IndyCar looks to replace Patrick's popularity

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For better or for worse, Danica Patrick was the face of IndyCar the past seven years.

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Patrick  SHARON ELLMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
SHARON ELLMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Patrick

The series’ star despite limited results, Patrick caught the eye of the causal sports fan – often to the detriment of the other drivers. Now that she has moved on to NASCAR, IndyCar has a wide-open opportunity to fill the void she left behind.

As the series prepares for Sunday’s season opener in St. Petersburg, the spotlight is finally shifting.

“You need 10 Danicas, not just one person who holds the series up, but 10 people who are very popular,” said Penske Racing driver Will Power. “There’s some pretty interesting personalities in the series.”

Power, for now, is probably best known for his infamous obscene gesture toward series officials that was caught during the live broadcast of last season’s race at New Hampshire. But the Australian should be lauded for his 13 victories – 11 in the past two seasons – and his intense rivalry with four-time series champion Dario Franchitti.

He’s twice lost the title to Franchitti, and his intense desire to beat his rival emerged last season on and off the track. Power accused Franchitti of being a dirty driver, called him “Princess” on Twitter and proved to have the fire that should have made him an overnight superstar.

Power, with a sharp sense of humor, is ready for some more attention.

“I think anyone would like that role.” he said. “That means success, right? Or does it?”

Results weren’t part of it for Patrick, who had one victory and seven podiums in 115 career starts. But she had unbelievable marketing support from sponsor GoDaddy.com, which spent the money necessary to make her a star.

The sponsorship now goes to James Hinchcliffe, who replaces Patrick in the Andretti Autosport ride. Last year’s rookie of the year seized his new job with a series of witty one-liners, referring to himself as “Manica,” joking “I’ve got big heels to fill.”

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