Blog: 'Danicamania' hits Phoenix in November
By Paul Corliss
In the last year NASCAR has made several changes to help cultivate a new generation of stock car enthusiasts – implementing double-file restarts, placing a rear spoiler back on its Sprint Cup car and allowing drivers more leeway in both on- and off-track disputes (the so-called “boys have at it” principle). And while these changes have been well-received, their impact on bringing new bodies to Phoenix International Raceway may pale in comparison to the stock car debut of Danica Patrick in the Valley of the Sun.
Patrick, the long-time IndyCar driver who makes her home in the Phoenix area, will race at PIR on Nov. 13 in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. This weekend in Loudon, New Hampshire – after running eight consecutive IndyCar events – Patrick will compete in a stock car.
Jason Remmilard of The Republican in Massachusetts reported on “Danicamania” in New England this week: “Never before have ticket sales for a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway been this good.”
It seems safe to assume – especially considering her local ties – that Patrick’s presence at PIR could cause similar excitement from race fans old and new. And Patrick says she’s eager to race a stock car in her hometown.
“I look forward to going back to Phoenix – it's a place I thought was cool in an IndyCar,” she said. “It will be nice to sleep in my own bed. I'm excited for that. I think Phoenix is a great track. I think it's challenging, and I'm sure it will be even more challenging in a stock car with less grip.”
Despite all the excitement from fans, Patrick’s first three starts in a Nationwide Series car have been mediocre at best. In February, Patrick finished 35th at Daytona, 31st at Fontana and 36th at Las Vegas.
For her part, Patrick says the slow starts are part of a learning curve as she looks to manage expectations in the short term with an eye toward eventually holding a full-time ride in NASCAR.
“I didn't really set any expectation levels in the first few races that I did … and I think it would have paid off to do that – even in qualifying – set some expectation levels,” Patrick said. “So that takes some learning. To say, hey, look, qualifying in the top 20 and maybe finishing in the top 15 … that would be great.”
While she’s doing her best to manage on-track expectations, it seems there’s no way to control the fan hysteria surrounding Patrick’s move to America’s most popular auto racing scene. “Danicamania” has already taken off this weekend in New Hampshire and promises to blast off similarly in Phoenix this fall.
“I feel lucky that I have so many fans and I feel lucky that people follow me,” Patrick said. “I heard that ticket sales were up 30 percent or something like that at Loudon for the Nationwide race. I know that the ratings were up in the races I was in at the start of the year. That's great.”
Great for putting new bodies in grandstands and great for bringing new eyeballs to race broadcasts on TV. Great for NASCAR and perhaps great for Phoenix.
Related PIR News
Kevin Harvick did something Sunday that no driver had ever done in the 52-year history of Phoenix International Raceway. The 39-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif. scored a victory in his fourth consecutive race in the same professional series at the legendary one-mile oval in the Arizona desert, leading 224 of 312 laps to win the CampingWorld.com 500.
Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano put on a dominating display at Phoenix International Raceway in Saturday’s AXALTA Faster. Tougher. Brighter 200, the fourth race of 2015 in the NASCAR XFINITY series.
Ruben Pardo earned his first NASCAR Mexico Series win at Phoenix International Raceway in the Toyota 120 on Friday. After starting on the pole, Pardo fell as low as 12th but fought back to the front in the late stages.
Pop music sensation Tori Kelly will perform the national anthem prior to the start of the CampingWorld.com 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 15, highlighting the pre-race festivities. Kelly’s performance will be included in the live national television broadcast of the race on FOX at 12:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. Eastern).
Phoenix International Raceway is encouraging fans to prepare for race day traffic by arriving early and enjoying the full NASCAR experience during the CampingWorld.com 500 event weekend, March 13-15. In addition to the CampingWorld.com 500 on Sunday, March 15 at 12:30 p.m. PST, the race weekend at PIR will include the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday, March 14 at 1 p.m. PST and the Toyota 120 NASCAR Mexico Series race on Friday, March 13 at 7 p.m. PST.