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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Giving Danica Patrick Her Due… and Nothing More

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Congratulations to Danica Patrick for winning her first IRL race! After three years, 50 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?

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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.

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 in 33 races back in the ’70s 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 racecar 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 IndyCar race an impressive accomplishment? Yes. Is doing so 50 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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