Over the last two weeks when she was in NASCAR, all you heard about from the NASCAR people was Danica, Danica, Danica.
Patrick is at an IndyCar test in Alabama this week – it’s her regular, permanent employment as compared to her part-time stock car job – but you wouldn’t know it from the press releases.
Oh, it’s not that they’re ignoring her. She was quoted in one release Wednesday down around paragraph 15 or so.
But they’d rather tell you about Ryan Briscoe (who?) and Will Power (who?) and Helio Castroneves (okay, we know who he is) than Danica.
Which is indicative of the mindset in the open wheel community. They’d rather not risk browning off the other drivers by singling her out than by singing her praises – or failures – to the sky and yelling to the general population at large:
SHE’S HERE AND SHE’S OURS!
NASCAR has no such qualms. She was the only story in Daytona. Okay, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 but everybody knows who the real story was. And even though she got her butt kicked in California last weekend, they still talked about her most of the time.
And it’s because she’s a star and NASCAR knows it and IndyCar, for some curious reason, doesn’t.
By the way, in her first day of testing back in IndyCar, Danica stunk. Of 20 cars on the circuit at Barber Motorsports Park, she was 17th fastest, or third slowest, take your pick. She just beat rookie Simona de Silvestro, up from Formula Atlantic, and Sarah Fisher, who’s not bad turning left but can’t really count road-racing as one of her skills.
Having said that about Danica, she was only two seconds off the pace set by Briscoe. His time was 1:10:5052 as compared to her 1:12:5369, so it’s not exactly as if she’s out to lunch.
Meantime, Graham Rahal – one of IndyCar’s rising young stars who is not at Barber this week because he doesn’t have a ride – is now sufficiently discouraged that he told Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star that he has scheduled a meeting with NASCAR officials about employment over there.
Now, NASCAR might take a pass on paving the way into a car for Rahal, because it already has a good number of ex-open wheelers doing very well already, thank you (Sam Hornish Jr., A.J. Allmendinger).
But the fact that they’ve agreed to see him is worrying.
NASCAR is a big, dirty business and as well as working to put the best product possible on the track for race fans to enjoy, it will also do anything in its power to stamp out the competition.
That’s why it’s welcomed Danica with open arms. They are in the process of stealing IndyCar’s biggest star and IndyCar doesn’t seem to be too worried about it (see first paragraphs above).
(Can you imagine what would happen if Dale Earnhardt Jr. started musing about taking a crack at IndyCar? I can tell you right now it wouldn't get past the talking stage because NASCAR would do anything it had to do to keep him there. You can bet on that.)
If IndyCar wants to protect its heritage and traditions, not to mention its long-term financial prospects, it would be in its best interests to get Graham Rahal (and Paul Tracy, by the way) into a car asap – even if it means having to write some team owner a cheque.
And to start reminding the world, regularly, that Danica Patrick is an Indy car driver.