Why Danica Patrick Is Not Coming To NASCAR

It seems as though at a certain point each year, for the past few years anyway, we invariably get into the “will Danica move to NASCAR” debate.  In the past she’s been pretty quick to brush the talk aside, but now something has changed.

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a few weeks, but this recent New York Times article about Danica’s situation sparked quite a bit of discussion this week on the topic, and I figured I’d throw my two cents out there.

At the end of this season, Danica’s current IRL contract with Andretti Green Racing expires, and she will be a free agent.  She is now saying that a possible opportunity to drive in NASCAR would be “interesting.” 

A major draw for Patrick and her management team, is the level of exposure NASCAR has in this country.  There is currently almost no comparison between the 75 million fan, broadcast on network TV, large corporate sponsorship world of NASCAR and the “seen on Versus” IRL.  And if there is one thing Danica wants more of, it’s exposure.  This is where her problems start.

First, Danica has now become more of a celebrity and a brand, then an actual racecar driver.  She is the oddity in a sport dominated by males, and that makes her interesting and marketable.  Her solid finishes at Indianapolis, the single win at Japan, and her on and off track antics made her famous, but it was the GoDaddy.com ads and racy photo shoots that brought her the celebrity status.

There is no doubt in my mind that if she showed real interest in NASCAR, she would be presented a number of opportunities.  But those possible rides wouldn’t come because of Danica’s ability, they would come because of her marketability.  A team that landed her would have a great deal of leverage with sponsors because of her status, and I’m sure there would be no shortage of companies willing to pony up the $20 million+ to sponsor her.

But once the honeymoon period was over and people started realizing that Danica couldn’t get it done in a Cup car, this would all come to a screeching halt.

Over the last three or four seasons we’ve seen several open wheel drivers make the jump to NASCAR.  Guys like Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish, and Scott Speed are the main examples.  And these drivers all came to NASCAR at the top of their game.  Among them are multiple Indy 500 wins, IRL and CART Championships, Formula 1 Grand Prix wins and podiums, and countless series wins. 

Guess how many Cup wins these drivers combine for? 

One.

Remember that when you start picturing Danica behind the wheel of a 3400 lb. stock car.

If these top open wheel drivers have struggled to find success (some struggle to even make races), how can she expect to compete?  In 66 career IndyCar starts, Danica has one win, 12 top fives, and 37 top tens.  And in those 66 races, she’s only led 84 laps.  Keep in mind that IndyCar fields are usually in the low to mid 20′s, and that her lone win came on a fuel mileage gamble.  Not exactly what I would call domination.

The comparison between an Indy car and Cup car really ends after the fact that they both have four wheels, a steering wheel, and an engine.  Indy cars are light, have tons of downforce, and are set up by engineers.  Cup cars are heavy, have very little downforce, and are set up by the driver’s butt.  Indy cars are finessed, Cup cars are manhandled.  And that’s why I believe Danica would jump in a Cup car and be embarrassed.

(Don’t take this opportunity to slam me about men vs. women issues.  If Danica Patrick were Dan Patrick I would present the same argument.)

Here is the interesting part though.  I think she and her management both know and understand that she would struggle.  I don’t personally believe she has any intentions of making the jump to NASCAR, despite what she may say in the media.

With the IRL season now in full swing, I think Danica is making a power play.  By hinting at a possible jump to NASCAR, she is forcing not only the hand of Andretti Green, but also that of the IndyCar Series and Tony George.  She is the only real draw for a series that has become mired in mediocrity, and she knows it.  With most of their races being dumped to a second tier cable network, George and IndyCar can’t afford to let their only known and marketable driver walk.  They need her to help maintain any semblance of acceptable ratings.

On the flip side, NASCAR doesn’t need Danica.  And I honestly don’t think Danica needs NASCAR.  She gets a ton of airtime without the added fan base, and something tells me her bank account isn’t hurting.

Moving forward, I believe we will see Danica re-sign with Andretti Green, although it may take a while.  But something tells me her deal to stay in IndyCar will be a little sweeter then her current deal, thanks to the deep pockets of Tony George.

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36 Responses to “Why Danica Patrick Is Not Coming To NASCAR”

  1. I am almost certain you are exactly right. NASCAR is a risk to Danica. Where she is now she has popularity, sponsorship dollars, fame and everything else she wants. Danica going to NASCAR runs the risk of upsetting the entire apple cart and the reward isn’t much better than it is right now.

    My guess is she gets a 2-3 year deal to stay with Andretti Green and then makes the switch to either NASCAR or F1 depending on whichever deal is sweeter. The risk/reward isn’t as bad then because her popularity will be waning a little and a switch will bolster her status and hype.

  2. Genna says:

    They can keep her as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Todd Crane says:

    ummmm, a win is a win, isn’t it? So what if it was on saving fuel. Don’t the NA$CAR boys do the same? Go Danica…I hope she comes to NA$CAR.

  4. indycarfreak says:

    I agree Danica probably won’t do NASCAR, (but i’d like to see her try) but it seems like everyone forgets one of the first people to jump from INDY to NASCAR about 10-12 years ago. And he’s done pretty well–2 championships, bunch of wins, and now owns his own team. So It can be done!!!

  5. Ross says:

    A better pick might be Leilani Munter. At least she’s driven a stock car.

  6. T.C. says:

    I just want to clarify a few things quick. First, I’m not trying to diminish Danica’s win, because I know winning is a tough thing to do. But seeing as it is her only win, it’s tough to make the argument that she has what it takes as a driver to win week in, and week out.

    Second, I’m not saying that the IndyCar to NASCAR jump isn’t possible. It has obviously worked for Tony Stewart, and Montoya has had some success. My point in bringing those other drivers up, is that if these ultra successful open wheel drivers have struggled, how does a driver with very little in the way of wins and top performances expect to come in and be fast? Joey Logano was raised in a stock car, is very good in a Nationwide car, and he is having a very difficult time adjusting to the COT. I just don’t see Danica having enough ability to make it work in NASCAR.

  7. Ron St John says:

    I am glad INDYFREAK reminded us of “SMOKE”.
    I think she is using NASCAR as a bargaining tool, and wants a better contract. She would not be happy running 37 races each year and doing all the corporate things that need done to keep a major sponsor, it is tough work..

  8. Jonathan says:

    TC – good post.

    Here’s the kicker that no one is talking about. None of the elite teams have room for her except Gibbs. RCR would have to can someone (Mears) to give her a ride.

    She wouldn’t come over for mediocre equipment, so count out DEI, MWR, and RPM. Penske has room and is a little better, but I can’t see her going there because of his ties to the Indy world.

    Stewart-Haas has an empty seat, but are they ready for a third car piloted by someone with zero experience in a stock car? No.

    So who’s left? Gibbs and RCR (maybe). I don;t think Richard would roll the dice on her because he’s more of a develop-the-driver owner. Gibbs has the room for her and just inked the IMG deal, so maybe that would be a fit.

    Problem there is, now you have 2 very inexperienced stock car drivers in 2 of your 4 cars and the other 2 drivers are in their mid-to-late 20′s. Not the best business model.

    Why is no one discussing this angle? To come to Nascar, she needs a good ride and there are not many (if any) available.

  9. Neon says:

    TC-I am speechless at your commentary and have nothing to add, because you are 100% correct….well 98%. The VS network is actually a step up from ABC and ESPN coverage. Seasoned reporters in Jenkins, Beekhuis and Buehl all good. Jack Arute? Not so much.

    Andretti-Green snapped up Danica soley for Motorola money relying on Franchitti and Kanaan to provide set up. Danica’s win in Japan (kudos to team for strategy after her botched restart) and leading Indy (after she wrecked others and got out of pit sequence-again good call by Rahal-Letterman team) are not indicative of a top caliber driver. Then again, motorsports (like it or not) is driven by marketing and is there for entertainment.

    IRL and possibly NASCAR missed out on a very capable driver in Katherine Legge from England. She impressed in CART, but now back in Europe for Audi in DTM. IRL can survive w/o Danica. NASCAR can too.

    I, for one, sure wish driving talent and race prowess was the determining factor in who I get watch on Sunday!

  10. [...] The NASCAR Insiders: Why Danica Patrick Is Not Coming To NASCAR Had a post in the can I was working on about this subject, but the NASCAR Insiders pretty much covered what I was going to say. You have to look at the idea of Danica moving to NASCAR as a risk/reward proposition. She has to risk everything she has right now: success, fame, money, popularity, to make the switch to NASCAR. And what’s the reward? A little bit more of all of that? She won’t consider that until she has a decreasing amount of success, money and cover shoots. Less to risk, the reward looks greater. My guess? She resigns with Andretti Green for 2-3 years and then makes the move to NASCAR or F1, whichever has a greater return. [...]

  11. T.C. says:

    I love it Neon! You are speechless about the post (thanks for that) and you still write four paragraphs in your comment! And I agree about the Versus coverage. Good, veteran guys are doing a great job with the broadcasts.

  12. Danica Earnhadt Jr says:

    “Danica has now become more of a celebrity and a brand, then an actual racecar driver.” That is the key reason she won’t be coming to NASCAR. The 88 car already that role in NASCAR, why would we need two of them?

  13. Zieke says:

    Great post about Danica. She is a great looking chick with average talent in my opinion. And the open wheel crowd needs her to keep a handle on ratings and publicity. I will check in on a race just to see how she is running. Her rants are classic. Andretti would be foolish not to resign her.
    Besides NASCAR has all of the marketability they need. (see Earnhardt JR. and a whole host of others) Danica would not see marketing success when the struggles started and continued. After the initial hype, she would slowly fade away.

  14. Joe W. says:

    While I am in agreement with everyone here. I will play “devil’s advocate” on this one for a minute. I really don’t think Danica is interested in coming to Nascar and she is probably just using it as a bargaining tool, but I remember a driver in the then Busch series who was only so so and who had only one win and it was on fuel mileage. He came to cup and has now won over 40 races and three championships. I am not saying Danica is another Jimmie Johnson. I am just throwing the stats out there.

  15. Boby#7fan says:

    I’d like to see Danica and Casey Mears switch seats for awhile. I don’t think Danica would do any worse than Mears does in the 07 car, and with the surname Mears maybe he could actually do something in an Indycar.

    I think Richard Childress must have been drunk and making a joke when he said “I’m gonna hire Casey Mears” someone took him seriously, the whiole thing was just a big misunderstanding.

  16. JT says:

    Cup owners had the (false) expectations that open wheel stars would bring new sponsorship with them, but that has not been the case.

    Now, what about Danica’s ability to bring sponsorship with her?

    - Motorola, her main AGR sponsor, is in horrible financial shape and would probably meet objections from Sprint.

    - Go Daddy.com already has a relationship with Dale Jr., NASCAR’s biggest star.

    - Air Tran doesn’t have deep enough pockets to fund a primary sponsorship in Cup.

    But wait! Let’s just think about this a second…….

    What if Go Daddy.com pressures JR Motorsports and HMS to can Brad Kesselowski and put Danica in their NNS car in 2010, along with the 7 “pre-rookie” runs in the #25 HMS Cup car?

    Since money talks and sponsors are hard to come by, it could happen!

  17. Reggie says:

    Who cares if Danica wins or not! She can finish last in every race. Just show me the skin! Just keep looking good in those swim suits!

  18. steven says:

    you mean she won’t be be telling her crew to take two rounds out of the right rear, put in a half pound of air on the left front, beat jimmie johnson out of the pits and nudge jeff gordon out of the lead with 20 miles to go in the 600? finally a racing writer who has some common sense! thank you sir. danica, go away.

  19. windowlicker says:

    Yeah Reggie!!! That’s the stuff!

  20. Ryan says:

    She did the exact same thing 2-3 years ago as her Rahal-Letterman contract expired – spread a bunch of rumors about jumping to Nascar, then took a pretty sweet deal at Andretti-Green. Why should we be surprised it’s happening again?

    And it’s not like this doesn’t happen in Nascar. It seems like every year Anonymous is the #1 cited source when it comes to knowing a driver’s feelings about his current ride.

  21. Mike in Floyd Va says:

    Might as well let Danica into NA$CAR. And bring along the other Go Daddy girl, Candice Michelle too. Since NASCAR is becoming the WWE on Wheels, maybe Candice Michelle, a WWE rassler & Diva, could teach Danica the ropes (as it were) and they could have a rasslin’ match on pit road and distract folks from the boring racing that’s going on. That might also help raise the ratings some and lure in more of the 15-29 demographic NASCAR lust after so much.

  22. windowlicker says:

    Yeah Mike in Floyd VA!!! That’s the stuff!

  23. Newracefan says:

    TC you are 100% right on all counts. My personal opinions we don’t need her, stay in the IRL.

  24. L.J. Burgess says:

    First of all, you guys and this Patrick to NASCAR yacking is all bullcrap from the get go. She’s plainly stated that, although intriguing, she’s not interested.

    Why would she take a sideways move to drive a generic box when she makes a ton of cash driving a race car?

  25. MilkaRulez says:

    Oh Good Lords!

    Do we REALLY need to have Gidget running around the track getting into everyone’s face if she makes a mistake? Hell No!

    I thought Sarah Fisher had a better shot at making it, even though she ended up being treated like an afterthought. If someone had made the commitment to get her the best possible team set up, she would have succeeded.

    I’d rather have Milka Duno in NASCAR than the whiny little princess DaniCan’t.

  26. Ummagumma says:

    Are you kidding?! Milka Duno sux worse than Patrick does. She’s nothing more than an IRL backmarker and a Hugo Chavez bootlicker.

  27. Goosewon says:

    Just to inform you. The number of one win for open wheeler is wrong. …. You are forgetting TONY STEWART is an open wheeler that went to NASCAR.

  28. T.C. says:

    Goosewon: I wasn’t talking about every open wheeler to come to NASCAR. I did say in the post:

    “Over the last three or four seasons we’ve seen several open wheel drivers make the jump to NASCAR.”

    I was just referring to the recent open wheel invasion drivers. I know that Stewart is a multi-time champion that came from IndyCars. I also know that Robby Gordon came to NASCAR from open wheel racing, and he has a few wins himself. But those two drivers weren’t part of the invasion.

  29. Fox says:

    Following the 2009 IRL season Danica will essentially become a free agent. Her AGR and Motorola contracts expire. She’ll listen to all offers (IRL, F1) but I’ll wager that Danica does indeed move to NASCAR and more specifically to Roush Fenway Racing. I think we’ll see her in either a Truck or Nationwide race in October or November of 2009 and at the 2010 Daytona 500.

    One major thing that everyone here has missed is that the Indycar Series is in very poor financial shape. So much so in fact that Tony George has poured $250 Million of his own/family money into the series in its 13 years. The series hasn’t made a dime! Kind of makes you wish he would of left ChampCar alone. Tony George has said there won’t be a 2013 IRL season if the series continues to not make a profit. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself:

    http://www.ibj.com/html/detail_page_Full.asp?content=36807

    This is the main reason why I think Danica should and will move to NASCAR. Why would she want to stay in a dying series that only has three seasons to run for sure after 2009? Go to stock cars now and cash in bigtime is what I think Danica will do.

  30. Jessy S. says:

    As much as I agree with the author, Fox and others are completely right. Danica Patrick would be a total idiot to not make the move to NASCAR. She finishes in the Top 10 almost all the time and has one victory, though it did come in a fuel gamble. In short, she is the Matt Kenseth of the IRL, but the only difference is that the point systems are different. Regardless, she will go to a top team in 2010, and she will compete for wins. She may struggle in the early going, but still did Joey Lagono. She does have tracks to learn, but so did Denny Hamlin his rookie year, and nobody disputes his June Pocono victory.

  31. Ian says:

    Jessy…

    Matt Kenseth? Danica is a Matt Kenseth? Danica has more in common with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Get with the times. Which is pointed out often. The only difference is that Junior had more success when his hype was at it’s height.

  32. Damon says:

    What Jessy means by that Matt Kenseth comment is that she brings the car home in one piece and gets points, but not necessarily racing for wins like other drivers.

    To throw another Nascar comparison out there, Jeff Burton.

  33. Trenton says:

    Guess how many NASCAR drivers come race open wheel cars? None because they dont have the balls or they say it doesn’t pay enough…….sell outs!

  34. Carter says:

    FACT – Danica will get “manhandled” in Cup.

  35. David says:

    What was that tennis players name again? Bounced from the NHL stars bed to the POP stars bed? Massive fame horrible on the court great in the video….Pornekova or something ;)

    One things for sure, Danica’s either at or rapidly approaching a crossroads.

    I’d like to see her in the Cup if she can be competitive…shes just so damn cute!! I could jus gobble her up

  36. sheila says:

    She won’t make it in Nascar!!!! Have no use for her at all, she needs to stay in IRL. The only win she has in Japan wasn’t even in the US, whatever. They let her win for the ratings not because she is a good driver!!! There are only 20 or so cars in IRL vs 43 cars in Nascar, come on seriously!!! I would love to see her hit Kevin Harvick, she will get hit back wheither by car or person. Alot of Nascar driver’s do not want her in the series except Tony Stewart. The only driver who has made the switch is Juan who is improving, no one else. She won’t make it in Nascar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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