Danica Patrick's popularity continues to rise

In 2010, Danica Patrick was featured in "The Simpsons'' and "South Park.'' This fall she will become a video game character, launching fireballs at Sonic the Hedgehog. Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Danica Patrick has been run over by Eric Cartman, enticed Homer Simpson and brawled with Marge. She's been name-dropped by Hannah Montana and lent her likeness and advice to the packaging of a Barbie doll. She's driven a getaway car in a Miranda Lambert country music video and raced Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jay-Z through the hills of Monaco in a rap short.

She's a red carpet staple and a frequent awards show presenter and winner, from the ESPYs to Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards. This fall Patrick will become a video game character, launching fireballs at Sonic the Hedgehog.

She is one Andy Warhol lithograph from pop royalty.

Beyond what she markets for her sponsors -- and she does that very well -- Patrick has quickly ingrained herself into American pop culture. With every cartoon version of herself she voices over for institutions like "South Park'' or "The Simpsons,'' every time a gamer activates her avatar on a PS3, she goes deeper, particularly with the young, who are more likely to view female race car drivers as commonplace.

She will remain there as long as the Americana she's weaved is Googled, YouTubed or available on whatever follows Blu-ray. If she is to transcend sports and mainstream popularity into true lasting icon status, sports business and pop cultural observers say, she will have to attain the one final attribute: on-track success.

Everything is going well, currently, as Patrick, 30, is becoming a household name in more and more households.

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