Danica Patrick: Gender in NASCAR Still Relevant

By Whitney Norris

Clocking in at 196 miles per hour on Monday, Danica Patrick beat out 37 other drivers to become the first woman to ever win the pole at the Daytona 500. Not only that, she became the first woman to take a pole in any race in NASCAR’s series, the Sprint Cup.

This is not only a great feat for Danica, a definite highlight in her racing career, but it is also a feat for women. Does it really matter that she’s a woman, though? Not really, according to her.

“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl,” Patrick said. “That’s how I’ve always approached my racing career. I’ve been lucky enough to make history and be the first woman to do many things. We have a lot more history to make and we are excited to do it.”

Racing legend Jeff Gordon was the only other driver who topped the 196 mile per hour mark. He came in second behind Patrick, locking in the number 2 spot in the Daytona 500 which kicks off the season next week.

This is not Patrick’s first time making racing history. In the Indianapolis 500, she was the first woman to lead laps, and her coming in at third place at the Brickyard was the highest ever taken by a woman.  Patrick’s also the first woman to have ever won an IndyCar race.

Winning this pole, however, seems a bigger feat.

Media outlets around the nation are very inclined to believe that Patrick’s success will be shared with NASCAR, who has been trying to broaden its audience to include more women for years.

According to the Wall-Street Journal, “So-called NASCAR widows, whose husbands are glued to the television all weekend watching race coverage, may sit down to watch if Patrick is fighting for the lead.”

I don’t know about that. While women everywhere are undoubtedly rejoicing for Danica and this long awaited victory for women (girl power!), at the end of the day, NASCAR is still the same NASCAR.

No offense to the sport. I have been to my share of races growing up, and NASCAR is a very respectable organization. However,  the fact that one of the 36 cars driving around the track is being driven by a woman, is not going to inspire me to tune in to the Daytona 500.

“For women in general Patrick is pushing open a door that has long been closed and locked to them, whether they are interested in watching races or pursuing the sport as a hobby or career,” says Jonathan Welsh of the Wall Street Journal.

This may be true, but I think I’ll still sit this one out. As a self-proclaimed “F-word”, (feminist), I could not be prouder for Danica Patrick. However, I’ll be cheering for her from my internet home page the day after the race.




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