Patrick nears one-year anniversary of victory One year ago, Danica Patrick traveled to Long Beach for a press conference in the United States following her first career victory hours earlier in Japan. She vaguely remembers hanging out in the interview room of the Long Beach Convention Center, groggy from celebrating during an overnight flight.
But what made April 20, 2008, special occurred when Patrick was introduced as the winner of the IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi – becoming the first female to win a major closed-course auto race.
It actually was the second such introduction; the first coming some 15 hours earlier and an ocean away in front of an overflow room of media and overjoyed spectators in Japan. In her fourth full season, in her 50th IndyCar Series start, Patrick wouldn’t have to answer that question about when she would earn her first victory.
This week, Patrick returns to Long Beach, where she was whisked after the Japan triumph to meet a second round of media. It’s where Danica-mania escalated into Danica-mega-mania.
“You know, it’s going to be one of those things that’s remembered,” she said that day. “It’s a first and firsts are in the history books.”
Fifty-one weeks later, how does the writer of history view the feat?
“I don’t think enough time has passed to really have that sort of deep reflection and introspect to the event and what it did and what it meant to me,” said Patrick, who will compete in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the first time.
“One thing I’ve heard more of over the last few months is parents that I know or are involved in racing say, ‘You know what, my two little girls love you’ or ‘My mom loves you.’ It’s really very flattering when people say things like that.
“I still get people saying congrats on the win. I don\'t feel any different. I think it will take more time to get that reflection that it deserves for the moment.”
Patrick, whose No. 7 Motorola Honda-powered Dallara was eighth with 10 laps left on the 1.5-mile egg-shaped Twin Ring Motegi oval, rode to the front of the pack when the leaders were forced to pit for fuel. She then blew past Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves on Lap 198 of 200 of the Indy Japan 300. Patrick remained focused entering the final turn, anticipating seeing the checkered flag for the first time after years of expectations.
Patrick finished a career-high sixth in the championship standings with 10 top-10 finishes in 17 races. She, of course, wanted more.
“Quite simply, my job is to win races so I really wish I would have won more than just the one last year,” she said. “But we just didn’t have the speed and the strength we needed to contend for more victories and to grab them. They say the first win is the hardest to get, which I agree with. It’s even more realistic now with having a win, and hopefully more will come now.”
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