Analysis: Patrick focused on win

Danica Patrick may be one of a record three women on the starting grid for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, but to her, being part of that milestone is just a footnote in her quest to win U.S. racing's top prize

Analysis: Patrick focused on win

"There isn't a driver in the world who wouldn't love to win this race," Patrick told Reuters on Monday, skirting the question of what it would mean to be the first woman driver to triumph at The Brickyard.

"It's the biggest race in the world. It has so much history and you always remember who wins the race. It holds so much clout it changes your life."

Patrick, who burst on the scene with a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Indy 500, in which she became the first woman racer to hold the lead, finished eighth last year.

Joining Patrick in the 33-driver field are fellow American Sarah Fisher, at age 26 in her seventh Indy 500 with a best finish of 21st in 2004, and 35-year-old rookie Milka Duno of Venezuela, the first Hispanic woman to drive in the race.

Patrick complained about having a slow car in last year's race with Rahal-Letterman Racing.

This season she has joined Andretti-Green Racing, which put five cars into the top 11 positions on the grid for the race on Sunday.

"I have really been impressed with her," AGR co-owner and driver Michael Andretti told Reuters during a gathering of the race drivers on a publicity push in New York.

 "The girl's got guts. She's not intimidated at all," said Andretti, who starts one row behind Patrick as 11th fastest qualifier in his 16th try at winning the race.

"If we give her a good car and she has a clean race, she can win the thing."

MEDIA ATTENTION

The 25-year-old Patrick has won a lot of media attention as an attractive woman competing at the highest levels of motor sport, but is yet to record a race triumph on the Indy Racing League circuit.

"My skills have come along by leaps and bounds over the years," said Patrick, who will start from the eighth position, with Fisher starting 21st and Duno 29th.

Patrick said having a trio of women in the Indy 500 field had a lot to do with sponsors' interest in publicity.

"I think more than anything the sponsors are recognising the marketing ability that they get from it and the attention that it draws," she said, taking pains to point out her track record.

"I guess I'm really the first girl to be with a real winning team in open wheel racing in the top levels of motor sports. For teams you have to prove yourself. You have to show you can drive a race car."

Patrick said some days her car runs faster than other days and hopes the team gets it just right for the 200 laps of the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 "The car seems to be very on edge. One little change seems to make or break a run," she said.

"It's been a real up and down month in terms of speed. One day you hit it, one day you don't.

"I believe if we hit it right on the day, we'll be in the top five all day and have a shot to win."

Asked how she would handle a duel for the championship in the final laps, Patrick said: "Say a couple of prayers, put your foot down and hope that the front end sticks."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Danica Patrick
Author Larry Fine
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