INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Jan. 2, 2006 -- Danica Patrick made history last May by becoming the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, a performance that was remembered by sports fans and media during year-end awards voting.

Patrick, who became the highest-finishing woman ever in the Indianapolis 500, was named Female Athlete of the Year by the United States Sports Academy after dominating a worldwide Internet election hosted by usatoday.com. Patrick also was runner-up in media voting for the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, trailing only golf superstar Annika Sorenstam.

Patrick also ranked No. 6 among 30 athletes in fan voting at ESPN.com in the "Who Was The Ultimate Face of 2005, SportsNation?" poll.

IndyCar® Series rookie Patrick electrified the sports world in May after qualifying fourth for the 89th Indianapolis 500, leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth after a thrilling late-race duel with eventual winner Dan Wheldon. She was named JPMorgan Chase Bank Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

The Athlete of the Year is the culmination of the Sports Academy's year-long Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in any sport around the globe on a monthly basis. Tennis star Kim Clijsters finished second in the women's balloting, followed by Sorenstam.

In the AP poll, other athletes receiving votes behind Sorenstam and Patrick included tennis players Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams and Clijsters, golfer Michelle Wie, swimmer Natalie Coughlin and basketball player Sheryl Swoopes.

The ESPN.com poll asked fans to vote on the athletes who made the biggest headlines in 2005. The only athletes to finish ahead of Patrick were, in order, NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, cyclist Lance Armstrong, football player Reggie Bush, basketball player Ron Artest and football coach Charlie Weis.

In another salute to Patrick's performance at Indianapolis, FOX NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip named the 89th Indianapolis 500 as the Race of the Year in his year-end column for foxsports.com.

Three-time NASCAR champion Waltrip wrote: "We've all talked about the exciting races of the year in NASCAR, but one of the most exciting races that I saw in 2005 was the Indy 500 with Danica Patrick leading and finishing fourth. It was as good as it gets. She spun out and had trouble in the pits, but she was there at the end of the day when it was time to decide who was going to win the race. She battled it out with eventual race winner Dan Wheldon and three or four of the top drivers in the series to see who was going to go to victory lane. It was as good a race as I've seen.

"Of course, the IRL cars put on an incredible show any time they go to the mile-and-a-half tracks, but Danica's Indy 500 was one race that got me really excited. It was the lead-in to the Coca-Cola 600 on FOX so I sat and watched it, and I thought it was a pretty exciting race."


Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 Indianapolis 500, the historic 90th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

All fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office. Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any tim

Ticket prices start at just $20.