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Let there be a Danica dynasty

OPINION

  • Danica Patrick slaps hands with fans as she is introduced prior to the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Danica Patrick slaps hands with fans as she is introduced prior to the Daytona… (MCT )
February 25, 2013|By Alex Quigley, @alexquigley | For RedEye

Yes, I'm going to talk NASCAR while the Blackhawks are in the middle of Operation Destroy Everyone. After Sunday's Daytona 500 and the reactions I saw on social media, it was an easy call.

TV ratings were up 30 percent from last year, and it was the most-watched Daytona since 2006. Could some of that bump be attributed to morbid curiosity after Saturday's horrible debris-explosion crash? Sure. But most were tuning in for Danica Patrick. And for her detractors, the extra press and attention paid to her only intensifies The Hate.

"She hasn't won a race!" "She's just an attention whore trying to make money!" "She's getting the attention only because she's a woman!" All three exclamations are dumb.

She had the fastest qualifying time of any human being at Daytona and spent almost the entire race in the Top 10. And keep in mind that she's been racing in the Sprint Cup series for only a handful of races; 2013 is her rookie season, points-wise. She ranks seventh in points through one race, which is better than pretty much every human being in America right now. She's a world-class driver and she's really just getting started.

Criticizing the Roscoe, Ill., native for exploiting her looks and notoriety for financial gain is hypocritical at best, insane at worst. She competes in a sport financed by mobile billboards! Jimmie Johnson would happily charge you $25,000 for two square inches of space under the right rear fender. Kevin Harvick's sales team can get your name up his inseam for only $10,000. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't get out of bed at a commercial shoot for less than $100,000. Make that money, Danica. Make all that you can.

And that attention she gets? It's a double-edged sword, providing extra pressure that almost none of her male counterparts feels. After the race, did sixth-place Greg Biffle or 33rd-place Carl Edwards have to give a five-minute interview detailing their losses? Nope, but Danica had to before her post-race Coke Zero was opened.

Here's hoping she wins soon, and wins often. Then NASCAR haters will have to change their target to someone like Jeff Gordon. Because seriously, screw that guy.

RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio.

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