Aside from the cars going really fast on four wheels, with about three-quarters of the laps being relatively dull, NASCAR and IndyCar have about as much in common as the Rock and Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, the two racing leagues might lose marquee drivers to each other.
IndyCar's Danica Patrick and NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. are rumored to have thoughts about switching leagues. Patrick, the only woman to win an IndyCar race, and Earnhardt, who is NASCAR royalty, haven't done much to dispel those rumors.
Earnhardt recently said, "I'd love to drive [an IndyCar], to go to the track and put some laps in." He also said driving in the Indy 500 "definitely interests me." Patrick was given a tour of Stewart-Haas Racing and met some members of that NASCAR team. Her IndyCar contract expires after the last race of the season, October 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In fact, NASCAR's season also ends in Homestead about a month later. So the two drivers who shared the spotlight in Jay-Z's "Show Me What You Got" video may just finish their current careers at the same racetrack. And Riptide says go for it.
While both drivers have earned Paris Hilton-like money in their careers, Patrick and Earnhardt could benefit from a change.
Starting with Earnhardt, a change for him could reinvigorate a slumping career. He hasn't won a season race since June 2008 and he has only won three races since 2005. Currently in his worst season since his rookie year in 1999, Earnhardt is ranked 22nd in the standings.
Earnhardt races under colossal expectations. Imagine if Michael Jordan's son was drafted by the Bulls and told to win seven championships by averaging 30 points a night. And when he didn't do it, fans would be disappointed. That's the reality of being the Intimidator's son.
Switching to IndyCar would shake off some of the burden of living up to Dale Sr.'s legacy. The switch might be difficult at first, but at least it's not like jumping from basketball to baseball like with Jordan. Great driving wins races in NASCAR and IndyCar, but a killer jumpshot is worthless on a baseball diamond.
As for Patrick, she is currently having her best IndyCar season. Beginning in 2005, Patrick has improved each season by finishing 12th, 9th, 7th, 6th, and is now 5th in the current standings, but the wins just aren't coming. Even though she has finished in the top-10 in more than half of her races, she has only won a grand total of one race in 75 tries.
Being a woman in a man's sport certainly adds pressure, but Patrick has used it to her advantage. Regularly named in FHM's 100 sexiest women of the world, Patrick was even voted "sexiest athlete" by Victoria's Secret. She's always doing some late night talk show or Godaddy commercial or posing for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition.
But if she rarely wins, will the luster ever wear off? It never did with Anna Kournikova, who's name still lights up Google searches. But in the end, Kournikova will always be remembered as a hottie who never won a tennis tournament, but parlayed the exposure to a multimillion dollar modeling career.
Patrick has too much talent to just be a pretty face but for whatever reason, she's not winning IndyCar races. A switch to NASCAR would force her to work that much harder to learn the nuances and maybe a few wins would come out of it. And the only thing more male than NASCAR is waiting two days to call after getting a girl's phone number to avoid coming across as desperate or overly interested.
NASCAR is the ultimate boys club, and Patrick has the opportunity to break down another barrier and be another first in motorsports. She'll face a multitude of critics and history won't be on her side (there have been 14 female NASCAR drivers and none have ever won a race). But how hard can four left turns be on an oval track?
New opportunities await Patrick and Earnhardt and they should go for it because of the huge publicity and chance to shake up their cold streaks. The pavement may look a little blacker on the other side for Patrick and Earnhardt, but that's the power of a clean slate and fresh start.
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