Lucky for Danica Patrick she's a girl. Seriously. Or maybe it's lucky for her she's as good as she is and thus worth gazillions in television and other commercial revenue. As an overnight superstar she'll be immune from the scrutiny that would be heaped on a lesser brand of Indy car driver.
But consider: on lap 155 of Sunday's Indianapolis 500, under a caution flag while the track was being cleared of debris from an earlier accident, Patrick somehow lost control of her racer at a mere 100 mph, spun out, and in the process collided with at least two other race cars, knocking them out of the race. Her own car escaped serious damage and she was able to have it repaired under the extended caution laps she precipitated.
Now if this had been a Nascar race, or if the drivers victimized by a careless rookie had been named Eddie Sachs or A.J. Foyt, the guilty hotshot would afterward have been introduced to a few punches in the nose and maybe a black eye. But these aren't those times. Tomas Scheckter, one of the affected drivers, said only, "Danica lost it right in front of me... She got it wrong... a little mistake but [with] big consequences for everybody else." Not that Patrick's boss Bobby Rahal was gent enough to agree. He dismissed those consequences as a case of "no harm, no foul."
Needless to say, amid the hoopla and celebrification, none of the coverage of Patrick's performance pointed any blame at her for the accident, if it even bothered to discuss it at all. She herself admitted to making "some mistakes" during the race, but noted she was a lot "more mad" at herself for stalling her engine during a pit stop than for the spin -- for which she not only didn't apologize but even suggested she was almost its victim. "I can't believe my car wasn't completely demolished when I spun because I got hit hard twice," she said.
In case you think she'll ever have second thoughts think again. "That spin, I think, was something that needed to happen," the L.A. Times caught her saying.
An updated AP report did its own finger-pointing, on Patrick's behalf. She felt the problem was that the driver just in front of her before the accident "purposefully slowed to trick drivers trailing him," the AP noted. "But she didn't want to assess blame until she saw a replay." At least she wasn't blaming the guys she knocked out of the race.
Almost forgotten, in the all-Danica coverage, is that the race was won by Dan Wheldon. He's the first Briton to win in Indianapolis since 1966. But the victory meant more to him than that, because the winner 39 years ago was Graham Hill, a year after the even greater Jim Clark won there. When Wheldon invoked their names in his post-race comments, anyone who followed those two would also have remembered that each was killed (Hill, to be sure, in the crash of a plane he was piloting) long before the 26-year-old Wheldon was born.
Danica Patrick's ascendancy is being hailed as a grand achievement for women, girls, baby girls, and hard chargers of every sort. Thanks to these gender obsessions, entirely forgotten is that motor racing like no other sport requires dicing with death. Let's not kid ourselves. This is a deadly serious business, whoever is competing. After Sunday's race one very nervous wreck could be seen on camera -- Danica Patrick's mother.
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