Danica Patrick will be the first woman to start from the pole position in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup this Sunday at the Daytona 500.
Danica Patrick will be the first woman to start from the pole position in NASCAR's Sprint Cup this Sunday at the Daytona 500. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Girls go wild. Boys go to TV set.

Networks, sponsors, dish and cable companies happy.

More to come? Let's make a date.

The only thing slightly less titillating than Danica Patrick climbing into the octagon for a pay-per-view exclusive, or Ronda Rousey climbing into the cockpit of a NASCAR rig for the pole position at the Daytona 500, is that the opposite of that will happen this weekend.

The result is that we're in a committed relationship with our TV to find Rousey's UFC debut on Saturday from Anaheim, and then make sure we're on the rail for Patrick's pole exploits come Sunday morn.

Eric Shanks, the Fox Sports co-president and executive producer, gets the best of both worlds. He's in Florida with his network's coverage of what's become an unprecedented moment in NASCAR history. But he'll also be monitoring the events of the UFC landmark moment from his laptop (computer, that is), knowing Fox could darn well have Rousey show up someday soon on one of its mixed-martial arts cards.

"Two of the greatest female athletes in a male-dominated event on center stage - the only thing better would be to have Ronda fighting on Fox Saturday before Danica on Sunday," Shanks said Thursday afternoon.

Say the Fox coverage at Daytona on Sunday (9 a.m. pregame, 10 a.m. race, Channel 11) attracts some 13 million viewers. And the UFC event on Saturday (7 p.m., $54.95 for high-def, $44.95 without, none of it refundable) has about 1 million pay-per-view buys, adding in another 3 million to 4 million people to the mix.

Does that combined 15 million to 17 million lured in by two female headliners surpass the total viewership for any guy-related NBA, NHL, golf or other pro sports telecasts this weekend?

It adds up that way going in.

Ramped-up media coverage for the UFC has already hit the front page of USA Today's sports section - Thursday, fighting for space against the Patrick angle.

Ronda Rousey will headline Saturday’s UFC card at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Ronda Rousey will headline Saturday's UFC card at Honda Center in Anaheim. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)


Jeff Wagenheim at SI.com wrote this week: "Even if you don't think women should be fighting in a cage, or even if you're neither in favor of it nor opposed but simply don't care to watch, there's no denying the historic implication here ... (the fight is) not as momentous as women's suffrage, not even as far-reaching as Title IX, but when these athletes step through the cage door on Saturday night they'll be staking their gender's place on the sport's grandest stage."

Shanks is careful not to over-promise on Danicamania, content that a pre-race feature allowing her to talk about her week in a first-person format, as well as adding some historical context, will not divert from any other hysteria the race itself draws naturally. (FYI: Erin Andrews was already dispatched to dress up a feature on defending Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski, providing what the network says is "an in-depth one-on-one interview").

Fox has already been told Patrick will have one of its eight in-camera cars - although that's an arrangement made with the team sponsors and the network, not always based on news value. A more sexy technical innovation from Fox this weekend includes showing off a "Gyro-Cam," another in-car device mounted in the center of the cockpit that tilts with every high-banked turn. It may be tough to stomach.

Patrick may be one of three drivers also supplied with a Gyro-Cam, but that will be determined Saturday. Until then, please tip your waitresses.

The Associated Press reported that immediately after Patrick locked in the pole during last Sunday's qualifying, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III sent Shanks an email exclaiming that they both "had a good day today" with the results.

"Obviously from a Fox perspective, it's about viewership," Chitwood said.

Shanks chuckled when reminded of that email, but admitted that Fox immediately began to cut new promos for the race specifically mentioning that Patrick was on the pole.

"Generally you hope to get some people who wouldn't normally tune in at the beginning, but once it does start, the race takes over, whether it's Danica or Dale Jr. or anyone else on the pole," Shanks said.

"You can't let one thing take over. You won't be seeing an hour-long preview featuring what Danica had for breakfast and what we think she's going to have for lunch.

"I'm not sure on Monday morning whether we'll be able to pinpoint any one particular thing that that will attract viewers to this - Danica's part of it, but there's also some other NASCAR rookies to bring new blood, the new car designs ... there's a ton of things converging here.

"At the end of the day, you just hope that it's kind of an eye-opener - here's two women at the top of their perspective sports, in sports considered hands down very male-dominated. It's a cliché, but the idea that sports can brings stories to life that no one could ever write keeps bearing itself out time and time again. It's fantastic."

More on Tom Hoffarth's blog: www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth