Home » INDYCAR, NASCAR - Sprint Cup Series

Ingram: Patrick A Threat And An Inspiration

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, December 14 2009
Danica Patrick could pose a problem for stock-car drivers. (Photo courtesy the Indy Racing League)

Danica Patrick could soon pose a problem for stock-car drivers. (Photo courtesy the Indy Racing League)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief:

I wrote the book on Danica Patrick, or perhaps more accurately, the unauthorized biography. Having watched her race since her earliest days in IndyCar, trust me on this. Once she starts driving NASCAR stockers, Patrick is going to surprise some naysayers.

As an IndyCar rookie, when Patrick got her Panoz chassis sideways in Turn 1 during her first qualifying lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then saved it and completed four consecutive laps at 227 mph, it was enough to convince this writer of her car control and nerve.

I wasn’t alone. Sam Garrett, the manager of Dallara’s chassis program in the Indy Racing League, was one of those who watched that day in 2005 from the pit road as the nose on Patrick’s car planted a little too firmly in Turn 1, causing her rear wheels to begin chattering toward the outside wall.

“If you lift in that situation, you’re going to spin and back into the outside wall,” said Garrett. “That’s the safest thing you can do in that situation. If you keep your foot in it and correct too much you can go straight into the wall. It’s very, very dangerous.”

Patrick kept her foot in it, corrected and has been a racing sensation ever since.

Later that year, when MBI Publishing Co. called to ask me to write the book on how Patrick went from beating the boys in karting to nearly winning the Indy 500, I was happy to oblige.

From the beginning, Patrick has been a threat – or an inspiration – because she’s good and capable of beating the guys in major league races. Like drag racer Shirley Muldowney or Pike’s Peak winner Michele Mouton before her, Patrick scares the bewilikers out of those who really need racing’s Victory Lane to be a bastion of manliness.

There’s been a double standard from the beginning. Team owner Rick Hendrick recently lauded passionate outbursts by drivers and many a writer complaints there’s not enough of that in the sponsor-driven realm of racing. Fans often agree with this line of thinking. But if a woman like Patrick gets hacked off and shows it, well, it’s something other than passionate, or appreciated.

If Patrick gets an opportunity because she can drive and has a unique appeal, she’s trading on the female good looks and identity she was born with. If the son of a famous driver gets an opportunity because he can drive and the name he inherited from his family, he’s sustaining motor racing’s tradition.

If Patrick loses the Indy 500 as happened in her rookie year of 2005 because she ran short of fuel after taking the lead with 11 laps to go, nobody remembers. But if she beats the IndyCar field in Japan because she was fast enough to catch Helio Castroneves when he was running short of fuel, everybody wants to give her an asterisk.

Alas, enough of the usual points of discussion about Patrick, so many of them disengaged from the facts and involving highly emotional males who can’t stand the prospect of a woman winning major league races. At least we’re out of the frame of announcers patronizing her as a novelty act. (Although give some of the TV knuckleheads time on that subject in the coming NASCAR season.)

What I like about Patrick’s current scenario is the ongoing prospect of drivers racing in different disciplines. For the past three decades, there have been regular lamentations about the difficulties drivers face if they move between Indy cars to stock cars and sports cars – or Formula One – because of artificial barriers imposed by sponsors, team owners, manufacturers and sanctioning bodies.

People have wanted to see latter-day versions of drivers like Andretti, Foyt, Clark and Gurney show what they can do in a variety of machinery just as these lendary drivers and their brethren did in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

By racing simultaneously in the Indy Racing League and a major NASCAR touring series, Patrick is currently helping to blaze a trail first taken by Tony Stewart.

We’ve also seen stock-car drivers and IndyCar drivers racing regularly in sports cars at major events such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Sebring 12-hour and the Petit Le Mans. Drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Scott Dixon have regularly taken their championship status on the road, so to speak. That’s another good thing.

The sport of motor racing in general would be a lot more fun and entertaining if more drivers got out of their usual disciplines. They might even become better drivers. Everybody’s a winner in these scenarios – which is why team owners, sponsors, manufacturers and sanctioning bodies do what they can to discourage drivers from sharing the wealth.

What would it be like, for example, to see Kyle Busch, race in the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day? Or to see Busch drive in the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb? This is the same driver, of course, who had to turn down a test in Toyota’s F1 car last year, because NASCAR insisted he attend the Nationwide Series banquet.

Sometimes it turns out ugly, such as Carl Edwards’ crash on the pace lap of the Grand-Am Rolex Series race in Montreal last summer.

Drivers who cross into another branch of racing are always putting themselves at risk of embarassment or the humbling circumstances of learning anew. They rarely get credit for the risks they assume and often as not things don’t work out. Sam Hornish Jr. has gone from IndyCar champ and Indy 500 winner to the most second-guessed talent in motor racing outside of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I like Patrick’s decision to try NASCAR while simultaneously trying to win the IndyCar championship and the Indy 500. Needless to say, it’s been an arduous free agent process to obtain a contract from Michael Andretti and Honda enabling her to do both. It’s not a publicity stunt or a strictly an exercise in increased income. It’s about a passion for racing, despite the many risks so often involved and the arduous battles just to get a chance.

Quote of the Week: Among the keynote speakers at the recent Motor Sports Business Forum North America last week was Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of the International Speedway Corporation.

She stated that ISC has positioned itself to benefit from the current downturn in the economy, which has adversely affected ISC’s business overall in the short term.

“Whenever there is a situation like this, it has also provided an opportunity for us,” she said. “We’ve taken over a half a million of our tickets and re-priced or restructured them. We’ve taken some of the tickets that were previously bundled and created new packages where the bundling wasn’t as prominent. We find that about two-thirds of the people that are buying our newly structured tickets are brand-new buyers.”

France Kennedy added that new ticket buyers often become repeat ticket buyers. “Our history tells us that if we can get them to that one event, that the product sells itself. Our challenge is getting them to that first event, and then it goes from there. We’re accomplishing that through different opportunities and value pricing.”

Needless to say, the presence of Danica Patrick at Daytona will continue to bring in new ticket buyers.

Sports Car Revival? There were several signs this past week that sports car racing’s organizers have learned how to weather downturns in the economy. As any experienced fan can attest, categories like Group C, IMSA GTP and World Sports Cars have disappeared due to the withdrawal of manufacturers in the face of recessions. Other categories before them have gone down a similar path.

This time around, despite two of America’s three major auto makers going into bankruptcy during one of the worst recessions on record for manufacturers worldwide, sports car racing is holding its own. The Pirelli tire test days for the Rolex 24 at Daytona drew a solid field of cars, team owners and drivers. The organizers of the Le Mans 24-hour last week announced its Intercontinental Cup, which will link the series running under the Le Mans rules in Europe, North America and Asia. Already Audi has committed to the 2010 version.

There are other more subtle signs. During the annual remarks about the past racing season, Porsche’s Michael Macht, CEO, hinted that Audi’s participation at Le Mans may not preclude the Porsche brand’s participation as well.

“Motorsport is a central element of our company’s DNA,” he said. “And it will hold an important role in the future. I’m not the only one at Porsche to be tempted to race for overall victory again at the Le Mans 24 hour race.”

And finally, if rumors are true that Simon Pagenaud will be named as David Brabham’s co-driver in Highcroft Racing’s Acura, that is another sign Honda is looking carefully at racing at Le Mans under the new rules in 2011. Pagenaud, who last year drove for Peugeot when he wasn’t racing for Gil de Ferran’s now disbanded factory Acura team, is one of the most sought after sports car drivers in the world. The Frenchman, evidently, believes there’s an Acura in sports car racing’s future.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, December 14 2009
18 Comments

18 Comments »

  • [...] Danica Patrick could soon pose a problem for stock-car drivers. (Photo courtesy the Indy Racing League) By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer I wrote the book on Danica Patrick, or perhaps more accurately, the unauthorized biography. …Read Original Story: Ingram: Patrick A Threat And An Inspiration – RacinToday.com [...]

  • ANM says:

    I’ll take Pat Moss, Michèle Mouton, Denise McCluggage,Janet Guthrie,Shirley Muldowney,Desire Wilson,Louise Aitken-Walker MBE,Lyn St James over any of today’s overinflated hype.
    Look them up, you’ll find today’s stars don’t even glitter.
    Heck, Stirling Moss’ mother Aillen was most likely more skilled behind the wheel.

  • Rachel says:

    Yeah, OK, Marc, we get it. You love her only for her driving ability. She could look like your 60 year-old maiden aunt on a bad day and you would still love her. Yup, got that.

    • Marc says:

      Rachel, that’s funny. Well not really all you have is snark in return to what is fact, not opinion, but fact.

      But I’m a fair guy, perchance you can prove the IndyCar drivers DON’T tolerate G Forces of 4.5 in the corners at Indy and that NASCAR drivers at best only feel the force of about 3 G’s.

      I also note you still haven’t given a valid reason why Danica performed at a higher level than her more experienced teammates, nor have you countered my claim that she has been given a crapwagon to drive as opposed to that run by both Penske and Ganassi.

      Why is that?

      It’s darn easy to post what amounts to cheap snark that is unprovable, i.e. “You love her only for her driving ability” it’s much harder to counter facts isn’t it?

  • Marc says:

    Tony Joseph says…. “Marc, according to ESPN, Danica weighs 100 pounds, not the 125 pounds you claim she does. The next time you go on a hate filled rant about the “factless” posts about your Princess, make sure you get your own facts right first.”

    Sorry to say you missed one tiny point in what you call a “rant.”

    Reread what was written as in clearly it was a quote of a so called racing reporter i.e. “because she’s only weighs 125lbs.”

    Now, you want to talk facts go ahead, but I would also suggest ESPN, not USA Today who has also reported her weight as 100lbs are the best experts on the matter.

    That said, perhaps you can explain why both Milka Duno and Sarah Fisher, who are said to weigh in at 120 pounds apiece by various sources, failed to have some so called advantage that Danica apparently has in some people’s eyes?

    Frankly I find it rather humorous you accuse me of a “factless rant,” yet you addressed none of the points I made.

    You do know the IRL weight issue is a canard right? Both the 2008 and 2009 IRL season used ballast to equalize between differing weights of drivers.

    Under the equal weight rule Danica has has improved in the points standings and did better than he much more experienced teammates in 2009. Your explanation for that is what Tony?

    P.S. BTW I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, Danica is Paul Hospenthal’s Princess.

    Not me, you might wanna correct the error in fact.

  • Tony Joseph says:

    Marc, according to ESPN, Danica weighs 100 pounds, not the 125 pounds you claim she does. The next time you go on a hate filled rant about the “factless” posts about your Princess, make sure you get your own facts right first.

    FWIW, this “factless” poster would like to post that Danica Patrick has won exactly ONE race since transitioning to full sized racing cars in 1997. Before Motegi, she last won a full race in a kart when Clinton was still the President. If anybody wants to come up with some ridiculous excuse about how Danica’s latest 3 season at Andretti Autosport affected her ability to win in her previous 10 seasons elsewhere, please take off your GoDaddy green colored glasses (previously Motorola blue and Boost Mobile orange colored) first.

  • Rachel says:

    Marc, I am not against Danica because she is a woman. If she performs at a high level, I will give her credit for that. But her b!tchiness cannot be denied. I wonder if the males in the audience will forgive her that character flaw at the same time they call Kyle Busch or Brad K. or Denny Hamlin jerks and cry-babies? Or will Junior’s fans give her a free pass for her failures like they give to him? The double standard lives.

    • Marc says:

      Rachel… you better ask those other males about that.

      For my take those that complain about Kyle, Brad or Hamlin are just whining to be heard.

      My point, and only point is many complain at the top of their voice about NASCAR and it’s drivers not being like the old days when they had more so called “personality.”

      Yet when someone like Kyle comes along, wins everything in sight, shows a bit of arrogance while doing it, not to mention “moves a driver out of the way” many hate him for it.

      Kyle, like it or not, is a modern day Dale Sr., yet Dale Sr. in his day never received some of the trash talk directed at Kyle and others.

      You can’t have it both ways, heros and villians are in every sport and booing or cheering for them is a good thing. But the level of hate and childishness directed at Kyle, Danica and a few others is just that childish.

  • Marc says:

    P.S. Rachel… “Yes, Damon, Danica has won a grand total of ONE race with a super-funded team.”

    Can you explain how this so called “super funded team” was so far behind performance wise with respect to the real super funded teams, Ganassi and Penske?

    And how do you explain why she out performed Tony Kanaan who has much more experience the she does?

  • Marc says:

    Damon …. Nice to see someone with a more honest assessment of Danica’s talent and potential.

    Although I have to add, her performance was even more impressive this year given she out performed her teammate Tony Kanaan who has won the IndyCar championship in 2004 and scored 3 top 5’s in the Indy 500.

    And she did so in a team that by all accounts was in disarray, not to mention light years behind Penske and Ganassi in performance.

    Frankly, it’s all too easy for some of you arm chair critics who have never gone faster than say, 100mph, to posture yourselves as some type of “expert,” truth is you, nor does anyone else now how she will do.

    The lack of facts fail to stop any of you, and I’ve heard and read it all. Everything from she would never last 500 miles at Daytona “because she’s only weighs 125lbs.”

    Lack of body mass doesn’t seem to bother Mark Martin who weighs in at a tidy 135lbs.

    Some say she won’t be able to withstand the G Forces involved with racing stock cars.

    Drivers during the Indy 500 race competitively while withstanding G Forces in excess of 4.5 G’s. In NASCAR, as opposed to the open-wheel cars of the Indy 500, drivers experience 2-3 G’s on turns.

    In that sense Danica’s time in stock cars is less stressful than in open wheel.

    But none of this matters to the factless and, kneejerk haters of Danica.

  • Rachel says:

    Yes, Damon, Danica has won a grand total of ONE race with a super-funded team, while SF, along with her father, tried to self-fund her team. Of course, Sarah doesn’t have that coveted Go-Daddy sponsorship wherein she portrays a whore on TV commericals. Yup, Danica is the whole package – no talent, great body, and a perfect example of that word that rhymes with witch.

    • Damon says:

      No talent, yet beat all three teammates on her team this year (which went winless) and finished 5th in points, with only the Penske/Ganassi cars ahead of her (who won all but 1 race in 2009).

      And if you’re going to hold her lack of wins against her, you might as well look at Graham Rahal and his 1 win in 3 years driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan, which was a powerhouse team when they had Seabastien Bourdais and Marco with his 1 win in 4 years driving for his dad’s team, the same team Danica’s on.

      Wins and wins alone don’t dictate that somebody has a lack of talent as much as they do the circumstances of racing, just look at Vitor Meira in the IRL. Danica has more wins than he does, but I doubt you’d say he wasn’t more talented than her, now would you?

  • Damon says:

    Sarah Fisher hasn’t done squad to be considered anything for anybody, Danica OTOH has won a race, 3 poles, finished top 5 in points, won Indycar rookie of the year honors along with being named Indy 500 rookie of the year and has 4 top 10’s/2 top 5’s in her first 5 Indy 500 starts.

  • Steve863 says:

    Steve-zero, is it cold in your mom’s basement?

  • Rachel says:

    Danica is neither a threat nor an inspiration. At least not the kind of inspiration young women need. “Don’t worry about your actual achievements, girls, just flaunt your attributes.” Would there be such a fuss over Sarah Fisher, or is she just lacking the proper “attributes” to get your attention?

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by racintoday: Ingram: Patrick A Threat And An Inspiration – http://www.racintoday.com/archives/12687 #nascar…

  • steve-o says:

    Yeah, Danica is the greatest thing since… Casey Mears.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Pedley, Automotive news. Automotive news said: Ingram: Patrick A Threat And An Inspiration – RacinToday.com: Ingram: Patrick A Threat And An InspirationRacinT.. http://bit.ly/7OkcPK [...]