Opinion: NASCAR benefits by having Danica Patrick stick around
When longtime Danica Patrick sponsor GoDaddy.com announced back in April that it was getting out of NASCAR, much uncertainty followed.
Already in a contract year with Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick saw her future both long-term and short-term be rightfully called into question by various observers of the sport.
While Stewart-Haas Racing team principals and Patrick herself all expressed a desire to continue the marriage into 2016 and beyond, there was that nagging uncertainty of not knowing what was coming next.
Some fans -- who have and continue to ridicule Patrick's driving abilities -- secretly hoped she would ride off into the sunset, ending her Sprint Cup Series career after just three full seasons.
NASCAR, of course, had every reason to want to Patrick to remain part of the sport.
She's wildly popular with both men and women (albeit usually for different reasons).
She's a good ambassador of her own brand and the NASCAR brand.
And she has appeal that goes far beyond the traditional NASCAR fan.
To fully grasp that appeal, look no further than Twitter, where Patrick boasts a robust 1.29 million followers.
NASCAR's 12-time most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., by comparison, has 1.15 million followers on the social-networking site.
Last year's champion, Kevin Harvick, meanwhile, has a comparatively measly 591,000 followers.
The bottom line?
Patrick is a huge drawing card, and NASCAR desperately needs her around.
While her critics are quick to point out that she has yet to achieve the on-track success that many thought she would, she's done well enough to keep bosses Tony Stewart and Gene Haas happy and to make sponsors give her a serious look.
With Friday's announcement at Martinsville Speedway that TaxAct is coming on board to sponsor Patrick in four races next year, she is now covered for the full 36-race schedule -- something that looked somewhat doubtful back in late April when GoDaddy.com made its intentions known.
With Nature's Bakery as her primary sponsor for 28 races, and Aspen Dental and TaxAct picking up four races apiece next season, Patrick is all set for next year with three sponsors that couldn't be more different.
What these sponsors share in common, though, is that they all believe Patrick will give them a strong return on their investment. And, quite honestly, they should believe it.
In announcing her deal with TaxAct on Friday at Martinsville, Patrick gave fans and NASCAR yet another reason to like her: She's humble.
And that trait is evident to the extent that she took absolutely nothing for granted about her future just a few months ago when she had nary a primary sponsor in place for 2016.
"For sure, I was nervous," said Patrick, who in announcing her deal with Nature's Bakery back in August also revealed she's entered into a new multi-year contract with Stewart-Haas Racing, beginning in 2016. "There's no guarantees. There's no guarantees that any of us as drivers in the series are going to find a sponsor for every single race of the year in the way that they want to and that the driver wants to.
"I'm grateful. I don't know exactly why it is that it worked so well and why I didn't have to stress so long, but all I can do is do my best to give back to these partners that have committed to myself and the team in a big way, and deliver for them so that they are glad that they did it and want to keep doing it."