In some way, we feel sorry for Danica Patrick, who won her first race on her 50th try this weekend. At least on the surface, it couldn't have come at a worse time in a worse place.
I mean, to win a race in Japan that ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday night? A race that, because of being rain delayed from the night before, was on ESPN Classic. A race that was broadcast by announcers who were talking from California (sideline reporter Jack Arute thankfully stayed in Japan to avoid a complete disaster).
On the other hand, just winning a race is good enough. I mean, look at the press coverage this morning. And, to be frank, how many people were going to watch the race anyway?
A couple notes before we get to some reactions from sports marketers on Danica's historic win.
I watched the end of the race live and it was great to see how emotional Patrick was. Whether you are fan or not, when you see that type of emotion you just have to appreciate it.
I can't fault her, but when Danica called her sister Brooke after winning the race, it would have been ideal if she didn't cover up the logo on her Motorolaphone. Motorola is, after all, her main sponsor.
Danica's late win didn't allow for any congratulatory ads by her sponsors we presume, but sponsor AirTran did a nice turnaround job. On Sunday, they announced that Monday will be known as "AirTranica Day" and that they will have a Boeing 717-200 plane that will have her photo on it. Passengers on that plane will be flying from Orlando to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh to Atlanta today.
Patrick's drought was getting long, but there are drivers who are out there who have gone longer. Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV haven't won in their 68 starts now and Vitor Meira hasn't won in 79 starts.
We polled a group of sports marketers and asked them what they thought about Patrick's first win and the circumstances under which she took the checkered flag.
David Carter, Sports Business Institute, USC:
"Winning in Japan may be the equivalent of a blooper that falls in for a base hit -- not pretty and perhaps not artistic, but it is scored just like a line drive in the box score. The bottom line is that she won a race and that is indeed important to all her business partners."
Paul Swangard, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, University of Oregon:
"I think the win in some ways helps sponsors justify the initial investment. So much of the early spending was built on the premise of her winning. She's now met those expectations. I would expect a little, but not a lot of a bump, though it is good timing going into the month before Indy."
Jordan Bazant, The Agency:
"It is unclear if the win will increase her marketability, but it will definitely sustain her marketability."
Dan Migala, The Migala Report:
"For Danica, she might benefit more in the long run that no one saw her live because she will be celebrated and honored more in this modern era of highlights and downloads. Her legacy and performance will be perceived greater for commentators and viewers in reflecting on that moment rather than simply watching it live."
Ben Sturner, Leverage Agency:
"Danica's win is huge for women's sports. However, with the event taking place on the other side of the earth and broadcast on midnight to dismal ratings, it unfortunately might not have the same impact or magnitude of say a Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs event which was broadcast in the United States in primetime. Now the question is, when is she going to win again?"
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