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Opinion: Patrick is proof NASCAR doesn't fix races

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 2/17/2018 By Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

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Video by NASCAR.com

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

We can now officially put all of those conspiracy theories to rest about how NASCAR has sometimes scripted outcomes over the years to make sure the most popular drivers win.

We now know that's total buffoonery for one very simple reason: Because Sunday's Daytona 500 will be Danica Patrick's final NASCAR race, meaning her five full-time years as a Cup driver were a complete and utter flop. She is 0 for 190 in the Cup Series - and 0 for 251 if you include the second-tier Xfinity Series.

Let's face it, if the movers and shakers of the sport really fixed races as those crazies wearing tin-foil hats attest, NASCAR would have found a way to get Danica in victory lane on a regular basis. If I've written it once, I've written it a million times: A championship-contending Danica could have single-handedly fixed NASCAR's plunging TV ratings and sagging attendance.

She could have been the stock-car version of Tiger Woods, and the best thing to hit NASCAR tracks since beer huggies and naked-lady mudflaps. She could have not only been the biggest star in NASCAR but the most transcendent superstar in all of sports.

Remember that brief span of time when Ronda Rousey became so popular by dominating other women in a niche sport like UFC? Imagine how huge Danica would have become as a woman winning in the ultimate man's sport.

Joie Chitwood, the former president of Daytona International Speedway, once told me the story of when he was running the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"It was the year Danica took the lead at the Indianapolis 500 with 10 laps to go," Chitwood remembered. "I've never seen a crowd on its feet and respond as loudly as that crowd did when Danica took the lead. If she had won the Indy 500, they would have torn down the grandstands."

Danica had everything NASCAR needed. She had personality, pizzazz, sex appeal, attitude and marketability. Everything, that is, except the skill level to maneuver and manipulate these 3,000-pound beasts for 500 miles at a time.

And, ultimately, this is why the Great American Race on Sunday will be her farewell to the ultimate American sport.

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.

You will be missed.

You already are.

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Related slideshow: Danica Patrick through the years (Provided by photo services)

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