EDMONTON - Danica Patrick is gone. And she’s not being missed.
“She was good for the series and the series was good for her, but I don’t know if anybody is missing her at all,” said Bobby Rahal.
It was Rahal who gave Danica her start in the Formula Atlantic Series for two years and then gave her a ride with Rahal-Letterman Racing in 2005, when she was both Indy 500 and IndyCar Series rookie of the year. After a second season with Rahal-Letterman, Patrick moved on to Andretti Autosport from 2007 to 2011.
“The Indianapolis 500 this year was one of the best ever and she wasn’t even there,” said Rahal.
“The focus is back where it should be, on the race itself — on the race and the quality of competition.
“She was a media darling but the story got old,” he added.
“Danica got a lot of publicity,” said Will Power.
“But not for winning.
“She got publicity for being a solid driver, a driver who drove within her limits and mostly mistake-free,” he said of Patrick, who left having made it to the finish of her final 50 IndyCar races.
“It’s good to be back where the focus is actually on the people who are winning and that’s how it should be,” said the defending Edmonton Indy champion.
“But she deserved the publicity from the point of view that she’s been the best female driver to come around. And that part sure didn’t bother me. I’d love it if I never had to do any media.”
Sebastian Bourdais, who watched the Danica phenomenon from a distance, first in the ChampCar Series and then from around the world on the Formula 1 circuit before joining IndyCar for a scattering of races last year, says you’d think there would be some sort of effect with the departure of Danica but he can’t see it.
“Despite her going away to race somewhere else, it hasn’t taken anything away and now the attention is definitely on the density and quality of the field that the series is enjoying this year.”
There’s no question there was a time when Patrick brought considerable sizzle to the series, when she was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition sensation who could actually win a race (Japan in 2008) and even have her moments at the Indy 500, finishing as high as third.
While she only won one race of the 116 she ran, one which many devalue as being a fuel strategy win, it’s difficult to deny a results line of 4th, 8th, 8th, 22nd, 3rd, 6th and 10th at the Indianapolis 500.
The line on Patrick in IndyCar Series final standings was a solid 12th, 9th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 10th and 10th, too.
But Patrick, as is the case with some of the men in the series which features ovals, street courses, road courses and Edmonton’s City Centre Airport track, was best when driving on ovals, where all the turns were left turns, and she was worst on Edmonton’s exceptionally physical original layout where she finished 18th, 11th and 15th before making it to ninth last year on the new, less challenging layout.
Her father left Edmonton making some exceedingly derogatory statements about the track and the town, and Patrick was less than engaging during her time in Edmonton.
Danica won’t miss Edmonton and she is probably missed less here than just about anywhere.
But clearly her departure to race the NASCAR Nationwide Series hasn’t had much of an effect on the IZOD IndyCar Series overall.
The Indianapolis 500 had 400,000-plus in the stands and the highest TV ratings since 2008.
The IndyCar Series attendance is up 5.3% and has signed 10 new partners in the last 12 months, at-track merchandise sales are up 43% and the fan village at tracks had experienced a 50% growth in attendance through the first eight events of 2012.
Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones