Danica Patrick makes sports history

The 26-year-old phenomenon puts doubts to rest, becoming the first woman to win an Indy car race.

By Sarah Hepola

Published April 21, 2008 12:11PM (EDT)

On Sunday, race car driver Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy car race, sealing her place in the annals of sports history alongside the likes of Billie Jean King. Now, I would be lying if I told you I'm an expert in race car driving. Pretty much everything I know about the sport I learned from "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." But I do know about Patrick, because it's hard to miss the rare sight of a woman in racing, and it's especially hard when that woman is Patrick -- a 5'2" spitfire who appears on late-night talk shows and likes to pose in a bikini. For a while, her celebrity looked like it might overshadow her career, and she was haunted by jeers that she was a pretty face with a talent for stealing headlines and botching races. As sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote, "Danica Patrick was the Anna Kournikova of racing. She looked good never winning." But today, she can kick those doubts to the gutter, and claim another victory for women struggling to compete in fields dominated by men. As she said on Sunday following her emotional win:

"This reaches outside racing. This is about finding something you love to do, and following through with it."

Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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