There’s a great article from NBC Sports this weekend on Danica Patrick’s exit from NASCAR, and the sport’s need for new “mega star” drivers moving forward.
I was a huge Danica supporter, dating all the way back to her rookie season in IndyCar. She brought a ton to the table in terms of exposure (see her 2005 Sports Illustrated cover, promoting her maiden run at Indy). Still, Kevin Harvick is exactly right when he says in this article that eventually, star power has to be paired with results on the track or it’s all moot.
Danica was in top-flight equipment for most of her career, in IndyCar and stock cars. But what did she bring home for that? A handful of top-ten runs at Indy (no small deal, granted), one fuel mileage win in Japan (the only major victory of her career), and a pole at Daytona (rookie season in Cup). That’s it. In more than a decade of bigtime racing, that’s all the success she managed to find.
I wish Danica well in her future endeavors. I really do. I’ll also never argue with anyone who says she’s the Anna Kornikova of motorsport.
On a related note, with guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart having retired from active competition, the NASCAR garage needed someone to step up and “call it like he sees it” on issues of the sport’s health. I’m glad that someone is Harvick, and not just because he’s my driver. Harv is widely regarded in sports business as a sharp dude, especially when it comes to branding. So when he says “the sport needs to grow/market itself in this direction,” most agree that he knows what he’s talking about. Couple that with his on-track credentials — Cup Series title in 14, Daytona 500 title in 07, 90 career wins in NASCAR’s top three series — and the man possesses both the on-track resume and business savvy to be a voice of reason in this discussion.
Good on ya, Harv.
As always, this is merely my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth. Now, onward to Texas!
PS – Harvick cites Chase Elliott as having the potential for mega-stardom. I wholeheartedly agree with that because of his name. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t add Bubba Wallace to that list. The kid’s personality, on and off camera, is downright infections, plus he’s got skill. Now, if he just had Chase/Danica’s funding and equipment, he’d be good to go.