Danica and the Indy Racing League

Posted by: Bryan

Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 12:41 AM

Danica could be the Tiger of open-wheel <br>Near-win at Indy 500 illustrates that female can save doomed sport<br><br>COMMENTARY<br>By Bob Kravitz<br>NBCSports.com contributor<br>Updated: 11:21 a.m. ET May 30, 2005<br><br>INDIANAPOLIS - Now, it’s all about Danica. Forget about the second name, which, for the record, is Patrick. Now, open-wheel racing, a sport that seemed doomed to irrelevance, has Danica, the woman who revived the sport, open-wheel racing’s Tiger Woods.<br><br>Something very important and even history-changing happened here Sunday afternoon, and it had almost nothing to do with the guy who won the 89th Indianapolis 500, British driver Dan Wheldon. (Sorry, Dan, but you’re page C7 material today. Bad timing).<br><br>What happened was, open-wheel racing — and the Indy Racing League, in particular — found its face, its identity, maybe even its savior. And now that she has entered the American sports consciousness by finishing fourth and becoming the first woman ever to lead this race, she can go by a single name.<br><br>Danica.<br><br>“Do you have any sense yet of the historical importance of what you accomplished?’’ Patrick was asked. “What does this mean for open-wheel racing and the IRL?’’<br><br>She shrugged.<br><br>She’s not in the historical perspective or context business. She’s in the racing business.<br><br>“I don’t know,’’ she said. “I’m just racing. It sounds so goober (stupid), but I just don’t think about it. I don’t know why.’’<br><br>Goober?<br><br>That’s Patrick.<br><br>She not only has the racing chops, having paid her dues along the way, but she is charming, disarming and relentlessly forthcoming.<br><br>Ever since the great split of 1996, when the sport impaled itself by breaking off into competing circuits, open-wheel racing has crashed. Even the Indianapolis 500, the self-styled “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’’ had lost its luster, not to mention most of its television ratings.<br><br>Marketable, recognizable names? Please. Who won last year’s IRL championship? No, it wasn’t somebody named Andretti. It was a Brazilian named Tony Kanaan. If you don’t know who Tony Kanaan is, don’t feel like you’re alone.<br><br>Meanwhile, NASCAR, which has benefited from a marketing plan that has centered on drivers’ personalities (and the fact they’re American), was pulling away, leaving the open-wheel folks in the dust. Once, the big names were open-wheelers, Foyt and Andretti and Unser and Mears. Now, the names are the NASCAR boys, Earnhardt and Gordon and Stewart and Martin.<br><br>On Sunday, though, there was the sense that all of that might change, perhaps subtly at first and more dramatically over time.<br><br>The world discovered Danica.<br><br>Not just the fact she’s a woman, just the fourth to compete in this race. They also found out she was worthy of the pre-race hype. She was so good this day, the term “woman driver’’ may no longer be used as a pejorative. Patrick showed she’s got grit and substance, not to mention the backing of the strong Rahal-Letterman team.<br><br>This is no one-hit wonder enjoying her 15 minutes of fame. She’s going to be around a while.<br><br>If there were any questions coming into the month, those were summarily erased during this remarkable race. She made her mistakes — she stalled her car during a pit stop on lap 78 and had a collision during a caution in lap 156 — but kept coming back and coming back. She wasn’t just driving, she was fighting.<br><br>Then, with the cars ahead of her pitting, Patrick took the lead on lap 173, and soon, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was looking and sounding like it looked and sounded in the 1970’s. The entire crowd of 250,000 came to its feet, and didn’t sit back down until long after this epic race was finished.<br><br>She led. Then she was overtaken by Wheldon. It seemed she was in trouble, as Wheldon raced with a full tank and Patrick fought on with a diminishing supply of fuel. On the re-start, though, Patrick made a remarkable run and passed Wheldon again. Ultimately, the fuel issue forced Patrick to lose ground, and Wheldon continued to establish himself as the best open-wheel driver going.<br><br>Nobody will remember Wheldon’s day, though.<br><br>This was all about Danica.<br><br>It will be about Danica for a very long time.<br><br><br>“Gosh, did I make some mistakes,’’ she said later.<br><br>Yeah, she made mistakes, rookie mistakes. But she recovered from those errors. And in the final laps, she gave the people at the Speedway the ride of their lives.<br><br>“A lot of people think you made a helluva point for the females,’’ somebody suggested. “What’s your take on that?’’<br><br>She wasn’t amused.<br><br>“I made a hell of a point for anybody, are you kidding me?’’ she said. “I came from the back twice. That sucks back there. It’s hard. I was so much more content running up front; it was much easier. But I think I might have shown the most is that I was able to pass and I was able to learn how to set someone up better.<br><br>“Yeah, I definitely got a lot of experience in different situation. It was frustrating to be leading the race with so few laps to go and not be able to finish hard and just hang out up there and win the thing.’’<br><br>Patrick might have been The Story Sunday because she was the lone woman, and a major player in the most compelling Indy 500 in many years. Down the road, though, she will alter the sport’s landscape because she’s got the talent to win and the personality to bring marginal fans into the IRL tent.<br><br>If Patrick can remain competitive — and her performances in this season’s first five races suggest she will — she has a chance to make the biggest impact in the recent history of the sport.<br><br>She will boost TV ratings. She will draw national media attention. And most important, she will attract the notice of the vast number of Americans who know almost nothing about a sport that once seemed to matter, but had fallen on hard times.<br><br>Can Patrick do for this sport what Tiger Woods did for golf?<br><br>Put it this way.<br><br>On Sunday morning, most Americans couldn’t name five drivers in the Indianapolis 500.<br><br>Today, almost everybody can name one.<br><br>Danica.<br><br>Bob Kravitz is a contributor to NBCSports.com and a columnist for the Indianapolis Star.<br><br>© 2005 MSNBC.com<br><br>
Posted by: Topper

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 01:21 AM

She weighs 100 lbs. <br>That makes her car 100 lbs lighter than that of some of the other drivers.<br>I doubt they will make a rule change regarding weight considering how she has basically put IRL racing back on it's feet.<br><br>I'll give her credit for one thing...she's even got me talking about the Indy 500 and I don't care for auto racing.<br><br><br>
Posted by: Bryan

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 02:25 AM

Robby Gordon's sour grapes are weak. <br><br>For one, he wasn't even racing against her. Second, the entire basis of his bitching is now moot because she didn't win. So much for an unfair advantage. <br><br>Sure..she's 100 pounds lighter...but what about drivers that weigh more or less than Robby Gordon? <br><br>
Posted by: Topper

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 02:53 AM

It's somewhat interesting that two of the top Indy drivers don't weigh much.<br>Dan Wheldon weighs 157 lbs and Tony Kanaan weighs 145 lbs. <br>It's all moot because Danica has brought interest back to auto racing.<br>I thought our resident expert, DrJohn, would be "weighing-in" on the subject.<br><br>
Posted by: drjohn

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 03:19 AM

<blockquote><font size=1>In reply to:</font><hr><p>I thought our resident expert, DrJohn, would be "weighing-in" on the subject.<p><hr></blockquote><p>I'm no expert on residents, but around my town she's pretty popular. I even watched the race this time, hoping she would be among the finishers. Home town gal makes good!<br><br>I remember articles in our paper when she was racing go-karts. She was destined for the big time. <br><br>Who cares about Robby Gordon...or what he thinks?!!<br><br>
Posted by: Topper

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 03:35 AM

There you have it, folks, the subject is closed.<br><br>
Posted by: Bryan

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 03:47 AM

All I know is she posed for FHM and is mighty tasty. <br><br>
Posted by: drjohn

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 04:22 AM

Just saw the FHM pics. I think she could start my engine.<br><br>
Posted by: Bryan

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 04:42 AM

Sex definitely sells!<br><br>I'm guessing since she drives for the Rahal-Letterman team, she's a lock to be on Dave tomorrow night. <br><br>
Posted by: Bryan

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 04:45 AM

Nope, just checked. Both Letterman and Leno are on vacation this week. <br><br>
Posted by: drjohn

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 05:27 PM

Speaking of Robby Gordon, "Please, no more whining" has it right.<br><br>
Posted by: Michael

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 05:34 PM

* New England quarterback Tom Brady should have to wear a patch over one eye because he sees the field better than most quarterbacks and has an unfair advantage over defenders.<br><br> Good one.<br><br>
Posted by: Bryan

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 07:29 PM

Oh man..that guy nailed it six ways to Sunday!<br><br>
Posted by: snag

Re: Danica and the Indy Racing League - 05/31/05 07:40 PM

Wow only 100lbs and SHE STILL LOST THE RACE. Some advantage. More people need to tell Gordon to shut up. His whining makes him look like an idiot. She finished fourth because she's a good - maybe great - driver. Leave it at that.<br><br>