Danica Patrick is arguably one of the prominent faces of the IndyCar Racing Series as one of the most popular drivers with fans internationally.
It seems like anywhere you go, even the most indifferent of motorsports enthusiasts know who she is, with countless articles and photo shoots in numerous publications.
Despite her much acclaimed debut victory last year at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, controversy and the gender battle controversially follows her much like the rest of her male competitors on the open wheel circuit have been doing in 2009.
Fifth in points in this year's IndyCar championship race, beating many of her male like teammates Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan as well as competitors in Dan Wheldon, Graham Wilson, and Justin Wilson to name a few?
Not good enough.
Nine top-10 finishes, including a season-high finish of third at Indianapolis, her all-time best showing at The Brickyard?
Just a pretty face lucky to be driving for the best team in the series.
How about the fact that she's been considering making the jump to the NASCAR circuit?
Good luck being schooled by them Southern boys, mon amie.
Well those critics and pundits, as well as the beleaguered sexists who believe that racing is strictly a man's sport ought to realize what year we live in, as well as the century.
I can just hear some readers grumbling how this is yet another fluff piece of a male writer sticking up or defending female racers.
Man, they buy their rides! We guys can't do that!
She's just a pretty face, as are most of these other girl drivers.
Perhaps this is one of my lame attempts to support Patrick, because it isn't new information or shocking news that she's considering the transition to the NASCAR scene.
However, she may be just what the sport needs amidst the controversies clouding the sport right now.
From the Mayfield drug test saga to the mediocre racing produced by the COT, NASCAR could use an injection immediately to bring the fans into the grandstands of its tracks.
So the question is, why does motorsports need Danica Patrick? And ultimately, why does NASCAR need her?
Undeniably, Patrick will bring in major endorsement packages to the team lucky enough to acquire her talents, and there is plenty of that with the 27-year-old Beloit, Wisc. native.
Some liken her competitiveness to an "old school" Tony Stewart (Did I just call him that?), often riled up and not shy to speak her mind when misfortune finds her at any given point during a race weekend.
To some men, that is a sign of weakness. Personally, I find that hypocritical since guys who hide their emotions are truly weak.
I'd ask my male readers to raise their hands if I asked them if they've ever cried, but I'm sure it'll be a resounding consensus of silence with that poll.
Besides, how many times have we seen the likes of Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, or even someone cool-headed such as Jimmie Johnson lose their cool after a race?
There's no question that Patrick's career has advanced majorly since 2007, the year she joined the Andretti Green Racing faction.
It has to help that she's teammates with the likes of Marco Andretti, Tony Kannan and Hideki Mutoh.
Seen as the top team of the series, a la Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup ranks, the argument has been made that if Patrick were to drive for a far-less superior competitor, her successes would be far and few in between.
I'll ask you this: does anyone remember how she fared when she drove for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2005-'06?
They were not exactly the best team in IndyCar, often bested by AGR, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and Penkse Racing.
In spite of her equipment being inferior to the likes of Helio Castroneves, Wheldon, and for a time, Sam Hornish Jr., Patrick proved she was a bonafide racer, holding her own with finishes of 12th and 9th place in the championship standings.
It takes a real racer to even put up the results tallied by this sensational driver, and the fact that she's in the top-five in this year's title chase is simply remarkable.
While a victory in any of the remaining four events would aid her cause in silencing her critics, a consistent finish down the stretch just might be the answer for Patrick's career direction in 2010 and beyond.
Some feel that Patrick is not a legit racer since she has never won on a road course, which have become the commonplace in the once oval-exclusive IndyCar tour.
Aug. 23's Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indycar Grand Prix of Sonoma County at the 2.52-mile, 11-turn Infineon Raceway may just be her golden opportunity to finally capture her second career win and her first on these ambidextrous facilities.
An IndyCar title may not be in the cards for Patrick, although a solid showing and placing in this year's season will go a long way's in solidifying her legitimacy as a genuine, all-out racer.
Patrick is not only one of the best female racers of all-time, but she's a damn respectable leadfooter who's not afraid to mix it up, no matter the circuit and battle for position on the track.
Ultimately, nobody can take away nor tarnish Patrick's accomplishments.
Based on the way she composes herself, whether at an award ceremony or behind the controls of her No. 7 Boost Mobile Honda/Dallara machine, chances are, you're witnessing one of the most bonafide racers of any era.