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updated: 2/24/2013 7:03 PM

Patrick made Daytona 500 must-see TV

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  • Danica Patrick prepares to get in her car before the start of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla.

      Danica Patrick prepares to get in her car before the start of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Associated Press

  • Danica Patrick waves to fans as she walks down pit road before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla.

      Danica Patrick waves to fans as she walks down pit road before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Associated Press

  • Danica Patrick (10) and Jeff Gordon (24) lead the pack to start the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla.

      Danica Patrick (10) and Jeff Gordon (24) lead the pack to start the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Associated Press

 
 

Nothing is more mystifying to me than a woman's mind unless it's an automobile's engine.

So you can imagine how disoriented I was while watching Danica Patrick compete Sunday in the Daytona 500 after she earned the pole position at 196 mph, which is almost as fast as most females run away from me.

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This was my to-do list for the weekend: Eat an avocado, teach the dog pinochle, drug test a Blackhawk, shop for an egg timer, cancel HBO, get cosmetic surgery, drug test another Blackhawk, DVR a "Lone Ranger" rerun, dine at White Castle, drug test another Blackhawk ...

Finally, watch the Daytona 500 until Danica Patrick crashes, finishes back in the pack or wins the freaking race.

Yes, folks, I was all in on the hype.

Jimmie Johnson won the 500 but Patrick didn't disappoint. She recorded the best Daytona finish ever by a woman and became the first woman to lead a green-flag lap there.

Patrick took eighth place after entering the final lap in third. Noteworthy was that her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., trailed her by four spots. Isn't that about where every man should stand in relation to his lover if, you know, he knows what's good for him?

(How cool would it have been if Stenhouse collided with her on one of the turns, both had to drop out and she beat him up in one of those legendary NASCR brawls?)

Look, I don't know a carburetor from a windshield wiper. Heck, I don't know a dipstick from a grilled cheese sandwich. The last time I attended a stock-car race was when demolition derbies were contested in the old Soldier Field.

But I was fixated on this race Sunday because of Danica Patrick.

Women's sports generally are boring. Sorry, ladies, but why watch women's tennis when the No. 1 female in the world couldn't beat the No. 100 male in the world?

However, it's fun when a female is competitive in a male-dominated event like when Kelly Kulick won a men's pro bowling tournament and when Julie Krone won horses racing's Belmont Stakes.

Wake me when Ronda Rousey enters the UFC octagon against a man or a woman makes it onto the PGA Tour like Michelle Wie was supposed to.

Title IX provided hope that a female would play in Major League Baseball by now and I still expect to see it happen before the Cubs win a World Series. Come to think of it, maybe a woman closer is what the Cubs need to win a championship some day.

You get the idea: I wouldn't be interested if Danica Patrick raced in a powder-puff derby, but she made the Daytona 500 fascinating no matter what her critics say about her.

Patrick -- a native of Roscoe just north of Rockford and a current resident of Chicago -- was interesting even before she earned the Daytona 500 pole position. Whenever the remote happened upon an IndyCar or NASCAR race in recent years, the initial instinct was to check the scroll for how she was doing.

Patrick remains intriguing not just for her heralded GoDaddy sex appeal. She remains intriguing as a woman invading a man's world, enduring the snickers and driving through the roadblocks.

Whether Danica Patrick ever conquers NASCAR well enough to win a race, she certainly has conquered the fear of failure that prohibits so many of us from chasing our dreams.

That must have been on her to-do list.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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