Saturday, June 29, 2013

Danica Patrick headed to Ford?

As we get ready for tonight’s Quaker State 400 at 7:30 p.m. seen on TNT with radio on PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.  The Sprint Cup gang is at Kentucky Speedway located in the small town of Sparta and there are should be some great racing.

There is however some rumblings concerning one of NASCAR’s most marketable stars.
Let’s begin with Danica Patrick and her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse. Last week Danica made headlines by driving a Ford Fusion into the driver parking lot at Sonoma Raceway last Sunday. She was doing it because Stenhouse was getting a ride with a crew member and she was driving the car for him so it would be there after the race.

It looked innocent but make no mistake about Ford would love to have Danica driving for them. This is less about driving and far more about selling cars. The marketing team at Ford Racing feels that Danica could sell a lot of cars. She is far and away on the sports worlds best salespersons and they see her moving cars from the hybrid Focus to the high powered Mustang.

Right now she is a member of the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team but she has not had any real success. It is a fine team with solid funding and about 200 employees as part of their stable. In 2014 they have plans to add another car driven by Kevin Harvick.Despite that move SHR still is not one of the sports "super teams."  

They need Danica to pull her weight as a driver and thus far that simply has not happened. That has put a drain on SHR in 2013.

Her best finish in 16 Cup races so far was an eighth in the Daytona 500, where she started on the pole and made history by doing so. In those 16 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series she is ranked in the 27th spot.

Danica could be available to Ford as early as 2014 because SHR is only committed to her for the 2013 season and her GoDaddy sponsorship will follow her anywhere. Her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse  drives for  Roush Fenway Racing a promotion machine with tons of assistance from Ford Motor Company.

The marketing executives at Ford can't quite understand why Danica has not been a national spokesperson for Chevy. But old saying "win on Sunday and sale on Monday," is something that Ford thinks Danica can do even if she can't win.

Ford could also pair Danica and Ricky together as a driver team in some of their high profile Grand Am Races  like the 24 Hours of Daytona. The duo could drive either a Ford proto-type or a Mustang in selected series races..  

Look to Ford to make a strong play for Patrick at the end of the season. Their pitch is simple, they can take care of Danica from now till long after she choices to give up racing. We will see if the pitch works and if she makes the jump.

Meanwhile, tonight this could be a big night for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. his team has been poised for a couple of weeks to make a big move. He set a track record in qualifying 183.636 mph, outdoing Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.

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