SBD/August 10, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Danica's Likely Departure Will Impact IndyCar, But Will It Be That Big A Loss?

Patrick's departure could lead Andretti Autosport to drop a team
The Izod IndyCar Series “could soon experience financial setbacks" if Danica Patrick "changes racing series,” according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Patrick reportedly may run a full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule in '12, returning to IndyCar solely for the Indianapolis 500. When knee surgery knocked Tiger Woods "out of the second half of the 2008 golf season, the sport lost about half of its audience.” IndyCar, which “struggles for TV ratings, can't afford a similar drop when/if Patrick leaves.” Andretti Autosport Owner Michael Andretti last weekend said that the "loss of sponsorship associated with Patrick, coupled with the new equipment IndyCar teams have to buy for next season, likely will cut his program from four cars to three.” Cavin noted Patrick is open-wheel racing's “only household name, and several sponsorships are tied to her.” But some “argue that losing Patrick might not hurt IndyCar as much as feared,” as it “would allow other drivers to step into the spotlight.” Just Marketing Int’l Founder & CEO Zak Brown “believes Patrick's ability to help IndyCar peaked a couple of years ago.” Brown: "She's not drawing in new fans like she was three years ago." Cavin noted TV ratings “for most sports have dropped significantly in the past five years, making it difficult to gauge Patrick's impact coming or going.” IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard “wants to keep Patrick but said it's more important to the series" if her longtime sponsor GoDaddy.com “stays in some form” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/9).

MIXED REACTION: SI.com’s Bruce Martin noted IndyCar drivers and execs “have mixed thoughts” about how Patrick leaving would impact the series. IndyCar in some ways “may actually benefit if Patrick leaves because many of its top drivers and great storylines have been overshadowed by her presence.” With just one career IndyCar win, Patrick's “actual accomplishments ... fall considerably short of her level of fame.” Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said, "Danica means a great deal because she draws the spotlight and she is clearly the most popular driver in IndyCar racing so she is vitally important to IndyCars. But I can tell you we had the first race after her big breakthrough at Indy in 2005 and we didn't see ticket sales improve. One driver doesn't sell tickets; it takes all of them.” Driver Scott Dixon said, “I don't think it's a devastating blow but it is somewhat of a setback. Straight up, if the series had the option of her staying or going, they would want her to stay. I definitely wouldn't say it is a good thing.” Former driver Mario Andretti: "She is going to be missed, but if the series depended on one individual the series would be in trouble.” Bernard contends that IndyCar “will continue to grow with or without Patrick.” Bernard: "If you look at Michael Jordan -- the greatest of the greats -- it didn't bring the NBA down when he left. But the difference is a person like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan was winning every single week. Danica's exposure has been built by GoDaddy ... but she has won one race. We need to remember (that is) what made Danica” (SI.com, 8/9).
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