Originally written on Awful Announcing  |  Last updated 9/9/14

LEEDS, AL - FEBRUARY 23: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been desaturated.) Danica Patrick driver of the #7 Go Daddy.com Andretti Auosport Honda Dallara poses for a portrait during the IRL Indy Car Series Media Day at Barber Motorsports Park on February 23, 2009 in Leeds, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The Daytona 500 takes place today and the racing world is in a frenzy with Danica Patrick starting The Great American Race from pole position.  Patrick is of course the first female driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole, continuing a career of trailblazing and breaking down barriers that began in IndyCar.  With Patrick making the move from IndyCar racing to NASCAR, her story (and celebrity) is being brought to a wider fanbase.  Dare I say it (and with apologies to Tim Tebow), today's Daytona 500 represents new heights for DanicaMania, even compared to when she was leading the Indy 500 once upon a time. Patrick has been everywhere this week from SportsCenter to the Today Show and countless stops in between.  She was certainly a star in the IndyCar world and has been a crossover celebrity (think Maxim, GoDaddy and more) for some time, but being in NASCAR has only increased her profile.  Let's face the facts, Danica Patrick was perhaps the last attention grabbing element open wheel racing had left... if you don't count Helio Castroneves' Dancing With the Stars appearances that is.  NASCAR has long since lapped open wheel racing several times over in the battle for American racing supremacy and Danica needed to make the switch to continue to grow her own brand and compete in the nation's number one racing series. Today's Daytona 500 doesn't just represent an opportunity for Danica Patrick though, it also represents a huge opportunity for NASCAR.  Patrick's success on the track at Daytona is happening at just the right time for a sport that badly needs to be reinvigorated and reach a new audience once again. NASCAR has suffered from flagging ratings for the last several years after an enormous rise in popularity at the turn of the millenium.  Last season NASCAR posted its worst viewership numbers since the sport signed its current television deals with Fox, ESPN, and Turner in 2007.  Only once since 2005 has the sport drawn a year to year viewership increase.  Once.  NASCAR has lost more than a quarter of its audience since 2006.  It was that year the Daytona 500 drew its highest rating ever - an 11.3 rating for Jimmie Johnson's victory.  The last three years, Daytona 500 overnights have averaged a 7.6, more than a 30% decrease. Can Patrick draw a ratings increase?  It's impossible to quantify what effect she alone can bring to NASCAR's ratings.  The conversation around today's race though hasn't been higher for a decade, though.  Of course, with Patrick comes a double edged sword.  She receives so much media attention and hype it often turns off more hardcore racing fans while networks seek to draw in casual ones.  "Danica fatigue" has even been discussed in the latter portions of this week as the race approaches today.  Sure there are even those that consider Patrick the "Anna Kournikova of racing" but that's not fair to either athlete.  Kournikova had a moderate amount of success on the tennis court and Patrick already has one IndyCar victory to her name and a promising NASCAR career ahead of her. Despite grumbles from dedicated race fans upset with Patrick overshadowing the sport and the other 42 drivers, NASCAR badly needs a jump start in the ratings.  But it will only happen if Patrick can contend on the racetrack.  That crossover audience isn't going to tune in to watch Danica go through the motions several laps down.  She needs to be at the front of the field. For too long, the sport has been dormant.  Whether that be the tinkering with the rules, Jimmie Johnson's run of dominance, or a lack of drivers that can connect with fans, or even race start times the reasons are many for NASCAR's decline on television.  Last year's champ Brad Keselowski is great for the sport, but he can't do what Danica Patrick does in breaking through with fans.  Nobody in the racing world can.  Danica Patrick can provide the boost NASCAR needs to turn around their flagging viewership and decreasing ratings.  If she contends throughout the race today and is a threat to win, you will see a significant increase in viewership versus the last several Daytona races.  If she remains a contender, or at the very least a story throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, she still has the capability to bring new fans to the sport at a time when NASCAR needs them most. The key for Fox today will be balancing their coverage of the Daytona 500 to draw in those casual fans watching for Patrick while also not alienating the faithful NASCAR following.  If Fox and NASCAR's other television partners can find that right tone throughout the season and appeal to new fans through Patrick while serving NASCAR's core audience, the sport may finally be able to turn back in the right direction in ratings once again.

NFLPA responds to denial of Adrian Peterson’s appeal

Donte Whitner calls Johnny Manziel ‘nightmare’ to practice against

Adrian Peterson appeal denied

Raiders had to study game tape to learn celebrating techniques

The NBA is considering shortening the preseason

More key evidence thrown out in Aaron Hernandez trial


Reports: Bruins 'front runners' to host 2016 NHL Winter Classic

Carmelo: Waiving no-trade clause would make me weak

Report: Patriots doctor altered report to recoup player's bonus

Josh Gordon maintains effort no matter the quarterback

Darren Sharper indicted on rape charges

Tom Brady: LeBron could play forever if he trained like me

Yoenis Cespedes’ value lies solely in his name

Report: 2016 Winter Classic will be held in Boston

Four transactions that slipped through the cracks

Why the NFC South winner will really be a loser

Buckingham Palace absolves LeBron of breaching ‘royal protocol’

Sugar Bowl ticket prices up 213% since OSU’s last appearance

Winners and losers of 2014 MLB Winter Meetings

The Knicks show why not rebuilding is even more painful

Tim Tebow to make broadcast booth debut at Peach Bowl

Bruce Arians had an awesome postgame conference

Urban Meyer's wife has hair catch on fire blowing out candles

Game of the week: 49ers vs. Seahawks

Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Adrian Peterson appeal denied

Winners and losers of the Winter Meetings

Key evidence tossed in Hernandez trial

Game of the week: 49ers vs. Seahawks

Olivia Munn talks sex life, Rodgers

Sharper indicted on rape charges

Man steals $1.5M in LeBron sneakers?

10 MLB Winter Meetings takeaways

The best sports media feuds of 2014

Jeter advises on how to avoid bad press

Video surfaces of Kobe's practice tirade

Tigers GM: Team not pursuing Scherzer

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.