Danica Patrick officially announced Thursday she would make a full-time move to NASCAR beginning in 2012. The move puts her in a Nationwide Series car for JR Motorsports for the whole of the season and select Cup races with Stewart Haas.
She’ll She may make her Cup debut at next year’s Daytona 500. The announcement ended years of speculation about the driver who has made a name for herself on and off the track.
Patrick’s career has spanned much of the last two decades and has included stints in everything from go-karts to stock cars. While she’s certainly been competitive in everything she’s done, the mystique of Danica has been much more about her packaging than her talent. From racy GoDaddy.com commercials, to spreads in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, it’s no wonder Patrick has been accused of exploiting her looks to get ahead.
After saying he respected her for not letting “boyfriends” or wanting to start a family get in the way of her pursuing a racing career, Brad Keselowski tweeted today:
This assumption that Patrick’s singular ascension to the heights of NASCAR and whether or not she has success is somehow the determining factor for other female drivers is laughably absurd.
Danica Patrick, of course, no more represents all female race car drivers than Brad Keselowski represents males.
Keselowski in prior tweets criticized Patrick’s choice of self-promotion, saying it:
It is incredibly unfair to suggest Patrick does not have “skill”, “mental toughness” or a “never give up attitude” all because she is occasionally seen in a bikini.
I don’t mean to just call out Keselowski’s comments (though he did make himself an easy target) because these thoughts are not just isolated to him – we’ve heard them from a lot of people over the years. His thoughts though are representative of a shortsighted belief and point to the hypocrisy of the society we live in.
We want female athletes who are talented and winners, but we want them to be attractive and marketable (how does an attractive, young female athlete market herself today? See Lindsey Vonn, Hope Solo and Danica Patrick). Yet when these women get ahead and take advantage of their good genes, they’re chastised. They’re damned if they use what they have and they’re damned if they don’t.
Patrick, like her contemporaries, is simply using her assets to get the resources she needs to do what she wants.
To be fair, I don’t think what she has done from the business side, is any different than Keselowski getting a makeover to make him a little more camera friendly, or any number of funded drivers using their family’s resources to find a ride. They’re all playing the game.
And I can’t fault anyone for that.
Patrick’s decision to come to NASCAR full-time should provide an interesting storyline and dynamic in 2012. Looks or no looks, I’m interested to see what the race car driver is capable of with the right resources and time. At the end of the day, that’s where our focus should be.