Danica Patrick doesn’t deserve our attention. At least, not the amount of attention she’s been getting. She may be boosting the TV ratings, but for all the wrong reasons. Patrick hasn’t earned the hype that trails behind her, and it is hurting the sport of NASCAR.
First off, we should look at the stats. Sure, she became only the 13th driver to lead both the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. So what. It’s not like she won both of them. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think an eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500 warrants claims of future greatness. Since Daytona, she has logged finishes of 39, 33 and 28. Is 28th in the standings really something to get so excited about? Since 2005 — in all of her starts in Indy, Nationwide and Sprint Cup — Patrick only has one win. One. That doesn’t merit the publicity she’s getting.
As for her being a role model, I’m not sure we should be so quick to jump over the pit wall on that one. If people and little girls only view her as a role model because she is a woman in a historically male-dominated sport, then that further perpetuates the stereotypes and gender roles that some claim she is breaking, and that is truly unfortunate.
Notions that Patrick is inspiring young females to race may be true, but there is no way to quantify that. Also, let’s not forget she isn’t the first woman to race in any form of motorsports. What about Janet Guthrie or Louise Smith? Do they not count? Were they not trailblazers?
And then there are the sexualized notions of Patrick that float through commercials and magazines and photos everywhere. Those GoDaddy ads don’t make her a role model for female equality in today’s society. She isn’t going to be a better racecar driver because of Sports Illustrated shoots. And her new relationship with driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr isn’t important to anyone but them.
I’m not saying Patrick shouldn’t be doing any of these things. Part of being in motorsports is making yourself attractive to sponsors. Racing is a business. And every driver should have the opportunity to spend their free time how they choose. Good for them if they know how to work the system. But none of these things make her a better driver or provide evidence that she has earned our undivided attention.
In conversations about Patrick, let’s keep it on the track. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and belittling her. That’s a lose-lose situation. Maybe if we leave Patrick alone, she’ll leave us alone. I sure hope so.