|Danica Patrick stands by her car on pit road after qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick won the pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)|
Any Casual Reader of this page will understand that We sometimes veer off the Path of the usual, run-of-the-mill Prepping/Survival/Preparedness/Homesteading/Off Grid - type content.
Anyhoo, as a Racing Enthusiast, and Sponsor/Partner with godaddy.com, We run stories about Danica Patrick. Not Inspirational stories, no, NEWS.
Personally as a Fan, I can say this is a Great Story about a Fantastic Leader for the sport - which arguably needs a boost, not unlike most of American Enterprises.
That being said, keep an eye on This One, she's just beginning to Win Big.
Run'em Down in the 500 Danica!!!
Get Updates/Ideas On Our Off Grid Living Page http://madtownpreppers.blogspot.com/p/off-grid-living.html
Millions of people who have little interest in auto racing will have a rooting interest in Sunday's Daytona 500 simply because of the primal dynamic of men vs. womenDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick will race from the pole position at Sunday's Daytona 500. No woman has ever done that in the 54-year history of NASCAR's signature race. It doesn't mean she'll win. Odds makers think half the field of 42 men competing with her has a better chance than she does.
But imagine, for a moment, that she does win. That would be the sports story of the young year, and perhaps of the new millennium, because few things resonate more in cultures around the globe than the age-old tale of the battle of the sexes.
Men and women don't compete directly in most sports because of physiological differences, but auto racing is among the few where size and strength matter less, and where men and women match wits and grit without any compensating allowances. Golf allows shorter driving distances from the ladies' tees, but the driving distance at Daytona — 500 miles, 200 laps — is the same for either gender.
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That means millions of people who have little interest in auto racing will have a rooting interest in Sunday's race on Fox (1 p.m. ET) simply because of the primal dynamic of men vs. women.
"Anyone who has ever been to middle school knows about the girls vs. the boys," says Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "Gender is one of those categories, even in this enlightened age, that still" pushes all manner of cultural buttons.
Janet Guthrie, 74, the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500, knows all about that.
"For most of human history, broad shoulders and big muscles made the difference," Guthrie says. "It's only been the last 100 years or so where it isn't always the case. That's just the blink of an eyelash in human history — and humans are still getting used to it."
One of the men Patrick will race against Sunday is her new boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a plot twist worthy of a 1940s screwball comedy: Think Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trading barbed repartee over the roar of race cars.
Patrick, 30, won the pole position last Sunday by qualifying first with a lap of 196.434 mph. Stenhouse, 25, was 12th and Jeff Gordon, who came second, pointed out that at least he'd been the fastest man.
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Patrick's parents, T.J. and Bev of Indianapolis, watched their daughter finish 17th in a 23-car field in a qualifying race Thursday — it didn't change her pole position — from a crow's nest above a giant painted image of their daughter on the side of a GoDaddy.com trailer in the paddock.
"I have friends who say now their daughters want to race," T.J. says. "Either they're mad at me or they're happy, one of the two."
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Starting up front is an advantage that can dissipate because of that daunting distance of 500 miles. Just nine of Daytona's 54 winners have started from the pole, or 17%.
"I'll take those odds," Patrick said on ESPN this week. "I do think that it's going to be hard and I wouldn't consider myself a favorite to win. Although, a fast car, you never know what can happen."
Should Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet finish first, she'd suddenly be better known as a Daytona 500 winner than for her appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, wearing rather less than her neon-green racing suit, and her provocative Super Bowl commercials for Go Daddy, the Internet domain name company that sponsors her race car team.
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"There would be, I hesitate to say, unprecedented media coverage, because it seems like all media coverage is unprecedented these days," says David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, "but the amount of coverage if she wins would transcend the racing category and she'd find herself on the Today show and Good Morning, America just as easily as Saturday Night Live and Letterman."
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Patrick is a rookie in her first full season in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR's top tier, and has just one win in 183 career starts in IndyCar and NASCAR, raising a question of whether it's reasonable to expect she can win the Great American Race.
"Anybody in the race can because (Daytona) is such a wild card," says Dale Jarrett, ESPN analyst and the last driver to win this race from the pole position, in 2000. "Last year (in a second-tier) Nationwide race, guy running 11th on the last lap gets to the checkered flag first. Anything can happen in this. You just have to put yourself in a position for that to happen."
King vs. Riggs
Men's sports almost always gather more attention than women's sports, with notable exceptions such as figure skating and gymnastics. But little attracts more attention for female athletes than when they compete against men, as Billie Jean King discovered when she beat Bobby Riggs in a 1973 made-for-TV tennis spectacle. She's more famous, in some respects, for beating an aging hustler than for her career Grand Slam and her grand career.
That match came during the tumult of the women's liberation movement and was billed as The Battle of the Sexes but turned into more young (she was 29) vs. old (he was 55). King skillfully moved Riggs from side to side on her way to an easy 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory. The match was held at the Astrodome, all show-biz vulgarity far from the strawberries-and-cream gentility of Wimbledon.
Its continuum in history goes something like this: Title IX was passed in 1972, King beat Riggs in 1973 and King founded the Women's Sports Foundation, which continues to advocate for gender equity in sports, in 1974.
"I was a kid when the Bobby Riggs match happened," Syracuse's Thompson says. "I had no interest in tennis. I didn't play it. I didn't watch it. I didn't care about it. But I cared about that match. Johnny Carson was hitting it every single night. That was kind of a gimmick, the new woman versus the old-school guy."
King, in an email to USA TODAY Sports, says: "We are still in a time where women get more media attention when they excel in what people traditionally consider a men's arena (and) this is especially true in sports. We may be seeing some of that this week in Daytona, but motorsports is one of those opportunities where being a man or a woman does not give you an absolute advantage as it might in other sports."
King hopes Patrick's performance "pushes us all to recognize her first and foremost as a great race car driver and not just as a woman who drives race cars."
Sports historian Allen Guttmann points out that "motorsports have been more identified with maleness and masculinity than tennis ... especially risky motorsports like Indy and Daytona. They seem to be considered a kind of masculine reserve. It's difficult for some men to see women coming into their sport."
Guthrie, who owned the previous best starting spot for a woman at Daytona (18th in 1980), found that out firsthand.
"I got to be the pioneer, as time and fate had it," Guthrie says. "The oval track boys had never had the experience of running against a woman, and they were sure they weren't going to like it and were not shy about making that opinion known."
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser moderated his view later, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1979: "I gotta admit I had my doubts about her. But she's proven her point (that) she can be up there in the top 10."
Brad Keselowski, defending Sprint Cup Series champion, has doubts about Patrick. She carries multimillion-dollar sponsor backing thanks to her consumer influence even as drivers with better results on the track sometimes struggle for funding.
"When Danica gets in the car, I don't think, 'Oh there's that girl.' I think, 'Oh, there's that 30th-place driver,'" Keselowski says. "That's the reality of it. People who talk to me about Danica and say, 'Man, you need to give her more of a chance.' No, you need to give her less of a chance. You need to treat her equally and think about those who never came even close to getting the opportunity she had."
Darrell Waltrip, FOX's analyst on Sunday's race, says if Patrick wins "it would change this sport forever, take it to another level — I promise you."
It would take Patrick's fame to another level, too, and she is already known by 70% of U.S. consumers, on a level with Emmitt Smith, Bob Costas and John Malkovich, according to the Celebrity DBI, a database that quantifies consumer perceptions of roughly 2,800 celebrities.
"Her awareness is already at a high level and it can only go up" if she wins, says Matt Delzell, managing director of the celebrity talent division of The Marketing Arm, the Dallas-based company that collects the data. "But Danica is one of those people who is not a quick blip on the radar. She's a marketing machine."
In 2011, Forbes estimated Patrick's annual income at $12 million, third highest among female athletes behind tennis players Maria Sharpova ($25 million) and Caroline Wozniacki ($12.5 million).
Bonnie McCain of Umatilla, Fla., is in Daytona to see Patrick. "There are a lot of little girls running around here with green shirts," McCain says. "It's not just a boys' sport anymore."
Neither is horse racing. Retired jockey Julie Krone knows the feeling that Patrick hopes to have come Sunday. Krone won the Belmont aboard Colonial Affair in 1993 and she remains the only woman to win a Triple Crown race. She'll be watching Sunday and rooting hard for Patrick.
"Danica doesn't know it, but she's driving a clown car," Krone says. "Open that door and you'll find women all over the world getting out."
Brady reported from McLean, Va. and Ryan from Daytona Beach. Contributing: Jeff Gluck, Michael Hiestand and Jeff Olson
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