Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Danica Patrick Silences Critics
Danica Patrick finally ripped the monkey off her back with a win in the Indy Racing League
Danica Patrick finally ripped the monkey off her back with a win in the Indy Racing League, and it came on foreign soil, much like the "knockout" punch delivered by Buster Douglas when he dropped Mike Tyson in Japan back in the '80s.
Although Patrick's win is far from the huge upset by Douglas over Tyson, it begins a new era of respect for female athletes who compete in male-dominated sports. Her victory marks the first major open-wheel Indy car win for a women, with groundwork in the division laid by Janet Guthrie and Lynn St. James, who both competed in the Indy 500 and did well in Indy car racing, yet failed to win.
Patrick wired the field with smart driving and excellent, fuel-saving pit management and crew-chief decisions. Patrick passed Team Penske driver and leader Hello Castroneves late in the race, posting her first career win in front of cheering Japanese fans. The victory for Andretti-Green racing was indeed a sweet one, as Patrick and her family were overcome with joy and tears. When she composed herself, she admitted she always believed she would win, as many others did, and that it was all she thought it would be.
Michael Andretti, team owner, agreed it was just a matter of time, as it wasn't ever a condition of "if she could win," but "when she would win."
In an interview on CNBC following her win, Patrick admitted she always believed she could win as a driver.
"The frustration was when I had to answer the 'when will I win' questions," Patrick said. "Michael (Andretti) and my teammates (Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti) always believed in me, and that's what was important. It put me in a good frame of mind, regardless of how I know I look at the race track, and that's always serious with usually 'a look' on my face."
Patrick said she wants to present the softer side of Danica Patrick to the public, and admits there's a woman and a "girlie side" to her, in contrast to the hard-nosed race-driver persona she presents on race day.
As for the Honda-powered win in Japan, it couldn't have come at a better place, as Honda is the IRL's major engine supplier, and all major Honda executives were present for the race.