Any Nascar fan worth a can of motor oil knows the Daytona 500 takes place this Sunday. However with Danica Patrick as the first female driver to win the pole position in the sport’s flagship race, attention is being drawn to Dayton outside of typical Nascar fan circles.
In a sport that has been dominated by men since its inception, Danica Patrick is bringing diversity to the track and its fan base. Reportedly two-thirds of Nascar fans are men, but having a female drive in the running definitely raises the interest of women to tune in and root for her to succeed.
While Nascar has a plethora of tried and true die-hard fans who avidly follow their favorite driver in each race, there aren’t a whole lot of merely casual Nascar fans. Having a driver like Danica Patrick in the mainstream spotlight inspires people who previously had little interest in the sport to tune in and see what all the hoopla is about.
Danica Patrick has had treads on the Nascar track since 2009 but only moved to the sport full time from Indy car racing last year. Her success has been limited so far – seven top ten finishes in 58 starts since 2010. Often the headlines about Patrick are more centered on her pretty face and personal life – she recently admitted to being in a relationship with fellow drive Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – than her racing ability.
Given that Danica Patrick has only recently joined the Nascar circuit full-time, and most drivers need a moderate level of experience before rising to the top, it may be that her time has now come. Though only nine of 54 pole position winners have gone on to finish first in the Daytona 500, one and five odds aren’t too shabby, and the spotlight will no doubt shine on Danica Patrick this Sunday.