Who is the face of IndyCar racing?

IndyCar Series (color).jpg There was a time when no one would ask the question “Who is the face of IndyCar racing?”

There was A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Al Unser (Senior and Junior), Bobby Unser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, and Michael Andretti.  I’ve probably left out a few but that’s one hell of a list.

I’m a little biased about that list as I know each and everyone of those men from my days of broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 on radio and working CART events around the world for many years, but you can’t deny their star power and driving credentials.

Now, few if any of the current crop of drivers in IndyCar come anywhere near that stature and public awareness.

Courtesy Michael Levitt The most visible and well known and could claim the title was/is Helio Castroneves, especially after becoming a national phenom by claiming victory in “Dancing with the Stars.”  That in itself says something as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 should have a high public profile just from that fact. Unfortunately, because of his current legal problems, Helio is on the sidelines indefinitely.DixonScott-1696

I love current series champion and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, but let’s be honest.  Scott doesn’t have that high of a profile in the general public or even the casual race fan.

WheldonDan-6283 Dan Wheldon has the glamour going and is a great interview, but again, does the general public know who he is?  I bet other than hard core open-wheel fans, ask someone who Dan Wheldon is and you probably get a blank stare.

I could also add-in my old friends Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Buddy Rice.  Two of those are former Indy 500 winners, in case you forgot.

AndrettiMarco-6848 Marco Andretti has to be the face of IndyCar right?  Wrong.  Marco has the Andretti name but so far has none of the accomplishments on the race track to back it up.  His one moment in the spotlight is when Sam Hornish, Jr. passed him coming to the checkered flag to take an Indianapolis 500 victory away from another Andretti family member.  Outside of that, nada.

PatrickDanica-4635 So, here is the person I feel is the “Face of IndyCar Racing” Danica Patrick.

Yes, Danica, who has one victory in her illustrious IndyCar career which came on fuel mileage and very seldom competes for victory while driving for arguably the best team in the series, is the persona of IndyCar racing.

This irks me to no end, especially in light of her being more famous for her Go Daddy commercials than anything she’s ever done on the track, but it’s the truth.  Just check out what Versus, the new TV partner of IndyCar is promoting in it’s pre-season programming.

Danica: Five Years Running will include highlights of Danica Patrick’s career, including her 2008 IndyCar Series victory, and her thoughts on the upcoming season.

Danica-SI swimsuit Five years, one win, very seldom in contention, terrible on road courses (which is suppose to be her strength) and shows off her body more than her driving skills.  Not one other driver in IndyCar currently has a pre-season show completely dedicated to them, which reinforces my point.

I know I’m being labeled right now as a “Danica hater” but facts don’t lie. When you are given the equipment and expertise that Andretti Green Racing gives her every race weekend, the results should be better.  Maybe it will finally happen this year.  I doubt it.

So, until a racing superstar is born that actually captures the imagination of race fans like Kyle Busch does in Nascar (this is for actually winning races and pissing off a lot of fans at the same time) Danica Patrick, IndyCar is yours to rule as its poster girl.

(IndyCar driver photos courtesy Michael Levitt)

(Danica Patrick swimsuit photo courtesy Randal Grant/SI)

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4 Comments

  1. Would you rather have Milka Duno?

  2. Perhaps she gets more press than her on-track performance should dictate, but the press is responsible for that, not her. The IRL and the other drivers seem to be willing to sit back and let it happen, hoping some of it rubs off on them. If she takes advantage of that to promote herself, her sponsors, and the IRL all the more power to her.

    And you illustrate the point perfectly – you gave one paragraph to everyone else, and seven to Danica.

  3. You talk about capturing the imagination of fans for actually winning races and use that to knock Danica, but hell, the guys who do WIN RACES aren’t capturing the imagination of fans, even the American drivers (see Sam Hornish Jr in the IRL).

    On the flipside of that, she DID capture the imagination of fans in 2005 throughout the month of May at Indy and that hasn’t stopped, regardless of whether she gets a top 5, makes a mistake that costs her a top 5 or just generally has a bad race, people always talk about her (who normally would never talk about IndyCar anyway)…..how can that be a bad thing?

  4. Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

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