"All that said, her assent up the ladder of the sport thru various branding 'techniques' (swimsuit ads etc) only serves to undermine the ... future credibility of female races who wish to make it based on skill, mental toughness and a never give up attitude. That to me is wrong. Essentially, she has opened a pandoras (sic) box for all female racers. If she doesn't succeed, no female will get the chance for years to come.'' – NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, via Twitter.
“Bad” Brad Keselowski is one of my fave racing drivers. His racing style reminds me of former NASCAR driver Ernie Irvan and I was a huge Irvan fan twenty years ago when he became the first Californian to win the Daytona 500 and seriously challenge for the Sprint Cup. That being said, I think it’s fair to dissect Brad’s comments on the recent news that IndyCar driver Danica Patrick will move to NASCAR full time in 2012.
As much as I enjoy watching female race car drivers make inroads into racing series well after Shirley Muldowney lit up the quarter mile and became a multiple-time NHRA champion, I have to agree with Brad. It’s normally not a big deal when a driver takes advantage of their photogenic looks and popularity to market products. But when said athlete makes more appearances on my television set hawking products than they do in victory lane (Danica Patrick) or the end zone (Reggie Bush), then I wonder where their heart is. At this point, are they athletes? Or have they become highly compensated salespersons who dabble in athletics?
For most of her career Danica has had top notch race cars to drive, yet she’s only won one race in the past ten years she’s competed in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, Toyota Atlantic series, IndyCar, ARCA and NASCAR’s Nationwide series. And now she’s “ready” to move up to the Sprint Cup series part-time next year? Good luck with that.
If Danica does not succeed, and the odds are she won’t, this will be a huge setback for female racers like Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz, two talented racers that have done something Danica hasn’t – win multiple races at the Atlantic Championship series and/or the Indy Lights series before moving up to the IndyCar ranks. De Silvestro and Beatriz deserve to be taken seriously as drivers. I would hate to see their hard work and accomplishments be overshadowed by a pretty driver’s money grab.
On the other hand Danica and NASCAR are made for each other. They are two entities that put more emphasis on brand marketing rather than the quality of racing on the track.