“The Real Me” ( Quadrophenia, 1973).
The picture NA$CAR and it’s celebrity spokesmodel’s PR people would like to paint doesn’t come anywhere near close to reality. In order to find out what NA$CAR’s celebrity spokesmodel is really like, you have to go outside of the NA$CAR box and go to the open wheel folks who “know her best” and that’s what I’ve done. Unlike the NA$CAR controlled media, which can do little more than sing her praises from on high, I went to the folks who had to deal with her in a professional setting on a regular basis and did some research to go with it. It’s not the pretty picture NA$CAR and their controlled media likes to paint.
Officials called her the “Queen Bitch”. Her own team called her "Bitch in a Box" for her antics during practice. She would pull into the pits, take off her helmet. Then she would pop up and complain, then sit back down, then pop up again to complain time and time again. The crew members at the front of the car stated “she looks like that clown that pops out of a jack-in-the-box”.
What did her fellow drivers think of her?
Dixon, Carpenter, Wheldon, and Franchitti all called Danica the Queen of Blockers. “She doesn't hold her line and blocks hard when she was about to be lapped”.
(If you’re not familiar with IndyCar or IRL rules, blocking was prohibited. And yet, Brian Barnhart, former head of racing operations, didn’t seem to see the blocking when it was going on.)
This is a comment by Ed Carpenter after the Iowa Corn Indy 250 back in 2008 regarding the blocking:
"I just started working with my car, working towards the front but Danica was doing her normal supreme block job," Carpenter said. "She is the new Scott Sharp of the series as far as I am concerned. That is two races in a row."
An official on pit lane was assisting Mid-Ohio security during an IndyCar race there. He was a Danica fan at that time. Security was at the gates to pit lane to prevent fans from entering the pits, as the pre-race preparations were starting. Danica walks through the gate, followed by several more people. The official stopped the people in order to check their credentials. Danica turned around and yelled at him, "They're with me, get over yourself!". After that he went over to Dan Wheldon to say “Kick Danica's butt”. Dan replied, "So, you met the real Danica." Wheldon apologized for her actions, stating the drivers appreciate the track workers & officials for all they do. Needless to say from that moment on, that official was no longer a Danica fan.
One interesting incident, in light of a recent statement about not wearing make-up, comes from when NA$CAR’S celebrity spokesmodel was in the Atlantic Series and her car broke.
She pulled off track and was getting out of her car to go over the wall. When she saw the course marshal arrive to see if she was alright, Danica responded, "I'm so glad you're a woman. How does my make-up look?"
Of course, IndyCar fans remembers her throwing her team under the car when she qualified so badly. It seems she had to set the car up herself rather than having it set up by a more competent teammate. When she was interviewed, she was absolutely stunned at the boos from the stands. It was the next year she started her move to NA$CAR.
Andretti Autosports held an option on Danica's contract for the 2012 season. In January of 2011, she informed Andretti she was going to NASCAR full time in 2012. The deals were all done at that time, but she strung everyone along through September stating she had not made up her mind. A female version LeBron James.
Rahal-Letterman won the Indy 500 in 2004 with Buddy Rice. In 2005, Danica was promoted to the IRL. RLR's performance suffered, as Rice and Meira had to work on getting Danica's car set up. In 2006, Danica decided to screw Rahal in another way, by announcing she was moving to Andretti-Green. Shortly after, Rahal-Letterman shutdown their full time IRL program. Before 2007, when Danica joined, Andretti-Green was a powerhouse team, winning titles and the Indy 500 with drivers Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, and Bryan Herta. Then, along came Danica and the Andretti-Green team went downhill.
First Wheldon left, then Dario, leaving Kanaan alone to set up Danica's and Marco's cars. With the merger of the IRL and CART/ChampCar, the series began to move to an oval and road/Street course series. While Danica was average on ovals, she was even worse on road & street courses. As the series shifted to fewer ovals and her performance fading along with her popularity, she began looking at NASCAR. The money was going to be better and early indications were they were going to glorify her with unending coverage. In 2010, she started running a limited schedule for Jr. Motorsports in NNS and again in 2011. She stated through much of 2011 that she had not make up her mind about her 2012 plans. However, that was all lies, as she had told Andretti in January of 2011 that she intended to leave for NASCAR and not exercise the option with Andretti for IndyCar.
And let’s look at some stats. During his 10 years of driving in the IRL/IndyCar, Dan Wheldon led 2,865 laps with 16 wins and 43 podium finishes. During his 8 years in the IRL/IndyCar, Sam Hornish Jr led 3,428 laps got 19 wins, and had 47 podium finishes . During 7 years in the IRL/IndyCar, NA$CAR’s current celebrity spokesmodel led 124 laps with only 1 win and 7 podium finishes. Numbers alone show that NA$CAR’s celebrity spokesmodel does not live up to the hype.
Let’s look at the celebrity spokesmodel’s stats for the 2012 season:
|Race||Finish||Wreck||AVG. Finish||% of Wrecks||Start||Avg. Start||% of Finishes on Lead Lap|
When the announcement was made that she would be the new NA$CAR celebrity spokesmodel, what’s the first thing she talks about? It wasn’t racing. It wasn’t her competitors. It was her branding & marketing. That right there should tell you where her priorities lay.
Dave Despain said on Wind Tunnel that she was over-hyped. And Dave would know. He’s been covering and following racing of all sorts for more years than I care to think about. Shawna Robinson, the first woman to sit on the pole in the Busch Series, couldn’t understand what all the hoopla was about. Shawna got her pole at Atlanta back in 1994. If you’ve never been to Atlanta, seen races there, or haven’t been following NA$CAR very long then you don’t know about the difficulties of driving there because of the speed, the need to have a car that handles well, and the driver skill actually required to turn a competitive lap. It may be a 1.5 mile track but it’s not the typical cookie cutter design.
And how about more recently in NA$CAR? It seems that the celebrity spokesmodel got in the face of her teammate Cole Whitt, verbally abused him knowing full well he wouldn’t take a swing at her because of her gender, and told him he needed to stay away from her because he’s inexperienced. Whitt? Inexperienced? He’s got quite a few more NA$CAR starts than does his teammate and finished 15th at Phoenix while the celebrity spokesmodel finished 21st, 3 laps down. And to add an explanation point to her poor performance at Phoenix, stomped away from the media after the race without so much as a word. Not exactly the image the new “savior” of NA$CAR should be displaying.
And what would’ve happened if you had replaced Cole Whitt with say Milka Duno? Would the celebrity spokesmodel have gotten away with the same verbal abuse? I don’t think so. She probably would’ve gotten a shove or maybe even a shot in the snot locker from Milka. It’s easy to get away with using your gender to berate and abuse your male teammate or competitors but try it with another female and see what happens. Especially a female who won’t take any guff.
Some folks will say I’m being sexist or a woman hater and they’re entitled to their opinions. Just like I’m entitled to mine. What I’ve done is expose some of the history of NA$CAR’s celebrity spokesmodel and newest savior. Gender has nothing to do with it. If you’re going to buy a “product”, you want to know all there is about it before you purchase it. Would you buy a Chevy Volt knowing that they catch fire when recharging? Or that they could catch fire during an accident? I didn’t think so. So why “buy” into the hype about NA$CAR’s celebrity spokesmodel when there are far better, friendlier, and more honest female drivers around who can be held up as good role models? Drivers like Simona De Silvestro, Johanna Long, Tammy Jo Kirk, Patty Moise, Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Shirley Muldowney, Louise Smith, Shawna Robinson, Ashley Force & her sister. Drivers who are or were more concerned about racing than about their own “branding & marketing”.
And in the interest of full disclosure and to dispel the idea that I’m sexist, hater, or a woman hater, I do follow Simona De Silvestro & Milka Duno on Twitter. I follow Jennifer Jo Cobb on Facebook. I was a member of the Shawna Robinson fan club and my autographed driver’s card is hanging up in the bedroom of one of my nieces as an example to her that she accomplish what she wants with her life. I also use to cheer for Shirley Muldowney as she took down the big boys of drag racing. So adjust your opinions accordingly.
To paraphrase Teresa Earnhardt, I have a question for NA$CAR’s new savior. Do you want to be a race car driver or a celebrity spokesmodel? Answer that truthfully and you have the key to her future.