Danica Patrick has been all over the Internet this week:
Danica shows off her fitness and flexibility by inviting a bunch of NASCAR media to a yoga class.
Danica goes undercover as a Lyft driver.
The Sports Business Daily publishes a study showing Danica’s celebrity compares to Kanye West, Kate Upton and Bono.
Then, of course, there’s the requisite “hottest photos of Danica at the 2016 Daytona 500.”
And oh, by the way, she’ll also be driving in Sunday’s Great American Race and entering her fourth year as a Sprint Cup driver. This little tidbit of information — her actual performance on the track — seems to have become a footnote to Danica’s story. And for obvious reasons.
She’s never won a race.
She’s never finished in the top 5.
But who cares if she is a non-entity on the track when off the track she is the best thing to hit NASCAR since beer huggies and Slim Jims.
Here’s all you need to know about Danica: Her main sponsor GoDaddy.com decided to get out of the NASCAR business last year. Any other winless also-ran driver would have been out of luck and off the circuit; Danica had a new primary sponsor — Nature’s Bakery — almost immediately.
Because Danica sells.
Win or lose.
Obviously, if she were to somehow become a factor on the track and actually started winning races, she would become the biggest superstar in sports. Just look at how huge Ronda Rousey became and she was competing in a niche sport against other women.
Ed Carpenter is hugged by Danica Patrick after he won the pole position during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20, 2018. Carpenter’s team also prepared the car Patrick is driving.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick is interviewed Saturday after she qualified in seventh place for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick poses with a life-size Lego statue of herself on May 22, 2018, in New York. Lego master builder Chris Steininger said it took him 200 hours and 15,000 pieces to build.(Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick gets in a workout at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 2017 Daytona 500.(John Raoux / Associated Press)
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick (7) is involved in an accident with Chase Elliott (9) and Kasey Kahne (95) during the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2018.(Jerry Markland / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick stands with a "virtual car” while shooting a video in a hangar at Daytona International Airport on Feb. 16, 2016.(Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)
Danica Patrick is interviewed at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2016.(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)
Danica Patrick is interviewed at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 2016.(John Raoux / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick signs autographs for fans in the garage area during practice for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 13, 2016.(Jerry Markland / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick takes the seat in her No. 10 Chevrolet for a practice session at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13, 2016.(Matt Sullivan / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick (No. 10), center, is involved in a multiple-car crash during the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited race on Feb. 13, 2016, at Daytona International Raceway.(Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images)
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2014.(Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick greets fans as she walks down the runway during driver introductions for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26, 2012. Rain would postpone the race for a day.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Danica Patrick chats with then-boyfriend and fellow racer Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on pit road before the Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 15, 2014.(John Raoux / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick checks out her new GoDaddy.com car during an event Dec. 8, 2009,when she announced she was moving to stock car racing.(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
Danica Patrick with NBA star and ESPN co-presenter Steve Nash at the ESPY Awards on July 11, 2012, in Los Angeles.(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick rides back to the garage area following a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 on May 19, 2006.(Tom Strattman / Associated Press)
IndyCar driver Danica Patrick talks to Rahal Letterman Racing team owner Bobby Rahal in the pits during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 15, 2005.(Donald Miralle / Getty Images)
IndyCar driver Danica Patrick is mobbed by reporters after earning the pole position for the Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Raceway on July 2, 2005.(Gavin Lawrence / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick celebrates after earning her only win on the IndyCar circuit in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi race course on April 20, 2008. She became the first female winner in IndyCar history.(AFP / Getty Images)
Danica Patrick is surrounded by reporters moments after becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race on April 20, 2008, at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.(Shuji Kajiyama / Associated Press)
If Danica were winning against the big boys, she would elevate NASCAR like Tiger Woods once elevated golf. Tiger took golf to the masses and made it more than just a country-club sport followed mostly by middle-aged white guys. Likewise, Danica would do the same for NASCAR and make it more than just the stereotypical good ol’ boys sport followed mostly by middle-aged white guys.
Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, tells this story to illustrate my point:
“I was president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the year Danica took the lead at the Indianapolis 500 with 10 laps to go,” Chitwood recalls. “I’ve never seen a crowd on its feet and respond as loudly as that crowd did when Danica took the lead. If she had won the Indy 500, they would have torn down the grandstands.”
If shoes were clues, our presidential candidates would show up barefooted for the next debate.
But many of NASCAR’s misogynistic meatheads judge Danica more harshly because she’s a woman in a man’s sport. Who will ever forget the iconic Richard Petty’s comments two years ago when he was asked if Patrick would ever win a race in the Sprint Cup Series. His reply: “If everybody else stayed home. … If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack.”
There is an obvious double standard when it comes to Danica. She gets ripped and ridiculed because she hasn’t won a race even though she grew up in open-wheel cars and is trying to learn an entirely different style of racing while competing against the best drivers in the world.
“It’s very challenging,” Danica says. “Everybody wants to win … it’s very hard to win in Cup, it just is. Everything’s got to go your way and be right and be clicking. It’s frustrating … but that’s what drives you.”
Here’s hoping Danica’s drive results in her becoming a champion someday and elevating NASCAR to unfathomable heights.
But even if she doesn’t — even if she never wins a race — NASCAR is more fun, more interesting and more popular because Danica is great at yoga.