Just Another Televised Weekend
Editor's Notebook, July 2003
It was just another televised weekend at the track. Sarah Fisher was on the outside of row one as the Indy Racing League cars challenged the short track at Richmond, Virginia. Melanie Paterson, in her Lola/Nissan LMP 675, started mid-pack in the American Le Mans Series race at Road Atlanta. Danica Patrick made her much-ballyhooed entrance to the world of sports car racing at the Road Atlanta American Le Mans Series race, driving a Ferrari in the GTS class. Other women drivers, across the United States and around the world, were racing in televised and non-televised competition, on ovals, on road courses, off-road, in the dirt, and on asphalt.
Over in Madison, Illinois (just outside St. Louis), at the NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals, Angelle Savoie, the winningest woman in NHRA history, sustained an inexplicable upset in the first round on her Suzuki Pro Stock Bike. In Top Fuel Dragster, Melanie Troxel lost in the first round to eventual winner Doug Kalitta, and Rhonda Hartman-Smith blew away legendary racer Kenny Bernstein in the first round, before finally falling in the third round to Scott Weis in the Race-Girl Dragster (go figure!).
|a bit of a mixed bag...|
I wasn't able to catch the drag racing action, but did settle down on Saturday evening for the IRL race and Sunday afternoon for the ALMS race. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but, hey, that's racing.
Hopes were high for Sarah's chances at Richmond. She is, by far, the most popular driver in the IRL and has a vast fan base, especially among women and young people. She has great experience in short track racing and her qualifying times and position on the grid caught made her the driver to watch.
Unfortunately, Sarah had hit the wall in final practice and her rebuilt car just wasn't up to the task. She moved steadily back from P2 to something like P5 in the first lap and was soon trailing the field. Although she soldiered on with lame equipment, she was never really heard from again.
Melanie, the very experienced Canadian driver who had come up through the ranks of go-karts, Legend cars, and Formula Fords, started 28th on the grid and finished 5th in class and 23rd overall. Her team worked the entire race to overcome a gremlin that looked and felt like lack of fuel, which caused the car to shut off unexpectedly. Melanie received very little television time, so it was difficult to follow her.
Danica, on the other hand, was interviewed before the race, was shown getting strapped into the Ferrari for her racing stint, and was interviewed after her stint in the car. She did a very serviceable job and looked very smooth and fast in keeping her GTS Ferrari in and around P10 for the entire hour she drove. Danica, whose day job is driving in the Toyota Atlantic Series for Team Rahal, gained great experience and exposure in the ALMS race. She will, no doubt, put them to good use early on in her career.
|a good thing.|
So, it was just another televised weekend of racing. No woman stood atop any televised podium. (Let me know if you stood on one that wasn't televised.) All the women racers acquitted themselves well. Some finished near the front. Some finished near the back. Some received a lot of attention. Some received very little. The more weekends we have like this, the more 'normal' it will seem for women to compete in professional motor racing. That's a good thing.