Now in its sixth year, Danicamania continues even though the crowds around Mrs Hospenthal seem, at least upon first glance, to be dwindling a bit. Perhaps that’s due to her lack of amassing wins, or her participation in some questionable commercials, or her flirtation with the other side of American motorsports. Or maybe it’s all that and the fact that she never really got herself a good rival get people fired up.
Goodness knows IndyCar fans have tried to tie her to a rival. First there was Sarah Fisher, who Danica had some blunt words for way back when. But Sarah hasn’t had the equipment or the schedule to really give Danica a good run. Then there was Dan Wheldon, and that was a lot of fun for about a week before everyone realized Danica wasn’t going to be able to hang with Dan most weekends so long as he was in a Ganassi car. Then there was Milka and the towel, and as amusing as that was that certainly hasn't resulted in any kind of competitive rivalry.
Now it looks like many fans are hoping Simona De Silvestro will emerge as some sort of “anti-Danica” to generate a lasting storyline. I understand why they are trying to tout this would-be rivalry entirely based on gender, but to your humble host this seems as artificial as a rivalry based or nationality or car number or hair color or whatever. Sure, I’d love to see Danica and Simona battling it out because that would be great for the series, but right now it makes little sense to pit them against each other since there’s nothing either of them has said or done anything to garner the attention of the other. It makes as much sense as saying Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno are now some kind of rivals.
However, in the quest to find a rival for Danica we might have overlooked the fact that she already has one, and that rival is not a girl. (And yet, I know at least one person who refers to this particular driver as a “girl”, but that person is also a fan of Danica’s so I don’t know what to make of that. Sorry for the non sequitur.)
My point, if I can stay on it, is there is growing evidence of a rivalry with Ryan Briscoe.
In May of 2007 Ryan was hired to drive for Jay Penske’s fledgling Luczo Dragon team, prompting Danica to offer her two cents:
"I would say this to his face, so I'm not saying anything out of line, but he crashes," Patrick told the New Jersey Express-Times.Ouch! At first glance that could have been just an off-handed comment from an overly-confident driver, but a year later...
"I've seen it before, I've been a victim sometimes when he just has some brain fade."
You’ve probably seen it dozens of times, but the Danica v Briscoe stompapalooza at Indy in ’08 never really gets old. They both look so amusing – Danica marching through the pits like some miniature Terminator bobblehead while Briscoe hunkers remains frozen in his car pretending to be Invisible Boy.
But amusement aside, for many people this incident served as a reinforcement of Danica’s “brain fade” verbal smack down of Briscoe – one of whom most assuredly was Danica herself.
Before presenting the piece de resisitance it’s important to note a little history and context. “Danica Patrick” might be the most recognizable name that comes to mind when contemplating young ladies from Roscoe, Illinois, but second on that list would be “Nicole Manske”. Manske in fact was once on the same cheerleading squad as as the young Ms Patrick, and of their relationship Manske once said in 2005:
"Naturally, I'm supposed to be objective and treat all drivers equal, but I watch the speeds, and when I saw hers going 225, 226, 227, yeah, I cheer…I told her, 'Great job.' It's just really cool because she's the real deal. How can you not be proud of her? She's gone further in her career than I have in mine."Keep that quote in mind, friends, because as you’ll see Manske has definitely changed her tune now that she covers N****R for ESPN. And now that she’s married to...you guessed it, Ryan Briscoe. It’s a small world after all.
And with that we throw you to the ever exciting world of twitter this weekend, starting with SBNation’s Jeff Gluck.
Ha, @nicolembriscoe is going to get me in trouble. She wants me to comment on overhyped Danica's poor, slow qualifying effort. But I won't.You might think he’s making that all up just to start something, except that a few minutes later Manske said...
@jeff_gluck um...think you just did. You have to speak for all of us who don't have freedom of speech!Well then! Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?
Some of you might suddenly find your hair on fire at this because Manske is not just a driver’s wife but is also the host of a show that focuses on another racing series that now features Danica Patrick. And you have a great point and I hope you go ahead make it because I’m not going to do so at the risk of derailing my “rivalry” angle today. I am focused like a laser, but you can make of this what you want.
Like I said, my point is it definitely looks like Danica and Ryan have more than a little of animosity going on, although the one thing we're missing is Ryan saying something inflammatory. So far in 2010 he's looking like the third best driver on a two-car team, so fanning these flames might actually help raise his profile.
Regardless, these two certainly have more than a little history of dislike going on here, and that’s the kind of stuff where a real and lasting rivalry comes from. How this plays out on the track remains to be seen since Ryan and Danica haven’t exactly been racing near each other this year, but it’s something to keep an eye on because the Danica v Briscoe lack-of-love-fest has already outlasted Danica’s other contrived rivalries.
(Thanks to Jerry Wilson for recently bringing this to our attention.)