Danica Patrick, the Anna Kornikova of auto racing, won pole position in her qualifying run Sunday at Daytona.
In response, the media have gone completely bonkers despite her on-track record of monumental non-accomplishment. To date, Patrick's best NASCAR finish has a pair of 10th place finishes - at Phoenix and Kansas.
For those who don’t follow professional tennis, Anna Kornikova is/was the sexy Russian tennis pro known more for her looks and TV commercials than her accomplishments on the pro tennis circuit.
Kornikova made money playing tennis but she made a lot more from endorsements and commercials - without winning a singles tournament as a pro. Hence the comparison of Danica Patrick to Ms. Kornikova. The hype doesn't match the record. Just finishing races and not crashing does not make one a champion race driver.
One has to wonder if any of the journalists hyping Patrick's story have actually looked at her record. These aren't journalists - they're groupies.
In 2012 NASCAR competition, ESPN's website shows that Patrick entered six races. She finished 13th, 10th, 14th, 12th, 10th and 11th place. Usually that kind of record doesn't make headlines or produce lucrative endorsement deals. Usually.
Indy car record
In Indy car competition, Patrick's record was impressive primarily for the number of races she completed rather than race wins. According to ESPN’s website, from her rookie year in 2005 through 2011, she competed in 117 Indy car races.
Despite being on teams with first rate cars and crews, Patrick finished in first place once: the Firestone Indy 300 in Japan in 2008. Her best performance at Indianapolis was in 2009 when she finished in third place.
Patrick got into racing driving go-karts. She transitioned to Formula Ford for a brief period before moving up to Indy cars and then NASCAR.
Much to the chagrin of race drivers who have won major races and series championships but who get little or no media coverage, the media cannot get enough of Danica. To be sure, Patrick's story is a publicist's dream: She’s young. She’s pretty. And she’s a woman competing in a man’s sport.
Media attention, combined with Patrick's good looks has enabled her to parlay a mediocre racing career into a money-making empire that includes endorsement deals, personal appearances, fashion spreads, magazine covers and TV commercials.
Since winning the pole at Daytona on Sunday, the cable networks have gone "All Danica All The Time." Who remembers last year's Daytona 500 pole winner?
Run with the big dogs
NASCAR fans will have to wait until next Sunday (February 24) to see if Danica Patrick can run with the big dogs and win a major race. If she wins, she can put the Anna Kornikova syndrome behind her for good.
Update 2013 Daytona 500 Top Ten Finishers - Patrick finishes in 8th place.
- Jimmy Johnson
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- Mark Martin
- Brad Keselowski
- Ryan Newman
- Greg Biffle
- Regan Smith
- Danica Patrick
- Michael McDowell
- J.J. Yeley