Slate magazine, absolutely no one's source for sports news, gives space to Robert Weintraub, absolutely no one's source for sports news, who uses a column to denigrate Danica Patrick with essentially the charge of "Big Fish, Small Pond." He contends her performance was only good relative to the weak competitors. He's wrong.
Her qualifying average for this year's race was 227.004 mph, good enough for the fourth spot on the grid. Big deal, because the other drivers are second-rate? Nope. That speed would have put her in the front of the grid in any Indy 500, except for three in which it would have put her mid-pack (1996, 2002 and 2003).
Weintraub contends Patrick was racing against nobodies, that since IRL took over from CART in the 1990's, IRL has had second-rate drivers. But that's wrong, too. Here are some big-name racers from the IRL era: Arie Luyendyk; Al Unser, Jr.; Sam Hornish, Jr.; Gil de Ferran; Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montaya. This year, Danica Patrick raced against and beat Scott Sharp, Dario Franchitti, Brian Herta, Kenny brack; Sam Hornish, Jr.; and a Foyt or two, to mention some big names.
Weintraub contends no one great drives IRL because no one cares about IRL, therefore it's easy for Danica Patrick to find a great team to drive for. But that's wrong and backwards. The fact that Team Penske, Team Andretti, Rahal-Letterman and Newman-Haas race at Indy means several powerful racing someones do care about IRL. And Indy is sold out every year, so the fans are watching. In fact, with CART diminished, fewer races and fewer teams mean tougher competition for fewer jobs.
Weintraub also wrote, "It's not like she's racing against the Andrettis." Well, actually she was racing against them. It's just that they were the car owners, rather than the drivers. And, by the way, they won, something they only pulled off once in 40 years as drivers there.
One thing Weintraub gets right is that Robby Gordon, who complained about Danica's weight advantage, is just whining. Of course, Weintraub's not alone in that conclusion. (My own take on Gordon is that he's a sore loser (he made his comments pre-race, but post-qualifying). Go on a diet, fat boy, she kicked your ass.)
Gordon complained about weight, but Patrick could complain about muscle density (or in Gordon's case, brain density) which is known to be greater in men. Ever try racing a go-kart, let alone an Indy car? It takes strength as well as endurance. But Weintraub was right when he wrote, "Over 500 grueling miles, the pounds mean far less than talent, focus, and stamina."
You got that one right, Mr. Weintraub. But if you think she walked into an easy grid, you don't know about racing. And if you think she's a one-hit wonder, you don't know about people. She'll be driving fast and taking flags for years.