patrickâ€™s history making moment. Flipping through various news channels last night and this morning, she was at least mentioned on every channel. CNN and Fox News mentioned the historic moment multiple times during their news programs. Good Morning America had a story on it this morning and an article posted to their website last night. Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN, who donâ€™t normally discuss racing related news, debated on whether or not she deserved the recognition. Everywhere you look a headline with the words â€œDanica Patrickâ€ and â€œHistoryâ€ are there. The multiple local news stations in my town even devoted a story to her in their sports segment, and I live hours away from any track.
So what does this mean for NASCAR? Every time someone mentions Danica Patrick this week, they will also mention the Daytona 500. Every time someone mentions Danica Patrick, NASCAR will be brought into the lives of millions who wouldnâ€™t normally pay attention. Every time there is a story or a segment about Danica Patrickâ€™s history making pole win, someone, somewhere in the nation, will be paying attention. Danica Patrick is bringing new eyes to this sport, just like she did when she almost took the pole, then eventually took the lead, in the 2005 Indianapolis 500.
The amount of hate that surrounds Patrick is mind-blowing. Twitter blew up with congratulations for Patrick and her team after the win, but there were also some very negative comments. What these individuals donâ€™t realize is that, although she may not have proved herself out on the track just yet, she is an essential part of each race weekend. There are eyes that tune in just to see her. She is not only a great driver, but a marketing genius. Just because of her namesake alone, there will be thousands of people tuning in to a NASCAR race for the first time just to see her lead the field to green this Sunday.
Love her or hate her, everyone should be thanking her. She may have a long way to go as a driver in NASCAR, but she is definitely an asset to the sport.
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Like it or not, racing’s most polarizing figure will be running with the big boys full time this season. After two part-time and one full-time stint in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and only 10 Sprint Cup Series starts, Danica Patrick can still be considered a newbie when it comes to stock cars. She has the talent to drive these cars but does she have the knowledge to really be competitive in NASCAR’s highest tier?
Patrick finished 10th in Nationwide standings last season which was a disappointment to not only her, but to critics as well. Expectations were high for Patrick as she made the jump from IndyCar to NASCAR last season and they will be even higher as she moves up to the Sprint Cup Series. Many thought Patrick should have garnished a few top-5 finishes and maybe even a win last season but that didn’t happen. Her highest finish was 8th at Texas in the spring.
Is it really fair to judge her solely based off of her Nationwide results last season? If you look at her finishes, they aren’t horrible, but they definitely not where she, or anyone else, thought they should be. If you dig a little deeper and look at how she ran throughout the season, the conclusion is quite a bit different.
Let’s look at Daytona. She held the Pole position in February and was looking like a contender for the win until her teammate unintentionally sent her into the wall. Same happened in the summer race when she got hit from behind and sent into the wall.
The road courses are another story. Running in the top 5 at Road America throughout most of the race, she was punted on the final lap by Jacques Villeneuve into the gravel trap and finished outside the top 10. Montreal was the big letdown of the season. After leading 20 laps, the most of her NASCAR career, Patrick looked like she could walk away with the win in Canada. On a restart, a fan threw a shoe onto the track, right in front of her oncoming car. Her car shredded the shoe and eventually sent her to the garage. Her (then) Crew Chief Tony Eury Jr said the shoe had nothing to do with her car problems but when was the last time someone ran over a shoe?
Critics are already saying her Sprint Cup season is going to be a failure but if you think about it, Sprint Cup might just be the place she excels. Jimmie Johnson struggled in the Busch Series until he moved to Cup racing and eventually dominated for 5 straight years and is still a factor in every race. Patrick could easily take to these new cars and, maybe not this season, but in a few years, really be a contender in some of these races. With Hendrick equipment and Stewart-Hass expertise, she will definitely be prepared out on the track.
Everything she does this season will be under scrutiny. Both her results and her personal life will be analyzed and dissected every weekend. Her car owner and teammate Tony Stewart has faith in Patrick saying, “She’s progressing. What she’s done in such a short amount of time has been very impressive so far. “Most of the people that do the picking and analyzing aren’t people that actually understand how to analyze a whole race from start to finish and aren’t qualified to make that judgment,” Stewart said. “But from our side as a team owner and teammate, I’ve seen great strides. She’s made huge gains in a short amount of time and that shows talent.” (Source http://aol.sportingnews.com/nascar/story/2013-02-01/danica-patrick-tony-stewart-sprint-cup-team-confidence)
Her Crew Chief Tony Gibson and his team are well prepared for what is to come in 2013 and are eager to work with their new driver. This season will be one of ups and downs for Danica Patrick and it won’t be easy. Whether or not you think she is ready for the Sprint Cup Series, she is here and she is ready to race.
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2012 was a season of ups and downs for Sam Hornish Jr. Starting his 7th year with Penske Racing this season, Hornish is patiently waiting for his turn to get back in the Sprint Cup Series. After winning the 2006 IndyCar Series Championship with Penske Racing, Hornish’s third in the series, he started transitioning to stock cars.
In 2008, Hornish took on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series head on with a full schedule. With his best finish being 13th and losing the Rookie of the Year battle to Regan Smith, his debut was less than spectacular. 2009 and 2010 saw improvement in the Cup car, but not enough for Penske to keep him in NASCARs top series. In 2011, he was moved to a partial Cup and partial Nationwide Series schedule.
When 2012 came around, Hornish found himself the driver of the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge for Penske with no Cup races on his schedule. His sole focus was to win the Nationwide Series Championship and he was going to do his best to do just that. Midway through the season, fate had other ideas. Shortly before the July Daytona race, Hornish received a call; Penske needed him in the No. 22 Cup car after AJ Allmendinger failed a drug test.
Hornish stepped up and drove the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil for the rest of the season, all while keeping his eye on the Nationwide Series Championship. Many thought that Hornish would inherit the ride full time in 2013, but Penske had different plans, they hired Joey Logano instead. Fans quickly voiced their opinions, thinking Hornish deserved the ride. Even former Penske driver Rusty Wallace argued that the Logano hire was a mistake, and that Hornish should have gotten the job.
Hornish told NASCAR.com that receiving the news that he wouldn’t be behind the wheel of the No. 22 like “sticking a knife in there.” He went on to say that Mr. Penske always has been very loyal to him.
“I want to do things in the right way, and I feel like if we win this championship (in 2013), that would be great,” Hornish said. “I feel like there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that.”
With news that Hornish didn’t get the Cup ride, Hornish received offers from other teams, but leaving Penske racing isn’t Hornish’s style. He continued to run for the 2012 Nationwide Series Championship, finishing and respectable 4th in point standings.
“…I had a choice to make,” Hornish said. “I could sit there and be upset about it and depressed, or I could go on and try to finish the year good. I could try to take care of my teammate (Brad Keselowski) and help him out any way that I could for the rest of the season, and that’s what I did. There was nothing I could do to change it at that point and time. The only thing I could do was go out there and make myself look bad.”
Hornish is back in the Nationwide Series this season in No. 12 Ford for Penske Racing and is looking like a favorite for the Championship. Roger Penske believes in his driver and only wants the best for him, starting with new crew chief, Greg Erwin.
“…I can tell you one thing: we’re going to give you the best car and the best crew chief we can to run in the (Nationwide) Series this year,’” Penske told NASCAR.com. “The goal, I said to him … is to win the championship. Not second or third, it’s to win the championship. I think he’s got the tools and the ability to do it now.”
So the question is, can he do it? With two time series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr now in the Cup series, Hornish has a good shot. He needs to focus all of his energy into the Nationwide Series and not worry about a Cup ride. If he can do that, a full-time Cup ride will be calling his name soon enough.
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