Danica Patrick Isn't the First Female in NASCAR, So Why the Big Hoopla?

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Danica Patrick Isn't the First Female in NASCAR, So Why the Big Hoopla?
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Jennifer Jo Cobb. Chrissy Wallace. Janet Guthrie.

Who are these women? They are NASCAR drivers. They have all driven long before the name Danica Patrick even came to motorsports. But for some reason, Danica's is the only one that matters. But why? Her stats are far from impressive: one win (in Japan), her best finish at the Indianapolis 500 was third, highest points finish was fifth (2009), has three poles, and 41 top 10s with 81 starts.

Let's take a look at some other women in racing to compare.

Most notable, and current, is Chrissy Wallace, of the famous Wallace racing family. While her start has been slow, she most recently took to the track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as part of the first ever father/daughter pair on track, racing against her dad Mike. She finished ahead of him in the top 20.

Along with Chrissy, currently on the NASCAR radar is Jennifer Jo Cobb. Most recently she was entered in several NASCAR Nationwide Series race in the 2009 season. Both she and Chrissy were the only women in their series at the time of their races.

Going back further in time, there are the first women of NASCAR. Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in a NASCAR race, and she also competed in the Indy 500. Her first NASCAR race was the 1976 World 600, where she finished 15th. She also finished 12th in the 1977 Daytona 500. Guthrie completed four seasons with NASCAR, finishing 33 races before heading over to the IRL, completing 11 races there. She was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and her fire suit and helmet can be found at the Smithsonian Institute.

Louise Smith raced in the 1949 Daytona Beach Road Course, along with two other female drivers (Ethel Mobley and Sara Christian), the only race to have three women compete. She later raced late models, modifieds, midgets, and sportsmen cars. She had 38 wins, with 28 of them in the modifieds from 1949-1956. She was the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Danica Partick has one win. One.

So why is the whole world making such a huge deal out of her? Even the male drivers who came from open-wheel haven't done as well. Sam Hornish, Jr. is still crashing into walls (or other drivers), Juan Pablo Montoya is just now figuring out how to succeed, and Robby Gordon only does well when he drives in the desert. And they were all successful in the IRL.

Will Danica bring people to the races? Sure. Will she bring sponsors to her car? Possibly. Will she bring wins to JRM? Highly doubtful. But one thing is for sure: 2010 is going to be an interesting season!

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