Danica At Milwaukee
Editor's Notebook, June 2003
I had the pleasure, recently, of watching Danica Patrick race at Milwaukee in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Series. Her performance was impressive as she drove to a sixth place finish on this very demanding oval. Coupled with her third place finish in Monterrey, Mexico, it is becoming clear that Danica is the real deal.
My wife and I are great open-wheel racing fans. I like the history, lore, and diversity of the great road racing circuits, while Susan prefers the heart-pounding excitement of short track ovals. We never miss the Champ Cars at Milwaukee's oval and the road racing tracks of Laguna Seca and Elkhart Lake, and we add other races every year as our schedule allows. We have a feeling that we'll be watching Danica Patrick for years to come, on both the ovals and the road courses.
We all know the great pitfalls that are ready to sideline any race car driver and the special pitfalls that are out there to derail women drivers. We've seen drivers pushed too fast too soon. We've seen talented drivers unable to find rides. We've seen drivers on shoestring budgets motoring around in non-competitive equipment. We've seen drivers, women drivers especially, not being supported through their learning curve by their sponsors or by their team members.
At Milwaukee, I saw Danica drive a very professional race. She was clearly flat out all around the circuit and held sixth place with ease, but was, for the most part, unable to move forward. She made some great outside passes when they were called for and drove a precise line when it was available to her.
At one point, late in the race, her car seemed to come into its own. She drafted and passed the fifth place car and seemed to be on the move even farther forward.
|a very big moment...|
Just as quickly as her car sweetened, it lost its edge. Coming out of turn four, she had a very big moment that would have put a less talented driver into the fence. She managed to save the car, but was re-passed and had to settle for the sixth place finish. As we watched her in those few minutes, it became very evident that she was a consummate professional, ready to take what she could, able to salvage her car from potential disaster, and willing to work for what the race track gave her.
Now, it helps that Danica is driving for Team Rahal. She has, I'm sure, the best equipment and crew possible and the coaching of one of the true legends of the sport. Her tutoring in the Toyota Atlantic Series will prepare her well for the eventual and inevitable move to the feature series.
It also helps that she is what some folks would call 'cute as a button' and what most men would find attractive. I can imagine that, as the financial stakes grow higher, Danica will be able to handle the demands of her sponsors as well as she handles her race car.
There is a new generation of women race car drivers coming into its own. We'll soon be seeing many of them move up the ladder farther than any have gone before. From what I learned at Milwaukee, I know that Danica Patrick is one driver on the move.