Updated April 24
Not surprisingly, Danica Patrick's first-ever IndyCar win was the hot topic this week, with comments pretty much split down the middle regarding the magnitude of her victory. My take is that Patrick's trip to Victory Lane will be the first of many and is great not just for the IRL but for all of auto racing. It brings high-profile attention and exposure to the entire sport. NASCAR in Mexico and this week's trip to Talladega also grabbed readers' attention:
I'm not ready to put Danica Patrick's win into the history books as one of the greatest accomplishments of our time, but you have to give her credit in a big way for breaking yet another barrier in sports. Do you think it will pave the way for more women to look at auto racing as a career avenue?
Women have been competing successfully in auto racing in various forms through the years, most notably in the NHRA, where drag racers like Shirley Muldowney and Ashley Force have won national events. Janet Guthrie, Lynn St. James and Sarah Fisher were all relatively successful in IndyCars, while NASCAR has seen the likes of Shawna Robinson and Patty Moise compete. But Patrick's win will open more eyes, and maybe her success will give other talented female drivers toiling in the lower divisions and regional circuits around the country a shot at making it to the big time.
Does Danica Patrick even get a chance to race in the big leagues if she were a guy named Dan Patrick?
I assume you are speaking hypothetically and not referring to the famous sportscaster with the same name. I understand your point. Obviously the answer is that a male driver with the same talent level as Danica might not have gotten the opportunities she did. But although her gender and sex appeal might have opened the door for her, she wasn't going to ride that too much longer. By her own admission, she didn't want to hang around as a sideshow. Competing and winning is what she had to do, and now she has done that.
Will NASCAR try to expand beyond Mexico and Canada in the future and do you ever see a Cup race being held internationally?
NASCAR is trying its best to become a global sport like all other professional sports leagues. There have been discussions about trying to start a NASCAR-like series in China. Recently we have heard rumblings about another connection in Australia, where NASCAR held exhibitions races more than a decade ago. But I don't think we'll see a Sprint Cup race held outside the U.S. anytime soon, though I never thought I'd see the day when the baseball regular season opened in Japan. Because the Cup slate is already packed so tight, if there's any more export of the NASCAR big three divisions, it will most likely be the Nationwide or Truck series. If I had a say, we'd build the American audience first.
Will Tony Stewart really leave Joe Gibbs Racing or is he just, pardon the pun, blowing "Smoke?"
Nicely played. I think Stewart is really thinking down the road and wants to be a Cup Series owner when his driving days are over. That might not be for a few years, but the opportunity to get into a place like CNC-Haas, where he has been rumored to be bolting to if he does leave JGR, gets him in on the ground floor. It's also no secret that Stewart is still not pleased with being part of Team Toyota, and a return to long-time manufacturer partner Chevrolet is something he longs for as soon as possible. If he can bring Home Depot with him, I wouldn't bet against Stewart leaving Gibbs after 2009 and becoming an owner-driver at a place like Haas-CNC.