In the world of race car driving there is simply no way to get around it, no other female driver in the world could hold a candle to Danica Patrick when it comes to fame. Just try to come up with 10 female drivers from the top of your head who you think would have a chance of currently being more popular than Patrick. There are none, and she is a woman who seems to be completely fine with her stance in the racing world. After all, it is not always that you get to go down in the record books as the first woman to do pretty much everything in your sport.
Among her many accolades, Patrick is the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race, the first woman to lead a Cup Series race under green, and she was named the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series' most popular driver. Of course, the only win of her career came in that IndyCar Series race, but she also tallied 14 NASCAR top 10 finishes. That is not an easy thing to do.
However, just like she is a pioneer in the world of female racecar driving, she is also someone who is not strange to controversy. There is a hardly a year that goes by without us hearing some kind of discussion about Danica Patrick. And to give you a good idea of just how serious some of these controversies might be, we put together a list of the top 15 things NASCAR wanted to forget about Danica Patrick.
15 The Go Daddy Commercials
Sponsorships are a vital part of every single sport in the world. Where do you think most of the money soccer teams use to buy players comes from? Where do you think NFL and NBA teams get enough cash to pay the millions and millions of dollars they give their players?
Literally, all sports depend on sponsorships to survive. Still, few sports have as close a relationship with their sponsors as NASCAR and other racing promotions do. To put together a car that can be competitive at this level takes a lot of money, and just a look at those cars can give you an idea of how many sponsors it takes to make that happen.
But more than that, athletes have their own personal sponsors, and something NASCAR might want you to forget are the incredibly inappropriate Go Daddy commercials Patrick appeared in.
14 More Bad Sponsorship
Go Daddy was one kind of sponsorship that undoubtedly helped Danica Patrick reap a lot of benefits for her racing career. There are, however, other sponsorships this racing star signed that might not have been all that sincere. By that we mean that in the fitness-centric world we live in today, there are a lot of products that famous athletes talk about in exchange for some cash that might not really portray their honest opinion.
One great example of that was when Patrick became the cover girl for a nutritious supplement named Strong Girl. Don’t be mistaken, since she entered her fitness phase, Patrick has become quite the ripped figure. But judging for how little her advertisement gig with stronger lasted, it might not have been a product she used herself.
13 The Denny Hamlin Incident
If you have driven a car at any point of your life, there is a 100 percent chance that you have gotten pissed off at somebody in traffic. Now just imagine the same kind of stuff happening while you’re driving at 200 miles an hour. That is the kind of stuff that happens during NASCAR races.
It is mind-boggling that people could be bad drivers on an oval circuit, but it does happen. And Danica Patrick is someone who has suffered a few times because of bad decisions from other drivers. That was the case when she claimed Denny Hamlin touched her rear end during a race and made her spin out. What NASCAR might not want to remember about that is how she confronted him afterward in what seemed like a very WWE-esque staged confrontation.
12 More Sponsorship Trouble
We talked about how important sponsorships are to sports and athletes, but one thing we didn’t mention is how hard it is to keep good sponsorships around. Just think about it, for every single up-and-coming young athlete looking for a slice of the sponsorship pie, there are at least a dozen more gunning for the same spot. For Danica Patrick, that was no different.
A great example we could find was when she lost one of the first sponsorships of her career, when she was signed to become the face of the deodorant company, Secret. Unfortunately for Patrick, the deal did not last long as after just one year she was let go by the company and replaced by Rihanna. We guess that is at least better than being replaced by another race car driver.
11 Instagram Controversy
Before we even start talking about this latest Danica Patrick Instagram incident, we warn you that the picture in question is absolutely one NASCAR does not want you to remember and a lot of people would take great offense to it. However, there are also those people who will see no problem with somebody posting a picture like this:
What we are talking about is that at the end of July, Danica Patrick decided it was a good idea to wish her colleague, Kyle Larson, a happy birthday by posting a picture of his little son urinating on a set of NASCAR tires. That is literally the kind of stuff that would get a politician accused of distributing child pornography. But hey, while we think it is not a morally acceptable thing to post a picture of somebody else’s son like this, it is up to you to decide what side you take on the issue.
10 The Bakery Lawsuit
Another recent incident involving Danica Patrick and sponsorships brought up a few interesting questions to NASCAR teams and the promotion itself. When you look at every single NASCAR car, you can just imagine how many sponsors each of them has. And then comes up the question: where is the line drawn to what can and can’t you promote? Nature’s Bakery gave a solid reason when they tried to terminate their sponsorship deal with Patrick, claiming that she was breaching their contract by promoting competing products. The problem was that race car on her Instagram, and, as fate would have it, Nature’s Bakery liked the posts on the social media.
Yeah, this lawsuit was a circus, but the question is still valid. Should drivers be allowed to promote competing products?
9 Unfair Advantage?
Okay, bear with us for this one because this might get a little controversial. The validity of this entry might depend a lot on your opinion. Mostly, that is because this was an allegation made all the way back when Patrick still raced Indy cars. Still, this little fact about Patrick might cause controversy for NASCAR fans to this day.
It is no surprise to anyone that aerodynamics, weight, engine power and a barrage of different factors can give a driver or a car an edge in a race. This was a big deal when Nextel Cup series’s Robby Gordon claimed that because she was lighter than all of the other competitors, Patrick had an unfair advantage during races. What do you think? At the time she weighed almost 70 pounds less than a lot of the other drivers. Fair or unfair?
8 Is This Still Okay?
Do you know what the one thing all racing competitions have in common is? After all is said and done, the organizers, drivers, engineers, literally everyone involved, usually reminds the fans that those are professionals speeding on the track. Telling regular folks not try to do this stuff on the streets. That is an effort to reduce traffic accidents caused by people who would do love to think that they are as good as the individuals driving professionally.
That is a valid point, right? The more we can reduce accidents, the more we can make our streets safer and keep people away from hospitals and cemeteries. So what is the point in having one of the most popular drivers in the world doing an ad in which she is speeding on a highway and then trying to get away from a ticket?
7 Another Fight
If you have followed Patrick’s career since her Indy days, you probably have a good sense that she is someone who is not afraid of confrontation. She is the equivalent of that person who, as soon as they are cut off in traffic, gets out of their car and drops everything to start arguing with the individual who wronged them. And while in some places doing that could probably get you killed, in Indy racing and NASCAR, it is a great way of providing fans with more entertainment.
And perhaps the most entertaining of those exchanges involving Patrick happened back in her Indy days; most specifically when she went to complain to Milka Duno that she was too slow on the track. It ended up with Duno smashing Patrick in the face with a towel, in what became a legendary racing argument.
6 The Bodybuilder Commercial
Go Daddy has some of the most entertaining commercials out there. A lot of the stuff Danica Patrick used to do for them might’ve been a bit iffy when it comes to moral standards, but they were entertaining nonetheless. From painting domain names on a naked supermodel’s body to taking her fifth shower in a single day, she has done almost anything for Go Daddy.
However, most of those commercials were entertaining. None of them was all that weird. But soon enough they came up with one commercial that looked disturbing. That was the bodybuilder run commercial, in which Patrick appeared to have put on 100 pounds of pure muscle in a blink of an eye. It turns out it was actually a bodysuit that made her look stronger, but somehow it just looked… Wrong, you know?
5 How Not to Answer the Boos
At some point in the life of any athlete who competes at a high level, they will get booed. That is just a fact. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you are human, and if you are human at some point you are gonna mess up. When that messing up happens, you can be certain that the crowd will not forgive you, because that’s just how people work. Most athletes disregard boos. Some try to explain why something went wrong. And then we have Danica Patrick.
Not too long ago at the Pocono 400, the security team denied some fans who wanted Danica’s autograph. Of course, those fans started booing, and once she heard the boos, Patrick went to talk to the fans. She did make solid points and even won one guy over, but that is definitely something NASCAR does not want their drivers to do. This is the kind of situation that had the potential to go terribly wrong.
4 The Puppy Problem
Advertisement is something vital for sports that are not soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, or football. Unlike those five, other sports need to go out of their way to bring more fans instead of letting them come by organically. And that’s why NASCAR always banks on their stars appearing in places like Super Bowl ads to promote the brand.
That was why they were looking forward to when Danica Patrick was set to appear in yet another Super Bowl ad a few years back. They went from hopeful to pissed off when the ad was removed from the Super Bowl rotation because it was not “politically correct” as it portrayed dogs being sold instead of being adopted. That would not have been that bad if it wasn’t for the way Patrick reacted to the ban:
“I don’t think anything in this culture surprises me anymore…when you get into that world of animal rights, tree rights or whatever rights. They all have an opinion.”
Yeah, that is not the kind of attitude that will get more fans to watch NASCAR.
3 Fighting with Her Boss
This is yet another incident that happened during Danica Patrick’s IndyCar racing days but shows a part of her personality that might still influence her status at NASCAR and maybe even her professional relationships. Again, we are bringing up the fact that she might be a bit too confrontational when it comes to other drivers. Well, in this particular occurrence the other driver was also her boss, Marco Andretti.
It happened back in 2009 when Andretti seemed upset that his female star only managed a sixth-place finish in a race that he finished fourth. Either way, the discussion escalated, and since it all happened in public, rumors were flying around about how their professional relationship was going sour. Both of them denied it, but just a couple years later she finally left the team to join NASCAR.
2 The Leak
One thing that seems pretty much impossible for celebrities these days is to go their entire career without having some kind of private information about them leaked on the Internet. But while some celebrities have even had criminal activities being discovered because of leaks, most have just had to deal with the embarrassment of having their private pictures posted on the web.
Like many other female celebrities, Danica Patrick was one of the several victims of a giant hack that invaded the privacy of countless celebrities and released their most private pictures into the world. She certainly didn’t get hit as bad as some other celebrities who had pretty hard-core pictures on their phones, but Danica still had to deal with the fact that a lot of fans around the world got a chance to see her twins because of some hacker.
1 Girl Power
Say what you say about NASCAR, but these guys certainly gave Danica Patrick the perfect opportunity to show the world how women can be big time drivers competing against some of the best racers in the world. That might be one of the few reasons of why this particular picture from an early photo shoot in Danica’s career might not be the kind of image they would want people to link their All-Star female driver with.
In a lot of ways, Danica has become the face of women empowerment in the world of race car driving. What could possibly be the reasoning behind trying to portray her in a way that puts more emphasis on her sex appeal rather than her skills inside a race car?