Rabalais: Danicamania could be huge for NASCAR Rabalais: Danicamania could be huge for NASCAR In this Feb. 17, 2013, photo, Danica Patrick removes her earplugs after qualifying first for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. (AP Photo/Terry Renna) Advocate story March 03, 2013 Comments Notes on a soggy golf scorecard while contemplating snow days in the Southeastern Conference … Back in 2000 when I covered my first NASCAR race at Talladega, a Louisiana driver named Kim Crosby was trying to break into the sport. Though Crosby flared as a brief sensation on the NASCAR scene with her Boudreaux’s Butt Paste-sponsored Chevrolet, she never found enough funding to make a real run at what is now called the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s top level. The problem for Crosby or any female driver then was the unspoken fear of major sponsors that a woman could die behind the wheel of a race car with their logo plastered as big as Fehoko Fanaika all over the hood. That’s all different now. Sunday, Danica Patrick will start on the pole for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl. And it’s Danicamania that could save NASCAR from its sagging popularity in the post-recession, post-Dale Earnhardt world. Danica is telegenic, photogenic, charismatic and even has a budding romance with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The fact she has all of one career win, in 2008 when she was still running in IndyCar, means little. Image, as they said in those old Andre Agassi commercials, is everything. If Patrick’s achievements can ever match her image, NASCAR will boom again. This Miami investigation scandal could well cost former LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert his job as NCAA president. Two Emmert-hired underlings authorized payments to the attorney of convicted Miami booster Nevin Shapiro to obtain information against the Hurricanes. It’s beyond embarrassing and threatens to drown out all the reforms Emmert has been attempting to promote within the NCAA. If Emmert survives, it will be because the men and women he answers to, the NCAA presidents, have no higher moral ground to stand on than Emmert does. Ranking the three worst ideas I’ve heard in the last 12 months: 1. The 2013 SEC football schedule format; 2. Splitting Louisiana high school football playoffs into private and public divisions; 3. Renaming the New Orleans Hornets the Pelicans. Why is Missouri in the SEC again? LSU teams have played through the Ice Bowl in Dallas and the Great Blizzard of 1993 at the SEC men’s tournament in Lexington, Ky., found a way to play around hurricanes and 9/11 terrorism. But what is Mother Nature trying to tell us when during LSU’s first foray to play an SEC game at Mizzou in a major sport, the women’s basketball team had its game postponed from Thursday night to Friday afternoon by a major snowstorm? Certainly the same thing could happen at Kentucky or Tennessee or Vanderbilt, but Missouri is going to force the SEC to deal with Big Ten-like weather more often. Then again, LSU’s and BYU’s baseball teams had to play here between the raindrops Thursday while their softball teams contracted their business in sunny Palm Springs, Calif.