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DATE News (chronologically)
04/01/08
irl
Danica's Weight Sparks Debate
The IRL implemented variable steering and paddle shifters this year to help weaker drivers like Patrick, yet didn’t implement a weight rule that made all car/driver combos equal......indicating the IRL still wants to help her win a race.
If Danica Patrick scores her first major-league victory in Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, some probably will point to her advantage of being lightweight.  They just won't be able to do as vigorously as NASCAR driver Robby Gordon did when he sparked a major debate over it three years ago.

The Indy Racing League has adopted a formula this season that brings drivers closer in weight. Patrick, who is easily the league's lightest driver, has criticized the change. But others say it doesn't go far enough.

"There's no weight limit in football, no height limit in basketball,' said Patrick, arguing that athletes in other sports keep whatever advantage their physical attributes give them. "If you're taller, you're going to be able to jump higher and dunk the ball. If you're bigger and stronger, you're going to be able to do certain things."

Patrick, who finished second in the IRL's most recent street course race last fall at Detroit, also points out that most Indy car drivers are diminutive, suggesting there isn't much of a difference. But at 5-foot-2, 100 pounds, she is 20 pounds lighter than the next lightest driver, Milka Duno, and 93 pounds lighter than the heaviest, newcomer Justin Wilson, according to media guide figures.

"I feel it's the first step of making things fair," Wilson said of the change. "They haven't gone all the way, but this definitely gets it closer in line with the rest of motorsports."

Graham Rahal, who is 175 pounds, believes the IRL should have taken the approach of the disbanding Champ Car and brought all drivers to the weight of the heaviest driver.

"Hopefully, with Tony Cotman coming over from Champ Car as vice president for competition we can get that rule in place for next season," he said.

Dale Coyne, a team owner transitioning to the IRL from Champ Car, says that Patrick and other lightweight drivers are still at an advantage because teams have some options where they can place the ballast.

The IRL says the rule change wasn't aimed at Patrick, but since she is lightest driver she'll be impacted the most. And it comes after years of debate following her fourth-place finish in the 2005 Indy 500, before which Gordon said he wouldn't race against her without an equalization formula. More at Tbo.com

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