Thursday, January 31, 2013

The media and #Danicky

There seems to be an ongoing debate among Nascar media whether the relationship between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a story that should continue to be pursued or should be dropped now that it has been dutifully reported.

Should we write about the reaction of others in the Nascar garage? Should we analyze the risks? Or should we let it go?

The answers: Yes, yes, and that depends.

It is our job as beat reporters to write what people are reading about and discussing on Twitter, Facebook and message boards. Patrick is one of the most popular drivers in all of racing. And right now, #Danicky is a part of the ongoing Nascar conversation. To ignore that would be to ignore your own readers, and ultimately send them to your competitors.

That's not to say we should mine this story ad infinitum at the expense of other storylines. And based on the headlines I see, plenty of other topics are being written about right now from the new generation racecar to Brad Keselowski's empty fountain of love.

But remember, too, this is the offseason. There aren't races to cover and on-track incidents to scrutinize. The Busch brothers haven't pissed anybody off today (well, as far as we know).  The relationship between Patrick and Stenhouse is the only head-turning news story to come out since Keselowski won the title in November.

So yes, it's interesting and pertinent to hear what Dale Earnhardt Jr., the most popular driver in the sport whose love life has been internet fodder for years, has to say about Patrick's new relationship. And it's worth the time to explore the issues on the track raised by the relationship. Even Jeff Gordon, whose messy divorce years ago was once headline fodder, acknowledged the reality of news coverage of celebrity athletes.

"I may not have liked it but understood it was a story," Gordon responded on twitter when I asked him about it last week.

Will it continue to be a story? You can blame Patrick and Stenhouse for making sure it will be in Daytona. By waiting until after the annual Nascar media tour in Charlotte to confirm the relationship, they have avoided answering any questions about it. Those questions inevitably will come up during future tests and at Daytona.

Beyond that, the longevity of this story depends on Patrick and Stenhouse. The way they race each other will be closely scrutinized. If there are more stories, it's because of what they do on the track and in the garage to create them. At least to some degree, it's up to them.

I don't know what Nascar thinks about all of this. But for a sport that desperately wants to be part of the mainstream conversation, few drivers have given fans more to talk about than Patrick since she arrived in 2010. And now she has found love in the Nascar garage.

I'm sure they're already working on the screenplay. You think they can get Kristen Stewart to play Danica?