Danica Patrick.  Whether you're a NASCAR fan or not, you've probably heard of Danica Patrick.  She's not the current points leader for the Sprint Cup, but she's got even more star power than current leader Jimmy Johnson.


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Danica Patrick's entrance into a full time ride at NASCAR's highest level has been a huge story.  She's even drawn casual race fans to watch more closely.  When she won the pole for the Daytona 500 and then ran well in the race, the mania surrounding her surged to new heights.   How much impact does the #7 driver have on social media?  Get this.  She had 971 million impressions on Twitter from the time she won the Sprint cup pole (the first time a woman ever has) to being  first to lead at Daytona.    All that in eight days!   This translates into mega-star power and big money.  She was invited to the White House for the Easter Egg hunt and to meet President Obama and Michelle Obama.  A recent USA Today article stated that Patrick is now the top ranked NASCAR driver in the Davie-Brown index.  This ranks the marketing and commercial potential of thousands of celebrities in all areas of pop culture.  According to this index, Patrick is the equal of George Clooney and Justin Timberlake in terms of endorsement power.  She is in the top six percent of all celebrities in terms of influence.  In the stock car racing world, she is number one, ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr, ahead of five time champion Jimmy Johnson, three time champion Tony Stewart and current champ Brad Keselowski.


All of this is great news for Patrick and her main sponsor GoDaddy.com.  However, this exposure and popularity comes with a price.  Huge publicity means huge expectations.  Patrick is a rookie in Sprint Cup racing.  Her average finish was 26th until a very impressive 12th place at Martinsville last Sunday.  The good news is that some of the next races are at fast, wide, intermediate tracks which offer Patrick an opportunity for a good finish.  If she has a few more top tens and can finish in the top 25 in points, NASCAR nation will recognize that as a very respectable showing for a rookie.  Right now, points or not, she is North America's most influential race car driver.