Danica Patrick's presence has been driving NASCAR ratings and popularity, according to Neilsen. In general, Patrick is 233% more recognized than the average race car driver, generates more social media buzz and boosts TV ratings. Nascar has noted the "Danica Effect," and 4-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon states, "it's great for the sport. Who doesn't want to see a female driver come in here and be able to race with the guys and do well and be marketable?"
Patrick's NASCAR debut set an ESPN record for auto racing, attracting 4.2 million viewers, up 33% from the previous year. Patrick’s popularity encompasses social media as well. Regarding the Daytona 500 buzz for five big-name racers - Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne and Patrick - Patrick accounted for 11.5% of all talk about the Daytona 500 in 2012, reports NM Incite, the highest of all drivers.
Patrick is also a major player in regards to endorsements, and according to The Telegraph, she raked in $12 million between July 2010 and July 2011, making her the third highest-paid female athlete in that time frame. E-Poll and Score reports that 30% percent of the U.S. population are familiar with Patrick, and has an N-score superstar status, coming behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
Patrick was involved in a wreck at Daytona over Thursday, but ESPN reported that viewership of that race didn't drop by much, even after Patrick was out of the running. She'll be using her backup car at Daytona on Sunday, starting toward the back of the field after Thursday's wreck. But all eyes will likely be on her, to see how she maintains. Gordon adds, "she draws a whole new fan base in the sport. And she seems really competitive so I'm interested to see how she does behind the wheel as a driver - This is certainly going to be entertaining and fun to watch."