On Tuesday morning, Danica Patrick signaled her transition from GoDaddy Girl to Nature’s Bakery Woman — landing the health foods company as her new sponsor. She hopes that the new partners and an extension with Stewart Hass Racing will allow her to become the contender she has always willed herself to be.
Danica will always be a polarizing character within the Sprint Cup Series.
On one hand, she is a talented race car driver that commands a large fan base and the attention of millions. On the other, it’s not clear if that talent will ever fully translate to Stock Cars given her open-wheel background, gender and the way a portion of the industry will always use those attributes against her.
Regardless of how you feel about Danica, her contract extension and new sponsor is a big win for NASCAR and everyone involved with the sport.
In an era where sponsors are leaving the industry at a greater clip than joining up with teams or the Sanctioning Body, Patrick has netted a partner that will be on her car for 28 races starting next season. Even if you don’t like Patrick or appreciate her contributions, understand that this is one more corporate entity promoting events and talking about NASCAR.
Racing is expensive.
The case could absolutely be made that Patrick isn’t the most deserving driver of a Hendrick affiliated Chevrolet. She doesn’t have a NASCAR background, hasn’t enjoyed a great deal of success since arriving from IndyCar in 2012 and doesn’t have the resume of more seasoned drivers who lack her funding and marketability.
But that is the inherent reality of NASCAR.
Racing begins and ends on the track between the green and checkered flags but the competition spills into board rooms and in front of Fortune 500 CEOs. Certainly, we want the best 43 race car drivers in the world making up the starting grid on Sunday afternoons but those days are long gone.
Instead, the best case is that those drivers contribute something to the overall complexion of the sport — and Danica does that in droves. Her popularity equals that of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and she is important puzzle piece to growing the sport moving forward.
Perhaps most important is the fact that Patrick is improving as a Sprint Cup Series driver. Her 22nd place average finish is the highest of her career and she is up seven spots in the standings from last year. It’s unlikely that Patrick will win championships at the highest level but she is far from an embarrassment.
She is also an excellent ambassador for a sport desperately in need of unique, transcendent personalities. Her success is good for her Stewart Haas teammates and in drawing attention to drivers who do not have her backing.
Ultimately, Danica Patrick is good for NASCAR and now with the security of a new sponsor and a contract extension, let’s see how good she can be moving forward.
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