I go away on vacation -- and today is actually my last day of that vacation -- and auto racing history is made.
I specfically picked this period since it was a Cup off weekend. Nothing major is going to happen, right?
And then Danica Patrick decides this is the weekend to win a race. And I missed it. I miss out on history. But what's a guy supposed to do? Auto racing is pretty much a year round sport with December and January the only months without an event. I've got to find a moment to spend time with the family some time in the calendar year. So while Danica Patrick was winning in Japan, I was at Disney World.
I've figured Patrick was going to win sooner or later and had been looking forward to witnessing it live.
Of course not everybody is so ecstatic about Patrick's victory. Some scoff because the victory came through fuel strategy, noting she led just two laps. Others (read: Gregg Doyel) deride the IRL as being an inferior racing series. And still others attack auto racing in general, saying how can it be a "real" sport when a woman can beat all the men.
It's all hogwash.
1. Fuel strategy is part of the sport. Auto racing doesn't get enough credit as being a "team" sport. Winning takes a combination of so many factors, from driver to crew chief to pit crew to the set up of the car. When a driver gets on a roll like Jimmie Johnson did in the Cup series last year, it looks easy, but it's not. The 48 "team" was on the top of its game. For Patrick to finally win, all the factors came together from having a strong car to making the right pit calls.
2. As for the IRL being an inferior series, you can't compare with F1. In F1, it's nearly all about the car the technology. You can put almost any driver into a Ferrari and there's a good chance they're going to be competing for wins. I feel the driver is more of a factor in IndyCar. The one caveat I can say about this particular weekend is that it came with half the series in Japan and half in Long Beach for the Champ Car grand finale.
Now I'm not saying it wouldn't be a bigger deal if a woman were to win in NASCAR, but Patrick wasn't trained for that. She was trained for open-wheel racing and she won in the top open-wheel racing in America. How can that be shamed? I think we're many years away from a woman winning in NASCAR's top series.
3. And finally the "real" sport factor. Those who attack auto racing are simply uniformed and, quite frankly, don't wish to become informed. As stated before, it's not all about the driver. The driver is the face of the "team", but, again, there's the crew and the pit crew, not to mention all the people who work on the car and engine back at the shop. It's about more than one person, but the driver is the star.
I think the biggest factor in keeping women away from the big-time stick-and-ball sports is that they require indvidual speed and strength, which is a distinct advantage for the men. Racing is about endurance, hand-eye coordination and the ability to make split-second decisions at 200 mph. Men don't necessarily have a huge advantage in this department. Now if Patrick had an all-female pit crew, she be at a disadvantage because that's where personal speed, strength and agility come into play.
In any case, I'm glad Patrick finally prevailed and I'm hopeful I won't miss out on her next win.
Now back to my regularly scheduled last day of vacation.