The answer to the question, So if Danica Patrick's a real racer, when is she going to win a race? has an answer: today.
Patrick took the lead in the Indy Japan in lap 198 of 200.
"This is the best day of my life," [her father] T.J. said. "I've dreamt about it. I'm so proud of her. For all the grief she has gotten over it, she proved she can win races and she is going to win a lot more."Helio Castroneves, the man she edged out at the end, was gracious:
Danica's husband, Paul Hospenthal, is a professional physical therapist who works with athletes in MLB, professional tennis and golf.
"Female aside, she's just a hard competitor," Hospenthal said. "She never asked to be the female in the male sport; she just wants to work hard. With any race car driver, coming to the lead and winning like this and showing a little patience is fantastic."
At times, that patience was tested. For the first 49 races of her career, she was constantly hounded by the questions, "When are you going to win a race?" or "Are you ever going to win a race?" She became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and was in front with seven laps to go before fading to a fourth-place finish that year.
But in her 50th start, Patrick finally answered those questions and lived up to her billing off the track.
"I'm so happy for her, so proud of her," said team owner Michael Andretti. "It's always been a matter of when, not if when she was going to win. I'm so proud of her the way she did it. She stuck to her numbers and her speed. I love this girl. I'm so happy for her the monkey is off her back.
"There will be more of this to come."
"With five laps to go, I was saving fuel," Castroneves said. "When Danica passed me, I realized she was the leader. She did a great job, passed me fair and square and that shows you how competitive our series is."I see that everyone quoted in these stories is male -- it would have been nice at least to hear her mother's reaction -- but I suppose it's tough to turn to the female experts for comment when Patrick is in a class by herself: at 26, the first woman ever to win an IndyCar race.
Edit: Litbrit has an eloquent and personal post on Patrick's win here.