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[Danica] Patrick runs right over doubts about women racers
NJOnline ^ | January 28, 2006 | KEN WILLIS

Posted on 01/28/2006 5:01:55 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican

January 28, 2006

Patrick runs right over doubts about women racers

DAYTONA BEACH --It's not that there haven't been any women racers before, including some who made their way to a Victory Lane here and there at various levels of motorsports.

Problem is, the list is hardly a scroll. Therefore, Danica Patrick, who can appear so steely, so self-assured, so focused, gives an honest and somewhat surprising admission.

"I cannot blame people for wondering if a girl can drive," she said Friday, the day before her debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which begins today at noon at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick, who last year became perhaps the most famous non-champion in racing history, has answered that question time and time again -- in the affirmative, by the way. But it's not always easy.

Just a few weeks ago, during the first day of sportscar testing, she jumped behind the wheel of the No. 2 Daytona Prototype for her initial laps. Don't listen to what anyone else might say, she says now, that test was pure audition.

"They didn't know if I could drive the car yet," she says. "I think everybody kinda knows, but they don't know for sure, so the safest option is to make it a test."

Spend any time around Patrick, and you'd assume there was never a doubt in her mind about that early January test session. But, though her 100-pound frame doesn't appear to have any wasted flesh, there seems to be an ounce or two of healthy doubt.

"I'm sure there's something inside of me that always says, 'I can drive it,' " she says. "It has to be there for me to be able to do it. But I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous before I got in a car every time. Especially in new ones, because you always wonder, 'Is this the car, is this the style of driving I'm not going to adapt to well?' "

So Patrick started the car, fully depressed the clutch, and threw it into first gear.

And stopped, cold.

Turns out, there was a problem with the clutch that wouldn't allow the car to be put into gear without an accompanying revving of the engine. But nobody knew that at the time. All they knew, or thought they knew, was, "The girl stalled the car."

"They were saying, 'You gotta keep your clutch down,' " Patrick remembers of her strange introduction. "I was like, 'I know that. I have a road car too.' "

Later, back at the shop, team leader Max Crawford's crew found the problem, and Patrick can now chuckle about it and assure everyone, "So, I'm not an idiot."

INDY CHANGED EVERYTHING

Before last spring, Danica Patrick was basically known only to those who follow a wide range of auto racing. She was the pint-sized, 23-year-old who successfully climbed the racing ranks and landed in an Indy Racing League car owned by Indy-car legend Bobby Rahal.

Then in May, it all changed. She was fast at Indy. Very fast, actually -- she turned the fastest practice lap (a tick under 230 mph) of the month, then qualified fourth for the Indianapolis 500. When she led 19 laps in the 500, including several in the very late stages, and eventually finished fourth, she officially became The Girl Racer, a cover-girl celebrity in a form of auto racing desperately in need of an attention-grabber.

So Danica became the overnight poster child for the IRL, but not without a certain amount of detractors. Englishman Dan Wheldon won the Indy 500 on his way to a series championship, but he was overshadowed. Not everyone was happy about that. Patrick was getting a disproportionate amount of attention simply because of her gender, and many -- specifically the old-schoolers and those with absolutely no sense of marketing -- took exception.

Wheldon became the subject of some people's pity, but fact is, he probably got more attention than he would have otherwise if Patrick had finished, say, 30th. Eight months later, he seems to know that.

"It raised the profile of the series, and that's good for everybody," says Wheldon. "I think she deserves a lot of the attention she gets. She had an exceptional first year, especially at the Indy 500."

That attention has been spread to a new audience this week. Daytona's 24-hour race, in recent years, has taken on the look of an international convention of racing greats -- this weekend, 73 drivers in the field have won championships on a national level. But along with attracting talent and organizing a world-class endurance event, for the landlord the Rolex is also about selling tickets. And if you want to sell tickets in racing today ...

"Danica ... she's just a promoter's dream," says Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway. "We wanted to get the Danica news out as quickly as we could, because we knew there would be an up-tick in ticket sales. You can be as creative as you want with chili cookoffs and fireworks and Ferris wheels, but the real test is what's on the track and the field of drivers."

PEOPLE ARE WATCHING

Through the first two days of practice, this unique event has been a real eye-opener for Patrick. She's accustomed to the attention, and realizes the positives that come from it, but normally it's at arm's length.

"There's so much more access here. People are inside the garages, inside the tents, just able to roam," she says. "Sometimes that can get in the way a little bit, but at the end of the day, they're fans, and without the fans, things are very difficult. I'm always flattered by how many there are. We're working on that in Indy-car too, how can we get more of them."

One of Patrick's co-drivers this week is former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace. Current Nextel Cup champ Tony Stewart is a teammate on one of the other three cars in the Howard-Boss stable. It's no surprise that the three Howard-Boss garage stalls have become a popular hangout for the fans.

And coincidentally, if those fans shift their gazes, they'll see another "girl in a guy's world" -- Catherine Wallace, crew chief for the team's flagship No. 4 car. The 27-year-old daughter of team boss Max Crawford (and new wife of veteran driver Andy Wallace) is one of the few who can relate to Patrick.

"Sometimes you really feel like you have something to prove, but you don't want to be the girl with a chip on her shoulder," says Catherine. "It's a fine balance.

"She's a nice girl," she says of Patrick. "She said the same thing: 'Sometimes I feel like I have to prove something.' All she has to prove is that she can drive, and all I have to prove is that I can run a car."

Sometimes, the job itself seems to be a welcome relief compared with explaining to everyone why you want the job, how you got the job, and why you deserve the job. For Danica Patrick, life would be much more straightforward if she wasn't The Girl Racer, but she wouldn't change things even if she could.

"There's never been a time in my life when I wished I was a guy racer," says Patrick. "I'm very comfortable where I am. I know very well that it draws attention, but you also get the pessimism, and you get some slight disbelief here and there. And that's the kind of stuff that's very difficult to break and make people believe in you.

"People are watching, whether you do well or you don't do well. I think that I'm in a fortunate situation where people are ready. The fans are ready, and everybody's ready for something different -- a woman to do well. When I do well, it's a good thing and people go with it, people run with it. I'm very lucky."

ken.willis@news-jrnl.com

DID YOU KNOW?

In 1977, more than 25 years before Danica Patrick made a splash at the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Janet Guthrie became the first woman to start in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.

· In four years of NASCAR racing, Guthrie started 33 races, finishing in the top 10 five times. She earned $78,309 over the four years.

· Guthrie had a widely diverse background before starting her racing career -- she was a pilot and flight instructor, an aerospace engineer, and a technical editor.

-- Compiled by News Researcher Peggy Ellis

SOURCES: www.janetguthrie.com; NASCAR Encyclopedia


 Search our archives for related stories

Danica Patrick suits up for Rolex 24 practice Friday.


TOPICS: Sports
KEYWORDS: danica; patrick; racing
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1 posted on 01/28/2006 5:01:58 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: NormsRevenge

Dont know if you use your ping list for this type of racing or not, but thought I'd flag you to it.


2 posted on 01/28/2006 5:03:00 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
Can midget racing be far behind?

Oh ... wait, I think I have seen ...





3 posted on 01/28/2006 5:07:20 AM PST by G.Mason
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
She's quite good and doesn't demand special treatment. In fact it was the men who ended up demanding special treatment because their fragile male egos couldn't take being beaten in their own sport by a woman!

(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie. Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")

4 posted on 01/28/2006 5:11:31 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
It's my understanding that the major complaint against her driving is that she never turns her blinker off -- which can be veeeeeery irritating after 500 miles.
5 posted on 01/28/2006 5:14:07 AM PST by Condor51 (Better to fight for something than live for nothing - Gen. George S. Patton)
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To: G.Mason
Can midget racing be far behind?

Funny you should say that.
One of the biggest beefs among other Indy drivers is her weight, (less than 100lbs), Indy rules mandate a minimum car weight excluding the driver which gives her an average weight advantage of about 60 to 75 lbs.

The experts claim that such a weight advantage with all things being equal would result in 1/40th of a second gain per lap.

I know it doesn't sound like much but in a 250 lap race, it translates into a pretty hefty handicap for heavier drivers.
6 posted on 01/28/2006 5:16:13 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Learn from the past, don't live in it.)
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To: HEY4QDEMS

she weighs more than 100 lbs.....


7 posted on 01/28/2006 5:19:01 AM PST by MikefromOhio ("Let it go, loser." - CatPissTire (otherwise known as DogBarkTree) - I wish I could add more lines..)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

The reason Guthrie didn't get any praise for her racing is that she didn't specifically want to race; She wanted to be a woman in a man's sport.

Patrick wants to race.

(P.S. Guthrie also tried to rub everybody's nose in it by driving a green car. That was considered bad luck at that time.)


8 posted on 01/28/2006 5:19:19 AM PST by wolfpat (Dum vivimus, vivamus.)
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To: HEY4QDEMS
Re: The experts claim that such a weight advantage with all things being equal would result in 1/40th of a second gain per lap. I know it doesn't sound like much but in a 250 lap race, it translates into a pretty hefty handicap for heavier drivers.

Whew! Don't know if I could last through 250 laps dances with her. I'd surely blow a gasket!

9 posted on 01/28/2006 5:20:26 AM PST by Bender2 (Read the first three chapters of my Science Fiction novel)
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To: MikeinIraq
Maybe 105. Let's assist others with a visual aid.....

(Just helping out whoever's here for the pics)
10 posted on 01/28/2006 5:23:00 AM PST by RandallFlagg (Roll your own cigarettes! You'll save $$$ and smoke less!(Magnetic bumper stickers-click my name)
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To: MikeinIraq
Her Bio has her listed at 100 even, she weighed in less than that at last years Indy 500.
11 posted on 01/28/2006 5:23:58 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Learn from the past, don't live in it.)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

How many races has she won? That point wasn't addressed in the article. Her star will begin to fade if she doesn't win at least one race in the near future.


12 posted on 01/28/2006 5:25:09 AM PST by Man50D
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To: Man50D
Her star will begin to fade if she doesn't win at least one race in the near future

Perhaps you should look at the picture in post #10 and reconsider.
13 posted on 01/28/2006 5:28:05 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Learn from the past, don't live in it.)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

She has been racing something since she started walking. Sure she can drive. Not hard to look at either. Now if the press would just let up on her.


14 posted on 01/28/2006 5:29:20 AM PST by sgtbono2002
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
When Danica can back up her racing with some WINS then she has overcame the " doubts about women racers". Until then she is just another pretty girl who can drive a fast car!
15 posted on 01/28/2006 5:29:22 AM PST by sausageseller (Look out for the jackbooted spelling police. There! Everywhere!(revised cause the "man" accosted me!)
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To: sausageseller

"Until then she is just another pretty girl who can drive a fast car!"

Not that theres anything wrong with that.


16 posted on 01/28/2006 5:31:55 AM PST by John W
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To: sausageseller
Until then she is just another pretty girl who can drive a fast car!

Damn! I going shopping for a fast car today!! and a Beatles album.
Baby you can drive my car.
17 posted on 01/28/2006 5:32:01 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Learn from the past, don't live in it.)
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To: goldstategop
She's quite good and doesn't demand special treatment. In fact it was the men who ended up demanding special treatment because their fragile male egos couldn't take being beaten in their own sport by a woman!

Not so sure about that. The interviews I have watched with her, she says she gets equal treatment.

The reason I like her is she has rejected all attempts to be stereotyped as a feminist, or racing "because I am out to prove a point", and the like. She doesn't have a bitter chip on her shoulder or agenda. She's likes to drive and race, period.

It will be interesting how she fairs tonight. Amazing that a 100lb person will be able to hold up for the length of time they drive, the course is much different than what she drives normally and one other thing is dehydration (easier for a 100lb person?). I 'd love to be there tonight and had chance for free entry but am getting over a nasty cold.

18 posted on 01/28/2006 5:32:39 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: sausageseller

Feh. If Tonia Stewart can do it, she can. (GO GORDON!) LOL


19 posted on 01/28/2006 5:34:22 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: John W

Yea, right - "She drives a car? Really?"


20 posted on 01/28/2006 5:34:51 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

Danica qualifies fine, but fades towards mid-pack on a regular basis. If you want to watch a real racer who happens to be female then keep an eye out for Katherine Legge. She won 3 races in the Atlantics series (something Danica never did, if fact Danica hasn't won a race since karts) last year and might move up to a full time ride in Champcars this year.


21 posted on 01/28/2006 5:40:41 AM PST by ChuckHam
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To: ChuckHam

My guess is she will be Toyota's entry driver into NASCAR Nextel Cup racing.


22 posted on 01/28/2006 5:44:16 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: HEY4QDEMS
her an average weight advantage of about 60 to 75 lbs....
I know it doesn't sound like much but in a 250 lap race, it translates into a pretty hefty handicap for heavier drivers.

Average weight advatage. Most competative drivers drivers are about 50 lbs heavier than her. The ones complaining weigh about 200lbs. Which means the good drivers have the same advantage against them as Daniaca has against the drivers not complaining.

And if you are going to make the weight issue "fair", what about corecting for lower female upper body strength? Which would be an issue even if Danica wasn'r a tiny slip of a girl.
Or we could ignore the whole thing and just let them race.

And as the picture rule applies

Oh she has "man" hands (posted so the people who notice that won't have to post)

23 posted on 01/28/2006 5:50:13 AM PST by Oztrich Boy (Liberal comes from "liber" the Latin word for "free" - Liberal Republic, you know it makes sense)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

I understand her weight gives her an advantage by making her car lighter. Is there anything physically about a woman that would put her at a disadvantage in racing. I am asking this as a serious question because I don't follow this sport at all and don't know the physical demands that are put on one's body in a race.


24 posted on 01/28/2006 5:53:01 AM PST by stayathomemom
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To: RedBloodedAmerican

Just in case you didn't know, or for the benefit of those who may not know, one driver doesnt run all 24 hours. they switch off every 3-4 hrs, depending on how they feel and how they're running.


25 posted on 01/28/2006 5:56:17 AM PST by heckler (wiskey for my men, beer for my horses, rifles for sister sarah)
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To: heckler
Uhh..yea, I knew that. But the lengths tonight can be longer than what she is used to in open wheel.
26 posted on 01/28/2006 6:01:03 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: stayathomemom
Not sure; I think strength and stamina are two things, although she does look well conditioned; probably better conditioned than allot of her male counterparts.. And at 100lbs I wonder about her dehydrating, but I am sure they have that covered.
27 posted on 01/28/2006 6:02:32 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: RandallFlagg

Geez, I'm trying to picture Bobby Rahal posing like that!!!
Times have changed, times have changed.


28 posted on 01/28/2006 6:06:06 AM PST by Paine in the Neck
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To: RandallFlagg

Isn't that a '57 Chevy? Where's the picture of Danica?


29 posted on 01/28/2006 6:06:50 AM PST by Bushbacker1 (Kill 'em til they're dead! Then, kill 'em again!)
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To: HEY4QDEMS

http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Opinion/Columnists/MyTwoCents/col2CENT012706.htm


30 posted on 01/28/2006 6:08:00 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: Oztrich Boy
And if you are going to make the weight issue "fair"

Whoa there Oz, I'm not going to do anything, I like things the way they are.

I googled her and found lots of stories about the weight complaint so please don't shoot the messenger.

IHO the rules:
31 posted on 01/28/2006 6:08:07 AM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Learn from the past, don't live in it.)
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To: RandallFlagg

Man, that is a great lookin 57 Chevy!!


32 posted on 01/28/2006 6:08:58 AM PST by taillightchaser
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To: ChuckHam

She starts 16th today. Same car owner as the one Tony Stewart is driving for.


33 posted on 01/28/2006 6:12:32 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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To: wolfpat

You won't see a woman in the top 10 in a real sport like bicycle racing the Tour de France. It is nice to see a pretty face driving around in circles on TV however.


34 posted on 01/28/2006 6:15:50 AM PST by razzle
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
I think Tony did win a Indycar race when he drove for Menard.

BN. (before NASCAR)

Tony even won several midget, sprint titles too. Pretty girl ain't won crap, but has won a bunch of drool races.

35 posted on 01/28/2006 6:19:08 AM PST by sausageseller (Look out for the jackbooted spelling police. There! Everywhere!(revised cause the "man" accosted me!)
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To: stayathomemom
I understand her weight gives her an advantage by making her car lighter. Is there anything physically about a woman that would put her at a disadvantage in racing.

As I noted in the post above yours, even at equal weights, women tend to have lower upper body strength, which matters.

36 posted on 01/28/2006 6:39:16 AM PST by Oztrich Boy (Liberal comes from "liber" the Latin word for "free" - Liberal Republic, you know it makes sense)
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To: Paine in the Neck

Just the kind of pose you remember from King Richard, or Junior's Dad.


37 posted on 01/28/2006 6:42:57 AM PST by wita (truthspeaks@freerepublic.com)
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To: Oztrich Boy
No power steering? I am totally clueless. (Don't quote me on that.)
38 posted on 01/28/2006 6:43:25 AM PST by stayathomemom
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To: wolfpat

"Guthrie also tried to rub everybody's nose in it by driving a green car. That was considered bad luck at that time.)"

I worked on Pat Flarity's car in 57, he won indy and his car was green.

I agree that it's considered bad luck but it's nothing new.


39 posted on 01/28/2006 6:44:59 AM PST by dalereed
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To: HEY4QDEMS
Perhaps you should look at the picture in post #10 and reconsider.

I was referring to her being a sucessful race car driver. That picture proves my point. The only thing she will accomplish if she doesn't win any races is becoming the Anna Kournikova of racing.
40 posted on 01/28/2006 6:46:45 AM PST by Man50D
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To: goldstategop

What a nice stupid statement. Give me some more feminist lines, the fragile male ego one is getting worn out.
BTW what has Danica won?


41 posted on 01/28/2006 6:53:49 AM PST by em2vn
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To: Condor51
It's my understanding that the major complaint against her driving is that she never turns her blinker off -- which can be veeeeeery irritating after 500 miles.

Especially because it's her right turn blinker, and they only turn left!

Mark

42 posted on 01/28/2006 7:04:02 AM PST by MarkL (When Kaylee says "No power in the `verse can stop me," it's cute. When River says it, it's scary!)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican
Image hosted by Photobucket.comthen i guess that's why the silly cow shut her car off during the race here at TheGlen, cause she's so friggin smart... please.
43 posted on 01/28/2006 7:05:49 AM PST by Chode (American Hedonist )
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To: dalereed
I agree that it's considered bad luck but it's nothing new.

Just in the US. Green was never thought of that way in Europe, in fact, Triumph's color was "Racing Green."

Mark

44 posted on 01/28/2006 7:08:35 AM PST by MarkL (When Kaylee says "No power in the `verse can stop me," it's cute. When River says it, it's scary!)
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To: em2vn
BTW what has Danica won?

The hearts of thousands!

Mark

(chuckle!)

45 posted on 01/28/2006 7:09:24 AM PST by MarkL (When Kaylee says "No power in the `verse can stop me," it's cute. When River says it, it's scary!)
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To: RedBloodedAmerican


46 posted on 01/28/2006 7:15:50 AM PST by Lady Jag ( All I want is a kind word, a warm bed, and world domination)
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To: em2vn
The 'must win something' club is a bit off point...

I seem to remember Harry Gant winning championship with a long string of second places - and no wins.
Only one person per race gets to win and 42 (NASCAR) to a handfull (IRL & CART) competent drivers follow up.
Any driver who is competitive, does not cause crashes and avoids most of them, keeps the car together, and finishes mid-pack can claim a successful career.
Lots of popular drivers seldom won but just had something that make you follow them.

IMHO Guthrie missed on all the points above and Patrick looks like she'd be well above the cut.
And I'll watch for Legge (no pun intended)

47 posted on 01/28/2006 7:17:05 AM PST by norton
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To: MarkL

Bill Clinton won the hearts of millions. Like Danica he was good Public Relations. Until she begins to win she is just a pretty face.


48 posted on 01/28/2006 7:41:05 AM PST by em2vn
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To: Man50D
She's been racing now what... 2 or so years. She's had some top 5's with a 4th at indy even.

Thats pretty decent.

I'd give her more time ( a couple years ) before worrying about her star fading.

How long do others take to win their first race on average?

In the meantime, enjoy the view and skill


49 posted on 01/28/2006 7:43:54 AM PST by wallcrawlr (http://www.bionicear.com)
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To: Chode

Brake bias knob right next to engine switch. she was not the first to have it happen.


50 posted on 01/28/2006 8:15:11 AM PST by RedBloodedAmerican
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