Danica Patrick isn't a Harpy
Friday night I sent Abby a text ranting about how people on Twitter lost their damn minds over Danica Patrick’s announcement she’ll be retiring in 2018, and only running two races: the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. I ended it by stating I was jumping off social media for the rest of the evening. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why Danica Patrick is a polarizing figure in American motorsports. I think it comes down to two reasons: people don’t like she’s a woman, and people don’t like her attitude.
I wasn’t sure what the term “micro-aggression” was until I read twitter responses to Danica coming back to the Indianapolis 500. The number of people indicating that it was “only because she was a woman” and they “hated her brand” was out of control. Let me state the obvious point that some people don’t grasp: she indicated she’ll be getting a car for the Indianapolis 500, she will not have a magic slot into the race — she has to go through qualifications like everyone else. This point seems to be missed by quite a few people who have decried how “unfair” it is that she will be getting a spot. I’d be willing to wager that the same people who hate Danica because she’s being “used as some sexy prop” are the same people getting their pictures taken with the Monster energy girls.
Others have dumped on Danica because of her perceived attitude. I’ve not spent any time with her, so of course my knowledge is similar to theirs — what I’ve noticed of her display on and off track. Can she be a bit whiney — sure. Does she perhaps throw fits — yes. Here’s the thing, from what I can gather it takes a lot of mental and physical strength to be a driver. You’re mere seconds away from injury at any moment in your life. That’s going to bleed over into your life, sometimes in a negative way. However, are any of the antics Danica has pulled anything more then what we’ve seen other drivers do? YouTube is full of drivers getting into fights, and stomping down pit lane. Drivers actually do throw their teams under the bus in nearly every interview when something goes wrong with the car. Maybe not as subtly as Danica has — but hey everyone has done it (of course that does not make it right).
What these people may need to be reminded that as an IndyCar driver Danica didn’t have a bad record. Out of the seven years she was in IndyCar, she was in the Top 10 six years. Again, six out of seven years she was in the top 10 in the Indianapolis 500. She led laps in the Indianapolis 500 — being the first woman to do so — and her highest finish was third, the highest finish for any woman. She has one career win, 2008 in Japan, and is the only woman to win an IndyCar race. Additionally, she won 3 poles, had a total of 6 podiums (one being her win), and was in the top ten a total of 63 times.
Finally though, if you’re in the camp that hates Danica because she’s a woman, or you hate her because of her attitude, everyone has to acknowledge that she did a tremendous amount for women in motorsports. We don’t always get to choose who the trailblazers are and there is danger in putting people on pedestals because everyone is flawed. However, Danica inspired a whole new generation of young girls by giving them someone in motorsports who looked like them, and were driving a car. For that, people should be thankful.