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Danica Patrick: First Woman To Win a Major International Open-Wheel Race

By

Danica Patrick
Photo (c) 2008 Getty Images

Name:

Danica Patrick

Born:

March 25, 1982 in Beloit, Wisconsin

Team:

Andretti Green Racing

Height:

5'2"

Weight:

100 lbs.

Hobbies:

Music, training, shopping, movies

Previous IRL Teams:

  • 2007 - 2008 Andretti Green Racing
  • 2005 - 2006 Rahal Letterman Racing

    Victories:

    1

    Background:

    Danica started go kart racing as a child and went on to win several national championships. In 1998, as a teenager she moved to England by herself to learn how to race at the world center of open-wheel racing with a view to making it to Formula 1. She finished second in the Formula Ford festival in 2000, which was the highest position ever scored by an American in that event. In the end, however, breaking through the "woman barrier" in Europe didn't happen and she returned to the United States where she signed up with Team Rahal.

    Her Career Thus Far:

    Danica continued to shine in the U.S., becoming the first woman to score podium finishes in the Formula Atlantic series. She finished third in the championship in 2004, having been the only driver in the series to complete every lap and becoming the first woman to score pole in the series' history.

    Danica Joins the IRL:

    In 2005 Danica joined the Indy Racing League. She became the fourth woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, but the first to lead the race. She finished in fourth place, but led for 19 laps. It was a sensational debut. But it also set up expectations for something bigger. Then followed two full seasons with good results but no wins. Finally, Danica won the IRL race in Motegi Japan in 2008 and made front page news around the world.

    Formula One Begins to Notice Danica:

    Danica's victory at Motegi not only got the world media to notice this fast woman open-wheel racer - in fact, she is also a very attractive woman who never shied of being photographed for her beauty in magazines - but she also began to attract the attention of Formula 1. Soon after her victory in Japan, a rumor surfaced that she might be offered a test drive with the Honda Formula 1 team. But Danica, now well established in the U.S., said that she would only be interested in a test if it was a serious offer with a possibility of a serious drive in Formula 1.

    Formula 1 Women:

    Formula 1 has for years sought a woman star of Danica Patrick's apparent quality - since the marketing value is so obviously massive - but it has so far failed to succeed. As far back as 1958, an Italian woman, Maria Teresa de Filippis raced in five Grands Prix for Maserati and Behra-Porsche. Two other Italian women would eventually try their hand at it as well - Lella Lombardi in the 70s and Giovanna Amati in the early 1980s. Lombardi finished a race the top sixth, the only woman to score any points. But she later failed to qualify for another race. A British woman, Divina Galica also took part in the 70s, and at the Williams team in 1980 a South African woman, Desire Wilson, took part briefly.

    Clearly, with Danica's experience and pedigree, she would already appear to be the best prospect for Formula 1. And at only 26 years old in the season of her first victory, she would appear to still have time to move up to the pinnacle of racing - should she want to, and should F1 be smart enough to give her a chance.

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