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File / Associated Press
Danica Patrick prepares to qualify on the final day of time trials for the Indianapolis 500.

The meal ticket takes a powder

Here is why you don't make Danica Patrick -- or any one person, really -- the face of your sport.

All-Danica-all-the-time was lousy marketing to begin with on the part of IndyCar, a knee-jerk decision in which suits who should have known better got carried away by the emotion of the moment -- Danica's near victory in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie -- and didn't stop to let common sense catch up. She was photogenic, she was different, and she was the flavor of the moment, and so IndyCar hitched its wagon to her completely -- and, ultimately, to its detriment.

As time went on and Danica failed to so much as win a race, that became more and more apparent, and almost painful to watch. The Selling of Danica, after all, not only did a disservice to other marketable personalities who actually were winning races, it eventually was a disservice to Patrick herself, fostering an air of unearned entitlement that actually made her less appealing as a marketing tool.

And now, she's gone. And the only saving grace in that, for IndyCar, is that new IndyCar chief Randy Bernard has clearly spent the last couple of years trying to make the sport much less Danica-centric, thereby softening the blow at least a little. Had she'd blown the pop stand for NASCAR three or four years ago, it would have been catastrophic.

As it is, IndyCar has still lost its most recognizable personality. And that makes this not a good day at all for the open-wheel crowd.

Ben Smith's blog.

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