Retro Action, April 20, 2010: Move Over, Boys: Danica Patrick First Woman to Win IndyCar Race
Ending once and for all the question of whether women can drive, 26-year-old Danica Patrick races to the lead in the 198th lap of the Indy Japan 300 and becomes the first female winner of an IndyCar event.
Although certainly not the first woman to take the Indy wheel against the boys—that was trailblazer Janet Guthrie back in 1976—the dimunitive driver ground out three long years on the circuit before finally holding a winner's trophy.
"It's a long time coming," said Patrick, who is 5'2 and barely 100 pounds. "Finally. It was a fuel strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I knew I was on the same strategy as Helio [Castroneves] and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous."
The Wisconsin native got her start behind the wheel at age 10, competing in go-kart races and winning several World Karting Association Championships. After moving to England at 16 to train for Formula One, she returned stateside and made her American debut at the Indianapolis 500 in 2005.
Although Patrick was eventually warmly received by fellow drivers and fans—being featured in Sports Illustrated's 2008 swimsuit issue doesn't hurt—others complain that the photogenic driver has an unfair size advantage.
"The lighter the cars, the faster it goes," grumbled Robby Gordon, a former driver. "Do the math."