Two Plus Two Equals Ford

Posted by Iannucci | 7/17/2006 | 1 comments »
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While much of the racing world spent the week breathlessly speculating on whether Danica Patrick would be switching to a NASCAR team next season, most IRL fans were scratching their heads. Sure, she hasn’t won a race, but she carries so many personal sponsors she could very nearly pick the IRL team for whom she wants to drive in 2007. Why in the world would she want to jump to NASCAR when she still has much to prove in open-wheel racing?

I have read a few columns by other racing commentators, but most are giving guesses about her potential chances of success in NASCAR. No one seems to look beyond the events of the last week to find coincidences that may yield the true answers to Danica's future.

Based solely upon reading the frenzy of reports this week, these are the five things we know.
1. Danica has only raced open wheel cars her whole life.
2. She has never previously said she wanted to race NASCAR.
3. Her father met with Roush Racing last weekend.
4. Her father said he had previously met with Roush Racing.
5. Her contract expires this season.

OK, that’s really the whole scope of reporting thusfar, but note there are gaps such as:
Why is there talk of switching series now in 2006?
Why is there only talk with Roush Racing?
Why is there no reason to think she’s being courted by Champ Car?

To answer these questions, here are five things you did not see reported.
1. Roush Racing features Fords (Jack Roush was a former bigwig there).
2. Ford has a program called “Women’s Driver Development Program”.
3. The goal of the program is to help a woman driver win a NASCAR Race.
4. Danica Patrick previously was sponsored by Ford when she raced in England.
5. Danica for the most part speaks highly of her Ford sponsorship in her recent book.

If we start connecting the dots then it’s pretty obvious the driving forces greater than Danica. It is not too far fetched to think Ford Motor Company is more than a passive observer in the conversation between its most famous Development alumnus and its most successful NASCAR owner. Considering Danica’s marketing appeal and that an estimated 40% of NASCAR’s audience is of the female variety, it’s also not too far fetched to see the value of Danica successfully driving a Ford Fusion every week.

And I case IRL fans didn’t notice, Dodge is thinking the same thing. Two words: Eric Crocker.

And something else to consider is that Ford Cosworth engines are the exclusive motor of Champ Car. Removing the most popular driver from the IRL would be a serious blow to their fan base, and what’s bad for the IRL is probably good for Champ Car. Remember Danica was plucked from the Toyota Atlantic series, which is effectively Champ Car's minor leagues.

So clearly, Ford has a whole host of reasons to get Danica Patrick in with Roush Racing. There are still a lot of ifs in the equation before it happens (such as which Roush driver would be let go to make room for her), but the whole would indeed be greater than the sum of the parts for Ford. Considering all that Ford stands to gain, expect to see the words “Danica” and “NASCAR” inevitably together at some point in the coming years.


  1. Anonymous // July 17, 2006 2:30 PM  


    I still have this sense that the MOST important thing in the world for DP at this stage in her young life is to win the Indy 500 and that as soon as that happens, all bets are off and she'll be about cashing in, making history in other leagues, etc. A switch to Champ Car at this stage would be dramatic indeed--and would change the landscape quite a bit with regard to the merger talk, who holds the upper hand, etc...

    Regardless, this is very interesting. Good 'dot-connecting,' Jeff!