Danica turns sights to IndyCar season

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

In the world of stock car auto-racing, Danica-mania has come to a screeching halt. Danica Patrick, the former Roscoe, Ill., resident finished her three-race NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last weekend. She won’t return to the stock car series until June.

She now turns her attention to the 2010 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. Patrick will travel to South America to compete in the Streets of Sao Paulo race in Brazil Sunday, March 14. That will be the first of 17 races on her IndyCar Series schedule. The season’s premier event will be the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, May 30.

Patrick will be looking to return to victory lane in the series where she has her only victory as a professional driver. She won the 2008 Indy Japan 300. Since then, Patrick hasn’t taken a checkered flag.

In the three Nationwide Series races, she failed to finish the race in two of her starts. She was involved in race-ending wrecks in Daytona and Las Vegas. She did finish running in 31st place in California during the second week of the season.

In my opinion, Patrick has taken a lot of undue criticism from her fellow competitors and some racing fans. It’s really not her fault that the media have catapulted her into the limelight each and every time she gets near a racetrack. They react to her like moths to a flame. Is she the one to blame for their overwhelming exuberance? I don’t think so. I think she has handled the pressure with grace and aplomb.

In the Nationwide Series, she has publicly admitted she is racing with some of the best drivers and that she has a way to go before she can become competitive in the series. She hasn’t displayed any unwarranted cockiness or unearned swagger. To me, she is respectful of the series and is humbly paying her dues. What more do her detractors want?

It’s no secret that I like Patrick, and I respect her talent. I think she is more than capable of skillfully driving any type of vehicle she gets behind the wheel of, IndyCar or NASCAR.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue

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