Sunday, May 27, 2018

Danica Patrick's Seen as Role Model, Though Critics See Her as Under-Performing

This is interesting. At LAT, "Danica Patrick's final race at Indy 500 comes with a hotly debated legacy":

Danica Patrick's race car is painted in a lustrous neon green one last time, a hue that ensures its "look at me" quality even when the car is a 230-mph blur.

The color is apropos of Patrick and her racing career, which she's ending Sunday with a final attempt to win the Indianapolis 500, the race that initially made her famous in 2005.

From that race forward, Patrick — often driving the shiny green car favored by her and her longtime main sponsor, the web services firm GoDaddy Inc. — has been the driver everyone watched, analyzed and endlessly debated.

That was due not only to her on-track achievements as a female in a male-dominated sport, but also to her relentless self-promotion, which together earned her the one-name celebrity of being simply "Danica."

"I can't think of a better way to end my racing career than at Indianapolis for the 500," the 36-year-old Patrick said in an interview. "I can't think of a more cool way to be done.

"I mean, to finish up at a place that has so many good memories for me, and at the biggest race of the year for Indy cars and arguably the biggest race of the year, period," she said.

Patrick achieved several firsts as a woman in the IndyCar and NASCAR racing series, and in doing so became a role model for countless young women and their parents who admired her feats, tough persona and unflagging determination.

No less than seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson tweeted earlier this year: "Thank you @danicapatrick for being a strong role model to the little girls in my life," referring to his two young daughters.

Patrick's fame also was burnished by her blunt, outspoken manner, her savvy marketing of her personal "brand" that earned her millions of dollars in endorsements, and by the outsized media attention she always received.

Patrick's overall record on the track was middling; she had one victory in 13 years of big-league racing. That fueled the debate about whether she deserved the attention she received and made the Roscoe, Ill., native one of the most polarizing figures in sports.

"I don't know that we've seen someone who is so popular when not performing as well," said Greg Goldring, senior director of sports and entertainment at the Marketing Arm, a marketing agency.

Her impact on motor racing will be argued long after the 102nd running of the iconic race, one of the biggest one-day sporting events in the world. Patrick is adamant that she's not going to just circle the track as more than 250,000 spectators and millions more on television look on.

"I'm here to win the race," she said...