Saturday, February 23, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.23

Sunday Danica Patrick will be starting the Daytona 500 from the poll position, the fastest qualifier at Daytona with a speed of 196.434 miles per hour, and the world becomes just a little bit better. There was a time I spent nearly every Sunday afternoon watching a race and discussing the fine art of pit stop times with my dad. I don't follow racing as much as I once did, then again I don't spend as much time with my dad as I once did, but I remember watching the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 when she became the first woman to lead that race in her very first trip there. I was watching again in 2008 when she became the first woman to win any IndyCar race.

This will be Patrick's first full season running the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. For the racing novices that is the series where you drive pseudo stock cats by punching the gas and turning to the left for two hours. Sprint Cup racing is the pride of southerners, future southerners, and wannabe southerners the world over.

It has never been easy for Patrick to be taken seriously in the totally male dominated world of auto racing. They always said she was a flash in the pan, that she got so much media attention because of her looks or just because she was a woman. It was never because of her skill as a driver because everybody knows a woman just can't handle a car like a man can. Multiple champion and team owner Richard Petty is the father of my onetime fav driver Kyle and a now sort of the Queen Father of NASCAR. Just last week Petty said this while discussing media coverage of Patrick and her new boyfriend NASCAR rookie Ricky Stenhouse. "It takes away from the racing deal, the stars that really bring the people and the show that brings the people and the people that put on the show. Peyton Place and the racetrack, I keep them separated." I haven't heard if 'King Richard' revised his comments after Patrick won the pole.

So why does it even matter? Five year old Ella Gordon, daughter of driver Jeff Gordon, told her dad she wanted a picture with Patrick in Victory Lane after Patrick won the pole. Jeff Gordon happens to be starting in the front row next to Patrick yet I still wonder who Ella will be cheering for tomorrow. It matters because it's just another way for young girls to see they can do whatever they want to do.

When the flag drops with Danica on the poll the good ole boys in the Daytona infield will be crying in their cans of Budweiser. The confederate flags may still be flying over their tricked out Winnebagos but their world will never be the same.

I like the thought of that.