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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The First Lady

She’s no longer just that girl who drives Indycars.

Fifty races into her career, Indy Racing League superstar Danica Patrick can finally call herself a winner, after playing a smart fuel mileage strategy into a victory in Japan.

Unfortunately, nobody saw it, as it was a rain-delayed event that was broadcast in the U.S. at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night on ESPN Classic -- Not exactly your best bet for good ratings.

But it doesn’t matter whether anyone saw it, it did happen and Patrick can now tell all the detractors who claimed she was just an overhyped pretty face and doubted her racing talent to quit their yapping.
Whether they want to admit it or not, she is talented, though the TV announcers do go way overboard in hyping her during race broadcasts. At times, you’d think she was the only driver on the track, the way they talk. Look for more of that at the Indy 500 this May. Now that she’s won, anytime she gains a position, they’ll spend five minutes talking about her.

I can’t really blame them, though. If open-wheel is going to gain the viewers it desperately needs, it needs to appeal to the masses, and stories about Danica and the dancing champion Helio are more likely to bring in new viewers than a feature on Dan Wheldon or Will Power, though his name is pretty cool.

The future may or may not bring more wins for Patrick, but no one can say she doesn’t have the ability to succeed. Patrick should be thanking her lucky stars that all the talk in 2006 of her moving to NASCAR never came to be. Considering the struggles of all the open-wheelers who jumped to NASCAR this year, she may have never seen victory lane had she made the switch.

Many wonder whether modern-day NASCAR will ever have a female contender in any of its top three series. Many have tried, but it never amounted to much. Unless you go back to the 1950s and Louise Smith, or Janet Guthrie in the 1970s, there really hasn’t been much to talk about. Patty Moise made a quick splash in the late 1980s, but didn’t last. The list of female drivers who weren’t able to become the next big thing includes Tammy Jo Kirk, Deborah Renshaw, Shawna Robinson and Erin Crocker (also known as Ray Evernham’s girlfriend).

The simple answer is there’s no way NASCAR can force that to happen. If a young female driver comes up and has the talent to compete, she will succeed. As Patrick has showed, sponsors will flock to a female driver who shows hints of talent, as they are guaranteed TV time. But if that doesn’t happen, we may never see a female victor in a victory lane in NASCAR’s top three series.

I could see the steam rising out of Boris Said’s afro after he was knocked out of the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City by Australian driver Marcos Ambrose. I’ll also give Said points for creativity, as he took the unusual step of going over to Ambrose’s crew chief to apologize for the car that he was going to wreck in the future.

It’s ridiculous how well Kyle Busch is doing this year -- in every series he decides to race in. Having watched him his whole career, I never pictured him as a driver who could always be a contender for the win, but obviously I was wrong. If someone were to tell me right now that Busch would win both the Cup and Nationwide titles this year, I’d find it hard to argue with them.

Unnecessary quote of the week: After Sunday’s race, Carl Edwards said that it was the most fun he’s ever had with his clothes on. Really Carl, I didn’t need to hear that.


Blogger Bill Gnade said...

Dear Matt,

I was just cruising by when I spotted your blog.

As for the Carl Edwards quote, I have to agree. As I watched the post-race interview, I thought to myself that his remark was not only in poor taste, I thought it stupid. And I think he thought that too! He seemed to pull away from the interviewer; I think he embarrassed himself.

Really, it was dopey.

Busch has got to be happy. He might be the one to beat on the season. And you're right: it is ridiculous how well he's doing.



April 21, 2008 at 5:32 PM 

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