Danicamania hit its full stride on Saturday, with the Danicapocalypse descending on Daytanica and ... you get the picture. Danica Patrick is the most hyped driver in years, maybe decades. That media scrum there is only one of many such scenes all over Daytona International Speedway this weekend. (Here's another, one I took, from my Twitter feed.) Insane, right?
Right. But here's the thing -- Danicapalooza is an unquestionable benefit for NASCAR. One little five-foot-two driver in a neon green firesuit has been able to do in two weeks what years of gimmicky pseudo-playoffs, prefab driver personalities and rules changes and re-changes haven't -- inject new life and new blood into NASCAR.
Don't believe me? Check this. The media scrums noted above happen for a simple reason: people want to know about Danica. For whatever reason -- whether she's an object of worship or desire -- she's drawn people's interest. Everybody's numbers -- mine, ESPN's NASCAR's, everybody's -- are up as a result of Danica. This isn't the media forcing Danica down people's throats -- this is people wanting more, more, more Danica.
I know the counter-arguments, and they've got merit. She hasn't done anything. She hasn't got the talent. Women shouldn't be on the track. She's taking away attention from other, better drivers.
To which I say: quit your whining.
Sure, she hasn't done much in IRL, but she's run well enough in that series to merit a look in NASCAR. (All joking about Danica needing to do her nails or run carpools during races aside, the idea that a woman doesn't belong on a track is beneath contempt.) As for the idea that she's taking attention away from other drivers -- well, anybody who says that must not know their NASCAR history. From Day 1, the sport was built on drivers who knew that an outsize persona was just as essential to success as on-track skill. You wouldn't catch Richard Petty in a GoDaddy ad -- thank heaven -- but there's a direct line between his self-promotion and Danica's.
Is the hype at times too much to stomach? Of course it is. There are only so many times you can see the progress of a 20th-place car. But if there's anything more tired than the hype, it's people talking about how sick they are of the hype.
Danicamania won't be around forever. But with any luck, some of the new fans she's bringing in will be. So let's just deal with the hype and enjoy the ride.
Unless you're scared of a girl, that is.
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