Danica mania has helped all drivers
The exposure she gets each week spills over to the other drivers.
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) -- The IndyCar series' other drivers -- the male ones -- are discovering spill over benefits from Danica mania.
Why fight the fan frenzy over Danica Patrick, who starts from the eighth position in today's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway? Other drivers, realizing they have a chance to win more fans and marketing opportunities for themselves, are beginning to embrace the extra publicity she has brought to the IndyCar series.
"We've all benefited from the exposure," said Bryan Herta, who starts Sunday's race from the pole. "She's brought a lot to the party."
Helio Castroneves says he and other drivers have signed more autographs and drawn a bigger fan base this season, capitalizing on the initial fan interest Patrick generates. Hundreds of fans lined up for Patrick autographs at a Friday night event in Jackson, Mich., but large lines also formed for other drivers including series points leader Dan Wheldon, Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr.
Still part of the scene
"It's a good thing ... you get more people following us," Castroneves said. "Some fans are going to watch her, but they see other drivers too. You still are part of that scene."
A reporter, noting that a full eight minutes had passed without anyone mentioning the "D-word" during a media event, jokingly asked Tomas Scheckter if that was a record.
"It probably is," Scheckter said. "That's a misconception that she's taking press away from everybody else. She's giving press to everybody else because everybody that switches on their TV to watch Danica also watches the guy win the race. Those Danica fans are turning into IRL fans as well, and that's the most important thing."
Patrick noted that her uncle has become a big Tony Kanaan fan in the midst of her rookie season.
"As the sport grows, the fan base for each driver will grow," Patrick said. "The more people watching, the better it is for everyone."
Patrick, looking for her first IndyCar win, is the league's prime marketing attraction.
Television ratings for IndyCar races have been higher for nearly every comparable event this season. As of last week, combined ratings were more than 30 percent higher than a year ago, according to the IRL.
Only flap to date
The only flap about Patrick's publicity came at last week's Milwaukee Mile, when drivers from Andretti Green Racing did not participate in a mandatory autograph session. The team, which was fined an undisclosed amount for the incident, reportedly was upset that Patrick was set up separately from other drivers at the event.
All drivers were present at Friday's autograph session in Michigan, which had no separate arrangements for Patrick.
"It had nothing to do with Danica," Michael Andretti, one of the AGR's owners, said Saturday of the Milwaukee incident. "I'm one of Danica's biggest fans, to be honest with you. But for her sake and everybody's sake, she needs to be a part of it, and not segregated from it. That's what has been done. It's back to normal."