Jimmie Johnson is most talked about driver by media in offseason

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Even though the NASCAR media corps has been decimated over the last six or seven years due to layoffs and beat eliminations, the sport still enjoys considerable press coverage.

In particular has been during the current offseason. With the season-opening Daytona 500 now less than three weeks away, the media has been covering NASCAR during the winter months almost as much as it did during the season.

Not surprisingly, defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has been the most talked about driver in print, online and on TV and radio during the offseason, according to a new study by Joyce Julius & Associates.

Since 1985, the Ann Arbor, Mich., firm has measured media attention, as well as the worth of that recognition.

And now, with its annual Top-15 NASCAR Driver Off-Season Media Coverage study, it showed Johnson had over 6,000 media mentions since he captured his sixth championship last November.

The resulting media exposure value translated to $10,260,981, according to Joyce Julius, putting Johnson at the top of the list.

Broken down, Johnson was referenced in 1,274 television programs, along with 4,499 Internet and 234 print articles during the two-month rating period. Most of the references to Johnson were about his sixth Cup title in eight years, that he’s now one title away from tying Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most driver championships (7) and how changes to NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup format announced last week may potentially affect Johnson.

Interestingly, Danica Patrick is ranked second, although she had significantly more media references (6,787 to Johnson’s 6,007). But the value of Patrick’s impressions was less than Johnson’s composite, coming in at $9,773,385.

The difference, according to the press release announcing the results, was based upon “the size of the audience generated by the news media coverage to the cost of reaching the same audience through traditional advertising.”

Three-time Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart ranked third with 5,008 references at a value of $7,271,414, primarily because Stewart fans wanted to know how his ongoing recovery from a terrible wreck in a sprint car race last August was going, and whether he’ll be ready for the Daytona 500 (he will).

Four-time Jeff Gordon was fourth, while in somewhat of a surprise, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was voted by fans as the sport’s most popular driver for the 11th consecutive year in 2013, ranked only fifth on the list.

The study began the day after the NASCAR Banquet in December and ended this past Monday following the Super Bowl.

“It was a fun exercise to see what kind of media coverage NASCAR drivers receive during the so-called off-season,” said Eric Wright of Joyce Julius and Associates. “I think what was most interesting was the volume of coverage some of the high profile drivers received. It illustrates what media magnets many of these personalities are, and it also speaks to how the sport of NASCAR is truly a year-round proposition.”

Here’s the overall list with media references and estimated exposure value:

1. Jimmie Johnson — 6,007 — $10,260,981

2. Danica Patrick — 6,787 — $9,773,385

3. Tony Stewart — 5,008 — $7,271,414

4. Jeff Gordon — 3,716 — $5,807,544

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. — 3,594 — $5,321,904

6. Kyle Busch — 2,709 — $3,926,871

7. Mark Martin — 2,507 — $3,890,383

8. Michael Waltrip — 3,259 — $3,752,516

9. Kevin Harvick — 2,269 — $3,619,404

10. Kurt Busch — 2,657 — $3,609,412

11. Austin Dillon — 1,989 — $3,191,690

12. Brad Keselowski — 2,363 — $2,854,773

13. Ryan Newman — 1,926 — $2,849,637

14. Kyle Larson — 2,155 — $2,748,901

15. Denny Hamlin — 2,081 — $2,508,700

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Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.