Patrick Motivated To Break Ground, Compete For Win at Indy 500
Experience, winning team raise driver's expectations for month of May
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004 -- Danica Patrick knows part of her celebrity as a rising star in open-wheel racing is because she is a female, but she also knows she has arguably the best shot of any woman at a coveted Indianapolis 500-Mile Race victory.
After three successful seasons with Rahal Letterman Racing in developmental series, team co-owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman have moved up Patrick, 22, to the 2005 Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series as teammate to 2004 Indianapolis 500 champ Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira.
"This is a plan that we've had for a couple of years now and a relationship we've had with Bobby and Rahal Letterman Racing even long before that," Patrick said. "Sometimes it feels like it has taken a long time to get here, but I'm 22 years old, and I'm going to be driving in the Indy 500. It's amazing.
"I have been working toward this for 13 years. It's pretty whirlwind right now. I think it's going to be a fun year."
Patrick, who was born in Beloit, Wis., and lives in Phoenix, will drive the No. 16 Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone entry with sponsorship from Argent Mortgage Company and Pioneer Electronics.
She will attempt to become only the second woman, after Sarah Fisher, to drive the entire IRL IndyCar Series schedule and become the fourth woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the race, from 1977-79. Lyn St. James drove in seven races between 1992-2000, winning Bank One Rookie of the Year honors in 1992, and Fisher has competed in every Indianapolis 500 from 2000-04. Guthrie's ninth-place finish in 1978 is the best for a female driver.
While Patrick knows the tricky 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval commands the respect of drivers around the world, her learning curve will be made much easier thanks to the company she keeps at Rahal Letterman Racing.
Rahal won the second-fastest Indianapolis 500 in history, in 1986, and finished seventh or better in seven of his 13 Indy 500 starts. Rice, also a Phoenix resident, was one of the dominant drivers throughout the 2004 IndyCar Series campaign.
Patrick's experience in junior open-wheel racing series also will make a big difference. She competed in Formula Ford in England in 2000-01, then joined the Rahal team and drove in the Barber-Dodge Pro Series in 2002 and Toyota Atlantic in 2003-04, finishing third in 2004.
In Patrick's eyes, that experience gives her a better chance to compete for victory at the Indianapolis 500 then the women who raced before her.
"I have been given the opportunity to really learn," Patrick said. "I learned in England, I learned here with Bobby and the (Toyota) Atlantic team.
"I'm also very confident. I feel like I can do the job, I feel like I'm a good driver, and I know that I'm with a good team that I can do it with. Let's face it, a lot of good drivers don't get on good teams and can't go fast. You can only push your car so hard."
Opening Day for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 8, and that is when Patrick's "hands-on" education in competing in the "500" begins. She said the greatest advice she has received thus far is not how to drive on fabled IMS oval, but how to cope with three weeks of preparation and fanfare.
"The actual racing of it isn't different than anywhere else, but there is much that I have been coached on as to the buildup to it," Patrick said. "It's a whole month. All the people, and when you enter Turn 1 you feel like you're going to run into a wall because there are so many people. But the actual racing, and if I can focus on that, is what I've known and what I've been learning my whole life."
2005 tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 89th Indianapolis 500, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.