Saturday, May 26, 2007

Danica Patrick

In honor of this weekends Indianapolis 500!Danica Sue Patrick (born March 25, 1982 in Beloit, Wisconsin) is an American auto racing driver competing in the IndyCar Series. She is from an Irish-American family and was raised in Roscoe, Illinois. Patrick was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series season. While, as of April 2007, she has won three pole positions, she has never won an automobile race. In May 2006, she published her autobiography, Danica: Crossing the Line.

2005 IndyCar Series

After the 2004 racing season, following much speculation as to where Patrick would race in 2005, during the off season, Rahal Letterman Racing officially announced that Patrick would drive in the IRL IndyCar Series for 2005.

On May 29, 2005, Patrick became only the fourth woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, following Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, and Sarah Fisher. After posting the fastest practice speed of the month (229.880 mph / 369.956 km/h) during the morning practice session for the first day of qualifications (May 15), she made an error in the first turn of her first qualifying lap, and failed to capture the pole position, which instead went to Tony Kanaan. Patrick's fourth starting position, however, was still the highest ever attained for the race by a female driver.

Patrick became the first female driver to lead the race at Indianapolis, first when acquiring it for a lap near the 125 mile mark while cycling through pit stops, and late in the race when she stayed out one lap longer than her rivals during a set of green-flag pit stops. Patrick overcame two crucial blunders to finish fourth in the race, the same position in which she started. Her car stalled in the pits about halfway through the 500-mile race, dropping her to the middle of the field. Shortly after reclaiming a spot in the top 10, Patrick spun on a caution period just before an intended green flag, causing a four car accident. The accident caused damage to the nose and front wing of her car. Her pit crew promptly made repairs, and due to the subsequent yellow, was able to rejoin having lost only one place. When the leaders pitted for fuel on lap 172, Patrick took the lead once more, lost it on lap 184, and then regained it on a restart with 11 laps to go. However, as she had not pitted for fuel, Patrick needed one more long yellow in order to reach the finish without having to refuel. On lap 194, eventual race winner and 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon passed her as she was forced to slow in order to conserve fuel, and she was quickly passed by both Bryan Herta and her teammate Vitor Meira. Patrick's fourth place was the highest ever finish for a female driver at the Indy 500, besting the previous record of ninth set by Janet Guthrie in 1978. Patrick led 19 laps overall.

In 2005, she finished 12th in the IndyCar Series championship, with 325 points.

On July 2, 2005, Patrick won her first pole position, leading a 1,2,3 sweep by Rahal Letterman Racing at Kansas Speedway. She became the second woman to accomplish this feat in the IndyCar Series, the first being Sarah Fisher in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway. On August 13, 2005, she won her second pole at Kentucky Speedway, although this time, rain prematurely ended qualifying and position was determined by speeds achieved during practice.

In January 2006, Patrick competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona along with co-driver Rusty Wallace. The 24 hour event was her longest race to date.

2006 IndyCar Series

She competed in the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series giving her another chance at qualifying and racing in the Indianapolis 500. In the first race of the season, the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead Miami Speedway, Patrick qualified in third behind the Penske Racing teammates of Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish, Jr. However, tragedy struck in the final practice sessions for the race as Rahal Letterman Racing teammate Paul Dana was killed in a crash the morning of the race.

Patrick and fellow Rahal Letterman driver Buddy Rice withdrew from the race immediately. The two resumed their 2006 IRL campaign with the second race of the year in St. Petersburg, Florida. Patrick finished 6th in St. Petersburg and 8th in Japan. At Indy she took eighth place after starting tenth. After Indy she finished 8th at Watkins Glen. However, the following week Rahal Letterman racing switched to the Dallara chassis and the team struggled to grasp a hold of them. Patrick had struggled to remain competitive, but her 4th place finishes at Nashville and Milwaukee tied her career best IRL finishes, and helped her move up to 9th in the season point standings. The following week at Michigan, though, her car died with three laps to go and she finished 17th. She rebounded at Kentucky and Infineon to finish 8th.

In her final race at Chicagoland with Rahal Letterman Racing, Patrick recorded a 12th place finish and a 9th place finish in the point standings besting her 12th place points finish as a rookie.

2007 IndyCar Series

On July 25, 2006 Patrick announced she had signed a deal to drive for Andretti Green Racing, replacing Bryan Herta in the 7 Dallara beginning in 2007. She will be driving a car sponsored by telecommunications giant Motorola, as well XM radio and Go Daddy. In Danica's first race with Andretti Green Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24th she finished 14th after crashing into the pit wall on lap 154 and being knocked out of the race. Following Homestead she finish 8th at St. Petersburg and 11th at Japan. At Kansas she had her best finish of the year to this point finishing 7th, benefiting from crashes and mechanical woe of other teams. Her result was overshadowed by a pit road mishap with teammate Tony Kanaan, when she ran into him while exiting her pit box.

She qualified 8th for her third Indy 500 and will be one of three Women in the field joining Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno. This will mark the first 500 to have 3 women competing.

In April 2007 Danica launched her official fan club The Danica Maniacs to help foster greater interaction between her and her fans. Benefits include a "Pit Kit," contests and giveaways, sponsor discounts and promotions, a members only web site loaded with features and more.


Some racing journalists, IndyCar fans, and other drivers (such as Robby Gordon) have claimed that Patrick's relatively low body weight gives her an advantage in a competition where engine size and car weight are strictly regulated. The IRL president, Brian Barnhart, disagrees, telling Dave Caldwell for The New York Times that Patrick's weight "had a [...] minimal effect on the competition."

Many race fans say that Patrick, as an attractive female, has benefited from her minority status. They claim that the typical, rookie driver would have had much more difficulty securing a ride, as well as sponsorship, with a top racing team than Patrick did, particularly having never won any automobile races in junior formula, e.g. Formula Atlantic or Formula Ford. They also say that any other rookie driver would have been dropped by top teams, unlike Patrick, after failing to achieve any race wins. Many people also criticize her for the lack of podium finishes she has had within the three years she has been in the Indycar Series, despite all of the media attention.

Patrick has also had to deal with sexist remarks from fellow racers, who feel that auto racing is a man's sport. In May of 2006, after an appearance on ESPN SportsCenter's Budweiser Hot Seat, Patrick made comments that ruffled the feathers of former NASCAR drivers. When asked if she would ever make the jump over to the NASCAR circuit, Patrick commented that, while she wouldn't make the jump, she hadn't even "gotten a phone call (from NASCAR representatives)." Former driver Richard Petty responded, in a separate interview, by stating, "I just don't think it's a sport for women, and so far, it's proved out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity, it gives them publicity. But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough."

When talk heated up of a possible future Patrick move to NASCAR in July 2006, fellow IRL driver Ed Carpenter said, "I think Danica's pretty aggressive in our cars. I mean, you know especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there." He later said that he meant no disrespect, and that he felt she could hold her own on whatever circuit she was in. He also said it was unlikely she would jump to NASCAR.

In October of 2005, Patrick got mentioned in the men's magazine FHM by Formula One driver Jenson Button, who, while dismissing her prospects in Formula One racing, then added some colorful remarks of his own, notably the infamous line "A girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car. And the mechanics wouldn't concentrate. Can you imagine strapping her in?"



Jeebus said...

you sure know how to keep me interested

Carrie said...

Go Sam Hornish!! Yay local boys!! On a side note... I, as a girl, take offense to the rude comments about feminine traits and bodily functions made by some other members of the racing community. I mean, I know racing is comprised by mostly rednecks and old dudes, but geez... something makes me expect a little more from professional speaking about a colleague. Just a thought...

(i finally posted a comment, Tom)

ColbyPants said...

I am inclined to agree. Its one thing to make a comment on things, like her FHM photoshoot, where clearly she is taking advantage of the fact she is a "Woman indy Driver" its another thing to make comments of a sexist nature about how being a woman would negatively affect her as a racer. Shes obviously proven she can be competitive at that high level, at least.

PS while Sam is the local boy, Danica does live in Coumbus, Ohio now.


Jeebus said...

Danica lost!!!!!!


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