We all have seen the failed prognostication attempts of IMS Radio lead MIKE KING and his crystal balls. It takes a lot for a guy like KING to repeatedly go out on a limb with predictions, especially when one risks risks having the failed attempts repeatedly brought up by some crazed word butcher. I admire him, but I've also noticed he's not made many predictions in print as of late.
Well, your humble host has decided to gaze into his own crystal balls to derive the future, because I have finally cracked at reading the umteenth "Danica to N-word" articles. Is it even a story to have a marketing rep throw around random unquantifiable numbers by saying that if she decided to race stock cars it would bring $50 Million to Brian France's series? Apparently so.
Enough is enough. We're still in wild speculation mode, but since everyone else is speculating and a few of you have been asking me my opinion via emails and tweets it seems I need to write this post answering the question "Where do you think Danica will be next year?" Not to impress you with my ability of foretelling of the future - I'll leave that to NostraBeekhuis - but rather in the interest of public service. You see, I'm not going to just tell you what I think, *dramatic Jack Arute voice* I'm going to show you WHY I think it.
So here is the evidence for answering the question "Where is Danica going?".
Exhibit A: During her racing career Danica has said about a billion times "I want to win". Actually it's usually been more like "I really, really want to win", because without the "really"s she sounds like Hideki Mutoh or Oriol Servia. You need to add the extra adverbs to show you're a top tier driver.
Exhibit B: Danica is not just a driver; she's also a brand. This is the single most important consideration, because if you think about how Danica has gotten to where she is now it's been significantly more because of her brand than her driving. Not to slight (much less enter into a debate about) her driving ability, the fact is she's spent nearly her entire IRL career in top-level equipment despite having a single win. That's the brand talking, or rather paying for her opportunities, and it's on par with any other driver in this country.
In order for the brand to continue though she has to win more races. She's doesn't necessarily have to be the most dominant driver on the track, but she needs to continue progressing by winning races because without the wins the brand diminishes in it's ability to attract sponsors who will help pay the racing bills.
It's important to look at these two Exhibits first, because this is how even Danica has said she's going to determine where she goes. As someone who already has a pocketful of sponsors it doesn't seem likely that she's looking for her next ride as simply a cash grab. Granted this is a huge presumption on my part, but this isn't Sam Hornish Jr who we're talking about. This is the driver in every other commercial in IndyCar races.
Exhibit C: And with that I present to you something I came across entirely by accident. On the flight to Indianapolis this year the guy next to me was reading the May 2009 issue of "N****R Illustrated". When he was done he asked me if I wanted it, and I would have declined were it not for a picture in the upper right of you-know-who asking "Danica Patrick: N****R bound?". Here's one important quote from the article:
NI: What are the key issues you have to consider (for future racing commitments)?OK, Danica Patrick has spent her entire life in open-wheel racing, from go-karts to IndyCars. Never driven so much as a bomber on a Friday night. What would be the logical presumption of "what I want to be doing"? I'll let you figure that out, and while you think about let me note that only once in the interview does she use the word every other open-wheel jumper used - "challenge" - and in that context she notes "anything new takes time".
DP: The most important thing is that I know where I want to be and what I want to be doing. Then it comes down to where I have the best option of running up front. It has to be a very competitive team.
So you think the "Danica" brand could wait a few years while sponsors wait to see if she can learn how to drive sufficiently with a loose 3500-pound stock car? Me neither.
Exhibit D: By the way, if you need more proof about "what I want to be doing" is, check this from a recent interview of Danica's with the intrepid Curt Cavin.
"From the first time that I came into IndyCar, I think (I've wanted) to win races as much as possible, to win the Indy 500, to win a championship," she said. "Those are all goals for me from the beginning, it's just that they're probably more realistic now.That seems to speak for itself.
"I can't say they're any different; it's just that they're happening."
Exhibit E: Alright, suppose if we will that Danica Patrick has decided to race stock cars in the hopes it will bring her a bazillion dollars. For which team would she drive? Sprint Cup teams are limited to four drivers, and there are no more than three or four that can actually put her in a contending ride.
Hendrick is is stocked with Johnson, Gordon, Junior, and the recently renewed contract of Mark Martin. Jack Roush has five drivers for his existing four cars. Joe Gibbs is already developing Joey Logano, so the odds of him taking on two development project seem slim. Perhaps Stewart-Haas would take her, but is a development project something Tony Stewart wants to take on in his second year as an owner?
Suffice it to say right now there isn't an obvious stock car team for Danica.
Exhibit F: Meanwhile, the IndyCar series, where she has already demonstrated to be an accomplished driver, has but two teams that can win races. Team Penske though has two cars and three drivers, and even if they were interested in starting a third team it would be awkward for Penske and his longtime sponsor. Imagine the possibility if Danica won more races than the nameless cigarette company driver did. It's unlikely, but these are the scenarios Roger Penske prepares for every waking hour, and his best preparation is to leave well enough alone.
The other team though is Target Chip Ganassi racing, and that dear friends is where things get interesting.
Exhibit G: Robin Miller says Scott Dixon is talking to Gil de Ferran about joining a new IndyCar team headed by de Ferran. Now why on earth would Dixon be looking at different teams when he has an entry that could put him in Victory Lane in any given race? Well, Chip sorta gave a reason in the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine.
No wonder team owner Chip Ganassi was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic when Dixon and wife Emma announced they were expecting their first child right around the same time as the July 12 Streets of Toronto race. "I've seen having kids slow down more guys than I've seen it speed them up," Ganassi says. "The guys at the top, the great drivers, seem to slow down."This could be posturing because Chip (or as other have called him, "Cheap") Ganassi doesn't want to pay Dixon a huge amount to drive for him. Or it could be that Chip has another more cost-effective driver in mind. Or it could be that Chip's longtime sponsor is possibly expressing an interest towards a particular driver. Or it could be all of the above, none of which seems very far fetched.
Exhibit H: As you know, My Name Is IRL has a few sources. Back in March I got an email from one of them that quoted an AGR crew member as saying Danica's people were already inquiring with Chip Ganassi. This isn't evidence of anything since it's like fourth- or fifth-handed info to you, but since that email it has been obvious that Danica and her new marketing team have been working on her, uh, display of personality. Bunnies and rainbows, to be exact. Danica's even baking cookies, which for all I know means she's trying to garner a Betty Crocker sponsorship to help pay for her racing endeavors, but if you were an IndyCar driver walking around with an unparalleled pocketful of sponsorships you'd probably be taking that money to buy the best ride you could find. And we've already determined who would be on that short list.
Exhibit I: Did anyone else notice Marco getting tense with Danica after racing each other late in the race at Texas? Yes? All of you did, right? When was the last time an Andretti got that riled up about a member of the AGR team? That would be the next to last race of '07, when Marco and Michael expressed how upset they were with Dario Franchitti...right before he signed with Chip Ganassi to drive stock cars.
And that was going to be the end of it all, until this afternoon when I found this story brought to our attention by Will of is it May yet?.
Exhibit J: From, of all places, BevNet.
On the heels of a successful Indy 500, HER Energy has partnered with Grocers Supply Company, Inc. for distribution, covering all of Indiana and four surrounding states. The new distributor supports key regions where the beverage is already found at select Target and SuperTarget stores, enhancing the brand's Midwest presence. This expands HER's availability from select Target stores in 37 states, distribution by Viking Beverages in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Albertsons in Florida and boutiques and C Stores throughout Southern California and New York.Let's see: HER is an energy drink for women sold in Target stores. This sounds like excellent news for HER drive Alex Lloyd. Oh wait, he announced he has resigned from Ganassi's team today. Well then who could possibly be in line to drive a HER car?
HER sponsored an Indy car in this year's Indy 500, qualifying on Day One and finishing the race in 13th place. "May was a great month for the brand and one of the great things to come out of it was a new partnership with Grocers Supply. We were impressed by their enthusiasm and experience, and their ability to act as both a wholesaler and distributor" noted HER CEO Brett Jacobson.
HER expects to run a full season in the Indycar series for 2010.
So based on the evidence that's what I see right now. Maybe she goes to drive stock cars, maybe she stays with AGR, or maybe she decides to take up Bassmasters fishing. The evidence points to one team that already is capable of winning, one that meshes with her lifelong training, one that would give her sponsor awareness in one of the biggest retailers across the nation, and one that gives her a very real chance at winning three or four races per year. I believe they call that "synergy".
And if I'm wrong then I'll join MIKE KING in the fortune-telling unemployment line.
UPDATE: About six hours after I posted this, Robin Miller jumped into the discussion.
INDYCAR: Danica Negotiating To Drive For Ganassi?In the immortal words of John McClain, "Welcome to the party, pal!"
Chip Ganassi loves to shock the racing world, as he did by snatching Juan Montoya out of Formula One and bringing him to NASCAR three years ago.
But Ganassi is closing in on a deal at the moment that would not only keep open wheel racing's biggest name away from the clutches of NASCAR, it would likely advance her ascention in Indy cars.
And the 'ol Chipster would be a hero in the IndyCar marketing, public relations and promotions departments.
SPEEDTV.com has learned that Ganassi is in negotiations to sign Danica Patrick for a third car on the Target team for 2010, joining Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
(MORE from SPEED)