Deconstructing Danica and seeking Simona …

Posted: May 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Speedway Sightings at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By: Wm. LaDow
Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune, a Chicago Sun-Times Publication
May 26, 2011

There is a changing of the guard here at the Brickyard this Month of May …

IndyCar mainstay Danica Patrick has been the most recognizable women in American auto sports. Be it television commercials or bathing suit photos in Sports Illustrated, her image is just about everywhere.

But the very IndyCar fans who initially catapulted Patrick to a new level of public awareness are now turning their eyes to another woman racer, one who drives with abandon and shows no fear in the face of overwhelming odds, Simona De Silvestro.

To understand this evolution, one has to look closely at Patrick’s past and De Silvestro’s present.

Patrick first appeared on the IndyCar scene in 2005 as a member of one of the premier race organizations, the defending 2004 Indy 500 winning Rahal/Letterman Team. Patrick was skilled on oval tracks, benefiting from having the best engine and chassis equipment available, coupled with her 50 to 100 pound weight advantage versus her competitors. (legislated against in an IndyCar rules revision in 2008).

Patrick’s run for the 2005 Indy 500 pole was electrifying and during that race she became the first women to lead a lap at Indy, finishing fourth in her first of seven Indy 500s. She hasn’t led a lap at Indianapolis since and has just one victory in 102 starts in IndyCar.

If this isn’t her last Indianapolis 500, next year will be. It is no secret she wants a piece of the multi-billion dollar NASCAR pie and her people are negotiating that very move right now.

Patrick has become a “brand” as much as she is a race driver. She has never been a series contender for an IndyCar season championship and she won’t be in NASCAR either. Her road course skills aren’t strong enough.

But Patrick’s future isn’t a concern to IndyCar fans these days. They’ve found even more of a racer in De Silvestro, who showed up at Indy in 2010 as an unknown driver with an under-funded team. She left the Brickyard at the end of the month with a 14th place finish and Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

De Silvestro’s return from the worst crash at the Brickyard this May, with second-degree burns on her hands, to qualify 24th with a speed of 224.392 miles per hour in her backup car, the No. 78T Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing entry has made her a new Indy 500 crowd favorite.

Make no mistake; De Silvestro has earned every bit of her new-found fame and her rise in the IndyCar ranks has just begun.

Simona D ...

Simona D ...

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