Tracking Danica Patrick From Race to Sponsorships
It's Memorial Day weekend, one of the biggest weekends of the year for auto racing fans. Sunday kicks off NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Danica Patrick, who has struggled since February's Daytona 500, said it's one of the biggest races of the year for her and her team.
"It's a huge race. Other than the Daytona 500, it's the biggest and longest race of the year," Patrick told CNBC. She raced last weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the Sprint All-Star Race finishing a disappointing 20th out of 22 racers. Patrick admitted it was a tough race but hopes the practice on the track will help her for this weekend.
According to Sports Illustrated, Coca-Cola 600 is "the longest race of the year (600 miles) and arguably the most physically taxing. Because the race starts in daylight (6 p.m. EST) and ends in darkness, the track conditions change dramatically. The driver and the team most adept at altering their car's setup to the cooling asphalt (which translates into more tire grip) will most likely reach Victory Lane."
Despite adjusting to NASCAR and her Gen-6 car, Patrick continues to make a name for herself with sponsors and growing her brand. In addition to her longtime sponsorship with Go Daddy.com, Patrick just signed a new sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola.
According to a Nielsen poll, the level of awareness that people have of her is equal to that of Olympic Swimming Star Michael Phelps and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.
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"Go Daddy has been really big for growing my brand, and my brand awareness," she noted. Patrick is the face of their Super Bowl ads that air just two times per year. "One million people or more see those Super Bowl ads, so that's been really helpful."
Patrick isn't just growing her own brand but the NASCAR brand as well. In 2012, on average 2 million females tuned into each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, making it the second most watched sport among females in the US.
This weekend, Patrick is focused solely on the Coca-Cola 600. There had been talk that Patrick might make a history—making a "double" attempt this year—racing in both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 on the same day. But, ultimately Patrick decided to stick with NASCAR.
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"The further I get away from Indy cars the less likely it gets. It's not a never, but it gets less and less realistic," said Patrick.
—From CNBC's Jessica Golden; Follow her on Twitter @JGolden5