Danica Patrick a top draw at SEMA show

October, 31, 2012

LAS VEGAS -- The line around Booth 23743 inside the center hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was long.

Really long.

Longer than it was earlier in the day for Sprint Cup drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick. Longer than it was for any other celebrity I saw signing autographs at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show.

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Danica Patrick
David Newton/ESPN.comRegardless of how she performs on the racetrack, there's no questioning Danica Patrick's popularity.

The line was for a 30-year-old, 5-foot-2 woman who -- if dressed, well, differently -- could have passed for one of the countless show models roaming these massive floors.

The line was for Danica Patrick.

Those who waited didn't seem to mind that she hasn't won a race in the Nationwide or Cup series since leaving IndyCar to pursue a full-time career in NASCAR. They flocked to her like gamblers to a poker table, just wanting her signature and perhaps a picture with her.

Whatever you think of Patrick's driving skill, there is no denying her popularity. Fans like her because she's different, because she is charming.

"You're beautiful, Danica," one fan yelled as Patrick stood behind the booth, barefoot as she gave her feet a break from shoes that tend to wear on most who come to SEMA.

They didn't yell that at Kyle Busch or Clint Bowyer in the Toyota booth not far away.

"Unbelievable," another fan said as he realized Patrick wasn't that much taller than the counter on which she was signing. "It's hard to believe she can steer that car around the track."

Male and female, young and old, they stood in line until Patrick was shuffled to another section of the Chevrolet display for a video interview.

Then she turned on the charm again, going back and forth with the ill-prepared host -- he didn't even realize she'd already moved to NASCAR -- with more patience than she gave Landon Cassill at Kansas.

And how many drivers could refer to being able to fit in a pair of leather pants they wore in high school when told how good they look?

"These are such broad questions," Patrick told the host. "You don't know me at all."

But the questions continued. And Patrick continued to answer in a way that kept her audience glued to her every word.

"Any kids in your future?" the host asked.

Patrick smiled and shook her head no.

"Tell me about your husband," the host asked.

Patrick instead turned her attention to what she had planned the rest of the day, reminding him diplomatically that her marriage isn't something she normally talks about.

"What is the one thing you want everybody to know about Danica Patrick that they don't know?" the host said.

Patrick talked about being a girlie girl, liking to get pedicures and put on makeup.

"Me, too," the host said.

Responded Patrick, "If you say 'Me, too,' that's your issues."

A fan shouted, "You tell him, girl!"

And then Patrick was off to another appearance, another long line of people wanting her autograph and a moment of her time.

Say what you want about her; she's good for the sport.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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