The Real Deal

Things couldn’t be going any better for the Indy Racing League.

First came the long-awaited unification with the Champ Car World Series. Then the season started off with two pretty good races, the second in St. Pete won by a young American driver with a strong connection to Indy Car’s past when Graham Rahal took the checkered flag.

Now comes Danica Patrick’s historic win making her the first female to ever win an Indy Car race.

Unfortunately Patrick’s triumph came halfway across the world in the middle of the night in Japan, but why quibble?

The bottom line is after all the hype and questions of whether Patrick was indeed capable of being more than a dog and pony show, the talented young driver from Roscoe, Illinois finally made it to victory lane.

It will indeed give the RIL even more momentum heading into the first real Indianapolis 500 in maybe 15 years and provide exactly the kind of exposure the league was looking for to go along with all the unification talk.

As for Patrick, there had to be a great sigh of relief coming from her camp after finally getting the monkey off her back.

Many have been hard on her; me included, but once she joined Andretti-Green Racing, most thought it would only be a matter of time before she finally won, now that she was with a team capable of giving her the kind of equipment needed to compete.

It’s a somewhat similar situation to what Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is going through – another huge name who hasn’t been able to win in nearly two years and is in danger of being an over-hyped figure rather than a successful superstar.

Like Patrick, Earnhardt will in my mind finally live up to the hype now that he has the powerhouse Hendrick stable behind him.

Some will point out that Patrick’s win came in a fuel strategy situation, as if that isn’t a good enough way to find victory lane. Those detractors conveniently forget winning on fuel mileage has been part of auto racing for just about forever and that less than a week ago, Jimmie Johnson picked up a NASCAR win the same way.

The bottom line is that Patrick deserves the attention and accolades for her historic win. She’s delivered on her promise of not just being a sideshow but a true competitor.

And the folks at IRL headquarters in Indianapolis couldn’t be happier.

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