The Frontstretch: Giving Danica Patrick Her Due … and Nothing More by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday April 22, 2008

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Giving Danica Patrick Her Due … and Nothing More

Sitting In The Stands : A Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday April 22, 2008


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Congratulations to Danica Patrick for winning her first IRL race! After three years, fifty starts, and three podium finishes prior to Saturday’s Twin Ring Motegi 300, her arrival in Victory Lane has long been awaited. Altogether now: three cheers for Danica!

There. Are we done patting the little lady on the back?

No, don’t go getting your knickers all knotted up. Believe me, this accomplishment cannot be dismissed as unimportant. But I don’t believe it is truly the hallmark in auto racing that much of the planet wants it to be; and to be honest, I could care less that Danica is one of the fairer sex. She has competed with some of the best drivers in the world and won… Period.

Her pretty smile, lithe body, and sent-from-heaven media savvy mean nothing when the green flag drops. It provides a little extra fodder for the cameras and reporters to chew on; but none of those effect how she performs on the track, nor should they matter to the record books.

The question asked all too often: “Danica, how does it feel to be a girl living in a man’s world?”

But they will.

Danica will go down in history as the first woman who won a major closed circuit auto race. That statistic will now overshadow any other she accrues throughout her driving career; even if she went on to win more IRL races than anyone in history, that won’t be why we will remember her. It will simply be Saturday’s victory march, accompanied by the feminine display of emotion. Awwww… don’t it make you proud to be a girl?

I’m not asking those that compile the numbers to dismiss her victory; but I do think it’s important to keep it in perspective. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, we’ve seen several women come and go over the years. Janet Guthrie stayed the longest in the Cup series, competing for 33 races back in the 70’s and finishing in the Top 10 one time. But none have managed to make it to Victory Lane to date. That is not to say that women are incapable of the accomplishment; it’s only that the individuals placed on the altar of stock car racing haven’t possessed that elusive combination of talent and automotive equipment to pull it off.

This is where Danica has been blessed. However, in the grand scheme of things, she is nothing more than a race car driver just like everyone else, and ought to be held up against the same standards as the others when singing her praises. Is winning an Indy Car race an impressive accomplishment? Yes. Is doing so fifty races into your career? Well, we’ll call that about average, maybe above average. Some never attain the top of the podium. But does the trophy state whether the champion of the day is female or male?

Nope, it doesn’t.

After this weekend, we have a new winner in the record books. Danica Patrick has demonstrated she can run with the pack, and was able to benefit from a smart fuel mileage call. She proved her point — she can drive.

Now, do we think we can get over the fact that she’s a girl? I really hope so. For only when the media, fans and record books are able to ignore that tidbit will we be able to truly judge the field of competition in an unbiased manner.

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Photo Credit: IRL / Chris Jones ’07.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
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Travis Rassat
04/22/2008 08:38 AM

“Danica will go down in history as the first woman who won a major closed circuit auto race.”

I’ve seen this phrase several times in the last few days (particularly on the IndyCar website), and it bugs me.

First off, what exactly is meant by “closed circuit auto race?” This sounds about as fabricated as it gets – why not just say “circle track” if they want to exclude drag racing?

Secondly, what is the definition of “major?” That’s a relative term.

The reason I ask this is because I would think Shirley Muldowney holds a more significant place in the history books as far as being a woman of firsts in motorsports. I would consider her wins and championships in the NHRA to be historically more significant than Danica’s win this weekend. But, I guess drag racing isn’t considered “major” and “closed circuit” enough.

Congratulations to Danica – she did a great job. But, while it’s great P.R. for the IRL (and they need it), let’s not get too carried away with making the story more than what it is.

Sorry to continue to beat a dead horse, but sometimes fabricated stats really bug me. Like you said, she’s just another driver who won their first race and should be held to the same standards as the others. There have been too many women in motorsports before her to make this historically significant.

04/22/2008 08:59 AM

“Closed Circuit” is simply a term to identify a “special made race course” to differentiate those man-made courses from say “Rallye” courses, I.E. Baja & The Dakar, etc!

Since the “off-road” stuff is not that popular here in the US, we never really think of it as a “major” or “mainstream” motor sport as they do in Europe and elsewhere!

True Fan
04/22/2008 05:03 PM

She won and thats a plus. She cried and thats a minu…. There’s no crying in racing. Just joking way to go ladies!

04/22/2008 11:19 PM

Travis – ““Danica will go down in history as the first woman who won a major closed circuit auto race.”

Would you rather have the headlines read as so many have, “Danica scores first win in a major racing series.”

That headline is flat out wrong and very misleading. It reads as if Drag Racing had never existed.

As to the term “closed circuit,” sorry but thr term is spot on accurate.

Ir defines any track that is “closed” i.e. a road course or oval track of any size.

A drag strip is decidedly not a “closed circuit.

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