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Danica Patrick Makes History With First IndyCar Win
The 26-year old becomes first woman to win an IndyCar race
Rick Capone (racapone)     Print Article 
Published 2008-04-23 02:21 (KST)   
It seems like it took forever, but for Danica Patrick it was definitely worth the wait.

In her 50th race in the IndyCar Racing series, Patrick drove her No. 7 Motorola race car across the finish line at the Indy Japan 300 in Motegi, Japan, on Saturday ahead of all her competitors to become the first woman to win an IndyCar race.

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Patrick, who has been on the IndyCar circuit for a little over three years, passed second place finisher Helio Castroneves with three laps to go, and ended up finishing six seconds ahead of him. Castroneves had to slow down to conserve fuel.

In third place was Scott Dixon, who led most of the race. In fourth place was Dan Wheldon. Patrick's teammate, Tony Kanaan, finished fifth. All three drivers had to pit for fuel with just a few laps to go.

"It's a long time coming. Finally," a relieved Patrick said after the race in an interview on Yahoo Sports. "It was a fuel strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I knew I was on the same strategy as Helio and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous."

Patrick started the race on the third row and remained in the top eight, close to the leaders, most of the day. She made her final pit stop during a caution flag on lap 148, as did Castroneves. When Dixon, Wheldon and Kanan, who were ahead of her, had to stop for fuel, Patrick found herself in second place behind Castroneves and trying to catch up to him.

Then, when Castroneves had to slow down to conserve fuel (he needed to ensure a top finish to remain in the points lead for the series), Patrick flew by him on lap 298 and she began thinking that, maybe, just maybe, this might finally be her day.

Then, according to another Yahoo Sports article, Patrick heard over her radio, Kyle Moyer, her team engineer, who also calls her races, tell her the words she had dreamed of hearing, "You can use as much fuel as you want. Bring it around, the checkered flag is yours," he said.

A few seconds later, she crossed the finish line and Team Patrick's celebration began, as her parents, husband, team and teammates were all happy to see her finally get that first win.

"I'm so happy for her and so proud of her," said her race team owner, Michael Andretti, in an ESPN.com article. "It's always been a question of when -- not if -- she was going to win, and I'm so proud of the way she did it. She did a really good job sticking to the numbers while still keeping her speed.

"I love this girl," he added. "She's just a first class individual and I'm so happy that monkey is off her back. You'll see -- there is going to be more of this to come."

Congratulations also came from her competitors as well.

"With five laps to go, I was saving fuel," Castroneves said in the Yahoo Sports article. "When Danica passed me, I realized she was the leader. She did a great job, passed me fair and square and that shows you how competitive our series is."

Added Dixon in the same article, "We led for a lot of laps, but came up short. But, congratulations to Danica for her first victory."

The win for Patrick was a long time in coming. The 26-year-old Patrick burst onto the IndyCar racing scene in 2005 as part of the Rahal Letterman Racing team. After finishing in fourth place in Japan that year in just her third race, she then went to the Indianapolis 500 that May and lit the place up. She led the race for 19 laps, the first woman to ever do that, and then held the lead in the closing laps, only to finish fourth to conserve fuel.

She ended her 2005 campaign with two poles, two top five finishes, seven top ten finishes and in 12th place in the points standings. For her efforts, she was awarded the Bombardier Rookie of the Year honors.

In 2006, she raced in 14 races and finished ninth in points. She had two top fives and eight top tens that season.

During that offseason, she made her biggest move yet, going from the Rahal Letterman Racing team to the Andretti Green Racing team for the 2007 season. In her first year with Andretti Green, she scored 4 top fives and 11 top tens in 17 races, finishing seventh in the points standings. It was another strong improvement.

So far in this season's first three races she has one win, two top tens and stands seventh in the points standings.

Thanks to her solid driving skills, and also because of her looks, she has become one of the most popular drivers on the circuit. However, whispers began to be heard that she might be like women's tennis star Anna Kournikova -- great looks, some talent, but can't win. Patrick also modeled for different magazines, including the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue this year. The Kournikova comparison became even louder after that.

However, all of the whispers were silenced in Japan this past weekend. Patrick has won a race, and there can be no question about her ability to drive fast with "the big boys" anymore.

She has a long and bright future ahead of her. So, move over boys, this lady is catching up to all of you fairly fast!
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rick Capone

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