Back On Track

It's only one race. A single afternoon can't totally erase ten years of trouble, politics and erosion.

But Sunday's 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 was sure something to build on.

Danica Patrick-mania consumed the Brickyard all month, to the point of being overkill. The IRL and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were putting all its eggs in the basket of a petite, 23-year-old rookie driver, who happened to be female. The weight of the world stood on her shoulders, which was considerably more than even carrying around such heavyweights as A.J. Foyt and Robby Gordon.

But she never once showed any signs of stumbling. And once she was able to strap herself into her car, away from the microphones and reporters and television cameras and endless questions, Danica Patrick did what she says she was put on this earth to do - drive a race car.

And she did it incredibly well.

The obstacles that were thrown her way - from stalling on pit road to spinning and crashing to running low on fuel as the race wound down - would have rattled nine out of ten veteran drivers.

But Patrick handled everything in perfect stride, wise beyond her years.

While the attention of the world was on Patrick, Dan Wheldon raced into the record book with the win. It was a sweet and magical story in itself, returning the Andretti family to Indy's winner's circle for the first time since patriarch Mario won the race in 1969.

As car owner Michael Andretti stood beside his winning driver, milk ran down the sides of his mouth as he took a swig of the traditional Indy celebration drink of choice. And tears ran down his cheeks.

But everyone of the 32 other drivers in the field knew the world was tuning into Indy again to watch a young woman try to make history. The good news is, they did.

Even better news would be if they kept watching.

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