Thomas Bowles debunks the hoopla that Danica Patrick is getting better and also examines why NASCAR continues struggling in TV ratings despite noticeable improvement in at-track attendance.
My take - He makes a legitimate point when he notes that the sport is not seeing a rise in fresh new faces. Danica Patrick was a subpar racer in 2013 and a subpar racer in Indycars, and she's not getting better - the bigger problem is nobody else is, either, even with superb efforts by Kyle Larson. It's been a lengthy reality in the sport as the technology arms race has made the sport more difficult to run. In a sense it's a return to the problem in the 1970s that success begat success and the other teams were left further and further behind - it took the injection of more money from sponsors and the return of the factories in the 1976-80s period for new blood to come to the fore.
There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one I believe remains that NASCAR keeps running radial tires where bias-plies are fundamentally better for racing. Short track stars simply can't transition to the big leagues because the way radial tires race makes a short tracker's experience useless - thus is upward mobility for racers stopped. That Goodyear does not sell bias plies to the public explains why, and Goodyear has been able to make tires that give some of the raceability of bias plies - seen in numerous competitive Truck races such as Kansas in 2013 and '14. Nonetheless reestablishing upward mobility for short trackers to where they can graduate to Cup or Indycar remains an underappreciated necessity.