History-making season underway American open-wheel racing unification under the IndyCar Series banner is less than a month into the season and already there have been two events that almost match the historic significance of the announcement.
First, Graham Rahal became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel racing event at 19 years, 93 days at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6. Danica Patrick followed by becoming the first female to win a major closed-course auto racing event at the Indy Japan 300 on April 20.
There’ll be quite a vibe this weekend at the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.
“I was asked at the Motorsports Marketing Summit if I could ask for one thing this year what would it be and the quote was ‘Danica Patrick in Victory Circle,’” said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League.
Well, wish No. 1 granted. Next might be Marco Andretti winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500, leading a 1-2-3 finish that also would include Rahal and A.J. Foyt IV.
“It’s great for Danica and the league,” Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George said after watching Patrick prevail on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval. “Everybody has been waiting for this day to arrive and it finally has. A lot of credit is due to that team and to Danica as a driver for getting to this position.”
Rahal’s and Patrick’s accomplishments transcend open-wheel racing, and give the IndyCar Series a jolt during the final week it will be split. Rahal was the subject of dozens of media features and was a guest on David Letterman’s show. Patrick will make the rounds of interview shows this week, too.
“It’s huge,” said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions for the Indy Racing League and the race chief steward. “You just saw history. The first woman to win an IndyCar race is right up there with the top achievements and history-making events of all time.”
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