Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Price of Fame

by Tammy

In this day and age, if you're famous—or even remotely known—everyone's going to comment on you. To a large extent, this is the product of our digital age, where everyone has a forum for commenting (thank you, Twitter and Facebook) and where media outlets by the hundreds look to fill their pages. We have commentators, pundits, and opinion-writers. And bloggers. And tweeters. Everyone has a microphone and we all think someone out there wants to hear what we have to say.

I covered this issue in Braking Points with Racing's Ringer, an anonymous racing blogger who likes to sling a lot of mud and who took a severe disliking to Kate Reilly. The Ringer spent a lot of time in the book trying to damage Kate's reputation and tear her down emotionally. Truly, it wasn't hard to create that character, with all the examples around us.

Kate works hard to take the Ringer's beating in stride, reminding herself that she's got a job and a paycheck and supportive sponsors, friends, and family. Because those are what count. Those are what tell Kate—or any real driver—that he or she is doing a good job. Not the bloggers, fans, or even pundits.

I bring this up because it's come up, again, for Danica. Kyle Petty, current NASCAR commentator for SPEED, former pro driver, son of The King (Richard Petty), called Danica "a marketing machine," but "not a racecar driver." (Read more about it.)

Some of you are going to be cheering at the thought of Danica being taken down a peg (you know who you are). My response ranges between "And you were better than that, Kyle?" and "Scoreboard, doubters"—meaning, look whose name is on the marquee or driver roster.

Jalopnik summed up my first response spectacularly well, suggesting, "Let's make a deal here: If it takes more than 173 races for her to win a Sprint Cup race, which is how long it took you, then you can joke with your buddies about how you're a real race car driver and she's just some girl with a steering wheel." But I realize that response, while satisfying and entertaining is, pun intended, petty.

I side with Danica, who marvels that people tweet her wishing her ill (or even outright harm) ... yet they still follow her. In response to the furor over Petty's words, Danica spoke with the media on Friday. The bottom line for her is this: "It's a little bit funny, but the most important thing to me is that I can keep my team happy, we're moving in the right direction, that Go Daddy is happy and that when you walk out of the garage or walk around the track and meet a little girl that wants to grow up to be like you then you're doing something right -- those are the things that feel right." (Read more of her comments.)

In other words, focus on what you can control, worry about being employed, take your satisfaction from seeing proof that little girls are inspired by you. Ignore the talking heads.

And here's my punditry: She may not be the best that ever was, and she may or may not be worth all the hype. But she's making the most of an opportunity. Don't we all? You go, girl.

(photo from


  1. OK, because he freely admitted that he himself was no "racer" during his own career, I'm inclined to give Kyle Petty a bit of a pass. He is a commentator, paid for his opinion, and as such he gave it.

    At the end of 2011, Danica faced an important decision: She could either remain in IndyCar, a series which, at that time, seemed to be leaning more to road/street circuits at the expense of oval tracks on which she was far more comfortable, or she could take the money and run to NASCAR, do a year in the "minors" of the NNS, then advance straight to the "bigs" of Cup racing, where she would only have to do two road courses a year.

    At the time, I'm sure that seemed like a no brainer, but in retrospect, I wonder if she might have a twinge of regret or two. Sure, she's paid well, no doubt. She has good equipment with SHR, although they have been a bit behind the curve this year.

    As a Danica fan, I would have preferred to see her get another year in NNS, but my guess is that the financial arrangements made to win her away from IndyCar dictated that she was going to the big series quickly.

    On the other hand, who knew that her IndyCar "home," Andretti Autosport, would surpass the "big two" (Penske and Ganassi)in the series and have a really dominant year as they are having this year.

    Given that development, had Patrick stayed in IndyCar, it seems likely that she would be a threat to win on ANY oval track. She had already established a record at Indianapolis that many drivers would envy, having placed in the top ten in all but one of her starts at IMS. Plus, it appears that IndyCar is trying everything it can to achieve some balance between ovals and "twisties".

    As far as NASCAR is concerned, she's still a rookie (in spite of her 10 starts in Cup last year.) As such, it was a pleasant surprise that she won the pole at Daytona in her first full-time start, led some laps, and had a real shot to win the race until the very end when her inexperience bit her in the butt. There's certainly no shame in that.

    Granted, since that time, her status has been pretty much an "also ran." But, as NASCAR careers go, hers is in its infancy, so let's not get carried away (as Kyle did) with trying to summarize her "career" based on part of a year as a full time driver. Give her a couple of years to learn (and her team some time to work out their "bugs") and we'll see.

    As you said, "You GO, girl."

    (BTW, "Braking Points" was terrific!)

  2. Skip, I fully agree with you. She's still a rookie and it's a little hard to judge as yet what her full career will be. And yes, Petty was maybe a little more dramatic than was wise, but I, too, don't ding him too much, since that's his job.

    But man, everyone's got a comment, don't they?!

    (Thanks for reading the book!)