Friday, March 20, 2015

The Power of One - How I Became a Fan of NASCAR.

Once in a while someone comes along who generates enormous interest and changes the face of a sport. Ayrton Senna was such a person to Formula One.

"We are made of emotions, we are all looking for emotions, it's only a question of finding the way to experience them. There are many different ways of experience them all. Perhaps one different thing, only that, one particular thing that Formula One can provide you, is that you know we are always expose to danger, danger of getting hurt, danger of dying." - Ayrton Senna.

"I'm very privileged. I've always had a very good life. But everything that I've gotten out of life was obtained through dedication and a tremendous desire to achieve my goals... a great desire for victory, meaning victory in life, not as a driver. To all of you who have experienced this or are searching now, let me say that whoever you may be in your life, whether you're at the highest or most modest level, you must show great strength and determination and do everything with love and a deep belief in God. One day, you'll achieve your aim and you'll be successful." - Ayrton Senna. 

"Winning races", or keeping some tally-board of wins, isn't necessarily what creates spectator interest in a sport.  It's the struggle to the top that generates interest, especially when one is an "underdog", and especially of the "wrong gender".

I'm a NASCAR fan today because of Danica Patrick.

There, I said it. That doesn't mean that I've not come to appreciate NASCAR, and its famed heroes like Dale Earnhardt Snr and Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and many others. Indeed, I came to know them through through my growing interest in Danica's progress in the sport. 

Richard Petty has often made derogatory remarks about Danica, complaining that she's basically a "show pony" without real talent, and that the only way Danica would win is if
everybody else stayed home

Well, I have some news for Richard Petty: Before Danica, I would have asked "Richard who?" And I seriously mean that.The only reason I know who Richard Petty is, is because I followed Danica from IndyCar into NASCAR.Had she stayed in IndyCar, it's very unlikely I'd be a NASCAR fan today. That aside, I do find NASCAR per se to be an exciting sport.

It's not as if Danica isn't a talented and superb racing driver, being the first female to lead the Indianapolis 500 (19 laps); first female to lead the Daytona 500, and the first female to win an IndyCar Series race (Motegi 300, Japan, 2008), and a third place in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, the highest placing by any female. Richard Petty apparently never raced IndyCars, which go 30 to 40 miles per hour faster than NASCAR, and experience G-forces no NASCAR driver will ever have to endure.(On oval and banked tracks, IndyCars go about 30mph faster than Formula One.)

Richard Petty was a "great", but I haven't followed him much, since he comes from a bygone era of NASCAR. All I know is that he wears a cowboy hat, and is apparently sexist. I suppose I should look into it some more, because I'm told he was "The King" of his era, which was when women were considered to be most useful being "barefoot and pregnant".

Why Danica Patrick Still Moves the Needle in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Danica Leading at Dega (Top speed: 200mph):

2005 Indianapolis 500. With 28 laps to go, rookie Danica Patrick takes the lead. Fuel conservation forced Danica to slow towards the end. Were it not for that, she would almost certainly have become the first woman to win the Indy 500.  Her talent as an IndyCar driver, and her ability to hold her own against the best drivers in the world, was never in question. It all came down to "fuel strategies". She didn't have enough fuel to go flat out to the finish, and finished fourth.

As the race commentator said, there were 300,000 seats in the arena, but all were standing and cheering Danica on to become the first female to win the Indianapolis 500.

The 2009 Indianapolis 500. There were two other female drivers in the field, Sarah Fisher (17th), and Milka Duno (20th), but the focus was on Danica, and whether she could become the first female to win the Indianapolis 500. She finished third, behind Dan Weldon and Helio Castroneves. Danica's skill shone through, and her armchair critics need to ask whether they could handle even 100mph of a lap of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The skill and fitness required for the Indy 500, is highly underestimated.

Last laps of the 2009 Indianapolis 500:

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