I loathe NASCAR. From it’s “good old boy” personas, corporate sponsors, vehicles that don’t look anything like a factory-prepared car should be, etc. the racing series born and bred in North Carolina is my personal version of automotive hell.
My consistent voicing of this opinion sets me at odds with a lot of my peers; I own a race car, I love the smell of race gas and burnt rubber and use any excuse possible to test the limits of my internal combustion machinery. So why not NASCAR? In addition to the aforementioned reasons, it’s boring. 40+ white guys named Clint and Darrell turning left for 500 laps? Can’t we have a Jenny, a Rayvon and some damn right turns already?
When Danica Patrick joined the racing series, I saw a glint of hope. Maybe a female racer would be the impetus for change, whether to pull back to its grassroots feeling or bring about a newer, more diverse class of racers and spectators. Could she help get the rootin’ tootin’, Confederate flag-waving sentiments out of “stock car racing”? I knew that like any endeavor, a win (or several) would be the only manner of proverbial superglue for the NASCAR elites to shut up and take notice.
For four years, there has been no win. No top 5, 10 or 15 finishes. She crashes more often than she finishes in the top half of a 40 car pack. By all modes of interpretation, she has met the low expectations of racing veterans and spectators. Which brings me to the King, Richard Petty. For all of his belligerence, rampant sexism and unwillingness to a say a kind word about Ms. Patrick, we may have something in common: Neither the King nor I think a crash or last place finish will change any of her sponsorship deals. Both of us know why Danica continues to race in a sport where she continues to be beaten badly, week in and week out:
She brings the idea of change; the 5’2″ 100 lb woman who can handle 800 horsepower and 200 miles per hour. That’s inspiring. In spite of her size, not because of it. Her outspoken manners with the press continue to garner write-ups across mediums; not because of her gender, but because of the ways her gender is too often portrayed.
The King keeps saying that she’s not a winner, and her racing record can’t argue that opinion. I say that her ability to stay in the driver’s seat, providing a positive female role model to countless boys and girls, has already proven her character and ability to win.