Life in the Fast Lane



Danica Patrick finished 8th in this weekend’s Daytona 500 race.  She was the first female racer to lead a lap, the first to start out in the pole position, and in the Nationwide Race became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole.  But she took herself out of contention for the Nationwide Race on the supposition that she had blown an engine when she hadn’t; something was wrong with the ignition system.

After the horrific wreck which involved injured race fans on Saturday, none of the drivers was taking any chances although there were still four cautions on the track in which a number of competitors were knocked out of contention.  No more spectators were hurt, fortunately.

The drivers played it cautious right up until the last lap.  Patrick was a little too cautious coming out of one of the pit stops, allowing the lead racers to cut her off on the way to the track.  Time and again, she had to drop back to 8th place, only to find herself at the head of the pack again, even leading at least a lap or two.

However, she was risk averse in her driving.  She’s considered a rookie; this was her first Daytona race against veteran drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. who practically grew up on the Daytona Speedway.  If she didn’t come out to pass, neither did anyone else, the crash from the day before still in their rearview mirrors.

She said later she feared being “freight-trained”, meaning if she came out to pass on the inside lane, a line of team player cars would pass her before she could get back on the outside lane again.  That’s exactly what happened to her anyway.  At the crucial moment, winner Jimmie Johnson led his “freight train” to victory, with Earnhardt taking second place.

People pooh-pooh auto racing.  They claim it’s not a sport.  There’s nothing “physical” about racing cars.  Tell that to the fan who found his seat occupied by a massive racing tire.  Auto racers get very physical.  They “tag” each other from behind, sideswipe one another, throw things at each other (usually after the race), cut each other off, and ram one another off the road.

Sort of like driving in New Jersey; only on the Daytona Speedway the drivers wear helmets and have rollover bars.  Racing is not for the faint of heart.  Men drive like men.  Auto racing men drive like maniacs.  They’re willing to put it all on the line to win that trophy.  They’re willing to take risks with their lives and their cars to win that trophy.

In racing, if you’re not willing to risk everything you’ve got, you’re not going to win.  One of the drivers remarked in a pre-race interview that when they put on that helmet, they don’t think about anything but winning.  They would run their best friend over – car and all – to cross that finish line first.

That’s the life.  That’s pretty much the life on New Jersey highways, only there’s no finish line.  Danica Patrick looked disappointed and thoughtful after the race.   She was hoping she’d get some help out there.  Earnhardt seemingly gave her help, but in the end, he took the second place away from her.  Most of them are team drivers with a sponsor, while Danica was out there on her own.

She’s gone farther than any other woman in auto racing history.  If she wants to learn aggressive driving, she should take a trip to New Jersey and drive during rush hour.  If she wants to go all the way, when she puts on her helmet, she’s going to have to stop thinking like a woman and start thinking like a man.  Not just any man, but the men she’s racing against.  Which means she’s going to have to stop thinking.  Period.  She’s going to have to learn that she can’t depend upon anyone else.  The hell with worrying; just ram that gas pedal any chance she gets and leave the others in the dust.




Published in: on February 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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