Danica Patrick's foray into NASCAR means plenty to Press Pass

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How important is Danica Patrick‘s foray into stock-car racing for Press Pass, the lone trading card manufacturer for NASCAR?

It’s big — big enough she’ll be appearing on the boxes and wrappers of 2010 Element, the set that arrives with her first cards in January — well before she makes her ARCA debut in February at Daytona International Speedway and her NASCAR Nationwide Series debut on Feb. 20 at the at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

And it’s notable that a driver with little-to-no experience driving stock cars running a part-time schedule in one of NASCAR’s lower levels will be gracing the packaging of a product she just signed on to appear in little over a week ago.

But then again, Patrick isn’t the typical driver. Despite winning just one race in her five-year Indy Racing League career she won the IRL’s Most Popular Driver award four times.

And that isn’t lost on Press Pass.

“We ran into some approval issues with the original artwork [on the boxes] and had to go back to re-design,” said Nick Matijevich, Press Pass’ Director of Product Development. “So with the Danica deal now finalized, we decided to completely change direction. ”

There should be some added interest from non-racing fans as a woman competes with men in a professional sport — and NASCAR touts a fan base demographic that is at least 40 percent female. Throw in the buzz that will come with her arrival and it makes sense from Press Pass’ perspective.

“Once the Danica deal was finalized, it became evident that shifting to Danica made sense due to the release timing [as] Element releases at retail in late January; just before Daytona,” said Press Pass’ Tom Farrell. “The NASCAR buzz around Danica is big now and she’ll likely be the lead news story in Daytona, too.  We’re excited to bring collectors the first NASCAR cards of Danica and feel confident that we’ll create a wide variety of cards throughout 2010 that will deliver collectors both fun and value.”

However, Patrick is not a social pioneer as the first woman to drive in NASCAR — that was Sara Christian in 1949 — and 14 others have competed regularly in NASCAR events, including Janet Guthrie, Patty Moise, Shawna Robinson, Erin Crocker and Tina Gordon.

However, there’s no question that Patrick just might be the most recognizable one of the bunch from a marketing standpoint. And with the backing of one of the biggest names in NASCAR behind her in team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., she just might have the chance to be the most successful.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.

See the creative design for the hobby box — something this writer doesn’t previously recall seeing for any racing product despite it being so simple and appropriate — after the jump …

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