Athletes: Stick to what you know

Randy Ziemnik

As an avid sports fan, nothing bothers me more than athletes who try to do things they’re simply not good at. Case in point: Michael Jordan playing baseball, Shaquille O’Neal acting, Charles Barkley golfing and soon, Tim Tebow playing quarterback in the NFL.

Which all brings me to Danica Patrick. She’s great at making scandalous commercials and posing in her bikini on a tropical beach for a photo shoot. But as far as her day job goes ­— racing cars — she’s flat out awful.

In five years on the IRL Indy Car Circuit, Patrick has won a grand total of one race — the Indy Japan 300 in 2008. She never finished better than third in the Indianapolis 500 (2009) and has never ranked higher than 5th in the final season rankings (2009).

Now, with all of her success, or lack thereof, in an inferior racing circuit, she will now try her hand at the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Patrick debuts this weekend driving for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., riding the number seven Chevrolet at the most revered race on the series, the Daytona 500.

So with her subpar finishes and knowing that she isn’t even the best driver on the IRL Indy Car Circuit, why would NASCAR embrace Patrick? Plain and simple: She’s a woman and sex sells. If I were to put up the same stats as Patrick, I would be in the same boat as millions of other Americans — out of work. But unlike Patrick, I realize I’m simply no good at racing. I have the dirt bike and demolition derby scars to prove it, and thus will not embarrass myself and the art of racing with subpar performances.

Simply put, Danica Patrick isn’t worried about winning, but merely focused on increasing her celebrity and earning more endorsements. Her attitude toward racecar driving is disrespectful to folks like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mario Andretti, who revolutionized the sport and paved the way for drivers like Patrick.

It makes me sick when people mention Patrick in the same breath as the Michael Schumacher and Jimmie Johnson. And I realize Patrick may be considered a role model to many young girls around the country, but if I were a parent, I wouldn’t want my kids idealizing someone who consistently loses and promotes themselves in sleazy commercials. There are simply far more inspirational women for young girls to idolize than Danica Patrick.

Danica Patrick is a great self-promoter and that’s about it. Instead of embarrassing herself along with one of this country’s greatest sports, she should stick to photos shoots — maybe Hugh Hefner needs help — and commercials. When all else fails, stick with what your good at. And for Danica Patrick, that doesn’t include racing.

Contact assistant sports editor Randy Ziemnik

at [email protected].