By Jared Turner
The recent announcement that GoDaddy won’t return as Danica Patrick’s primary sponsor next season is a blow for the driver, her Stewart-Haas Racing team and NASCAR as a whole.
Despite her relative lack of on-track success, Patrick is one of the sport’s most popular and marketable drivers. A veteran of Super Bowl ads who has appeared multiple times in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, Patrick has appeal that goes far beyond the sport.
In fact, it’s safe to say that with the exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and perhaps Jeff Gordon, there’s not another driver who is more recognized outside NASCAR than Danica – the Sprint Cup Series’ only female driver.
So should Danica lose sleep over the possibility that there might not be a primary sponsor willing to shell out the 20 or so million dollars required to carry her car next season?
Before we answer this question, it merits saying that the absence of a primary sponsor would force her to explore opportunities with other teams, and could perhaps – gasp – even mean the end of her Sprint Cup Series career after just three full seasons.
NASCAR, of course, needs Danica more than Danica needs NASCAR. So is it downright absurd to think that, even in today’s less-than-ideal economy, such a household name might be forced to quit or join another team due to lack of sponsorship?
The short answer: Such a scenario is highly unlikely.
But is it possible? Yes, but only under one condition.
If Danica, who already has two top-10 finishes in the season’s first 10 races, continues to show signs of progress and consistently demonstrate more speed, a sponsor will announce in the not-too-distant future plans to join her at Stewart-Haas Racing next season.
But if she flounders over the next 10 or so races, and fails to make a positive impression on the track, convincing a sponsor to come on board is going be exponentially more difficult.
So, the bottom line is this: To be assured of primary sponsorship next year and for years to come, Danica simply needs to perform.
A pretty face and engaging personality simply aren’t enough anymore.