Richard Petty Motorsports is finally out of its financial mess. And with sponsorship secured for both its cars for the entire 2011 season, along with the team’s optimism being at an all-time high, the head honchos at RPM are already looking ahead to brighter things.
They want Danica Patrick.
Foxsports.com broke the story today that Andrew Murstein, one of RPM’s majority investors, is taking a keen interest in two drivers: Clint Bowyer and Danica. But while Murstein did not comment much on Bowyer(besides noting that his contract with RCR is up after 2011), he had plenty to say about Patrick:
“We now have a woman CEO of the company (RPM CEO Lisa Brown). Medallion (Financial) has financed hundreds of women-owned companies. That’s all we did for a while — just women- and minority-owned companies — so I think [Danica would] be a real interesting fit for us. She’s somebody that could change the sport.”
Murstein also commented that Patrick deserves to be the star of a team; something he feels she could be at RPM, which has no high-profile drivers…just yet. But not at a large team like Hendrick Motorsports, whose banner she currently races under.
Ford’s director of motorsports, Jamie Allison, agreed with Murstein:
“She brings something that is very tangible to the sport, and I think her decision — whether she’s going to come to NASCAR (full-time) is something a lot of people are watching. We’ll see how that unfolds. When you go to the races and Danica’s involved, the fans have a great connection with what she brings to it.”
It’s obvious to me that RPM’s investors~or at least Murstein~really wants a female driver racing for their team. And while a female driver in NASCAR is a big deal, particularly one who sells as much merchandise as Danica, is Patrick somebody a company like RPM should invest in, or are there better options?
Personally, I’d go with the latter.
The driver who sticks out to me more than any other is Johanna Long, the 18-year old Camping World Truck Series driver from Pensacola, Florida.
Long is fresh off a win in the Snowball Derby; an offseason race in which several up-and-coming drivers, as well as proven Sprint Cup stars compete. In that race, she went up against drivers such as David Ragan, David Stremme, former Hendrick development driver Landon Cassill, and teenage phenom Chase Elliott; son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott.
And she beat all of them.
Long far outweighs Danica in her commitment to the sport of NASCAR. While Patrick still isn’t sure whether she’ll ever commit to stock cars, that’s all Long has ever wanted to do. And she’s well on her way.
Long also trumps Patrick in the age category. While Long is only 18 years of age, Patrick is 28. They both have the same amount of NASCAR experience(one year of part-time racing), but Long has ten more years to mature and get better than Patrick does.
Long also feels she has more to prove than Patrick, and would likely come at a lower price. As somebody who has always had to fight for rides and sponsorship, Long has the determination and the ability to go out and get the job done every time she hits the track.
Whereas Patrick, who already outsells just about every driver in the NASCAR garage area, doesn’t have anything to prove to be a success. She can peddle around in 25th and still make more money than she knows what to do with.
And it’s not as if Long isn’t marketable. As an attractive, yet humble young lady, Long’s marketability has all the potential in the world to reach as high, if not higher, than that of Patrick. Especially if she’s able to compete with the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch on a weekly basis.
And she wouldn’t even have to pose in swimsuits on top of old muscle cars.
In the end, a female driver for Richard Petty Motorsports, or any NASCAR team, would be a wonderful thing. But if you want to look for a lady with talent, determination, and desire for long-term success in stock car racing’s premier series, Danica Patrick is not the answer.
Johanna Long is the answer.