Danica Patrick: Winning the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Impact

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMay 24, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, sits in her car on pit lane during practice for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20, 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

 Winning the Indianapolis 500 is the impossible dream for most race car drivers, with only a select group able to garner one win of the coveted race. A few have relived the dream with multiple wins at Indy during its 100 year history.

There has never been a female winner of this prestigious race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each Memorial Day weekend.

Danica Patrick has been entered in six Indianapolis 500 events. She has five top-10 finishes out of those six starts, with her best finish being third in 2009.

Women have tried to claim equal footing in the male dominated sport of auto racing, but few have found true success.

Patrick is in the midst of her second year of racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

During 2010 and this season, her time is spent full-time with the IndyCar Series, and she is running a total of 25 Nationwide races during the two years.

Patrick has a dream, like so many other drivers, of claiming a win at the all important Indianapolis 500. It is the one thing she wants to accomplish before leaving the open-wheel series.

It was reported on ESPN.go.com that Patrick will run the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 even if she makes the permanent move to NASCAR. It also stated she may run a few Cup races as well.

 The Indianapolis 500 has been a pretty good race for her with the top-10 finishes. Qualifying did not go well for Andretti Autosports at Indy this May with Patrick making the field in the last minutes.

The teams seem unable to find the speed they need, but Patrick has been the fastest of the group. Frustration must be amplified for Patrick being that she really wants to get that Indy 500 win in the event she directs her racing elsewhere.

Race conditions can certainly yield different results than qualifying through strategy and performance, as she found out with her gas mileage win at the Montegi IndyCar race.

A win at the Indianapolis 500 would not only be the realization of a dream for Patrick, but the raising of the bar for women in motorsports.

Great status comes with winning certain races in the various series of motorsports. The Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 certainly rank at the top.

Drivers may win other races, but a win at Indy or Daytona places an asterisk by that driver's statistics, and they will always be recognized as the winner of that race.

Women are becoming more visible in IndyCar racing and some are proving they could indeed be contenders. Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro and others look to have a good future in the series.

Janet Guthrie was the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500. She raced at Indy three times during 1977, 1978 and 1979, with a best finish of ninth.

In NASCAR, Guthrie had five top-ten finishes during the 33 races she ran over a period of four years.

A win by Patrick at Indy would inspire all the young women currently driving in the various series from karting, midgets, sprint cars and late models. They would see her as a role model and continue to pursue their racing goals.

A win by Patrick at Indy would raise the level of credibility for the women currently in the Izod IndyCar Series and make their path to success a bit easier.

Many think of Patrick as the pretty face for GoDaddy.com and other modeling assignments. She was blessed with the looks and persona to have great commercial value, but she is a racer at heart.

Winning the Indianapolis 500 might quiet some of the naysayers who feel she is not a serious contender in the open-wheel series.

Patrick still faces the climb to recognition as a contender for wins in NASCAR, but until she devotes more time to the series, it is hard to prove herself.

Certainly winning the Indianapolis 500 would ease the pain of leaving the open-wheel series if her career is headed in the direction of stock car racing.

Patrick survived the struggles of bump day and made the field for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, while two of her teammates will be spectators.

With the rough time she had leading up to securing her place in the field, perhaps she will be rewarded with a win at Indy.

The challenges for Patrick are many with really tough competition, but that is why we call it racing.

Until the checkered flag drops, the dream of winning the Indianapolis 500 is alive and well, and just maybe her dream can be realized.