The headline was trumpeted from coast to coast.
“Racing's Top Female Drivers Meet at Kentucky: Patrick, Fisher to discuss race weekend on IRL teleconference.”
The Indy Racing League Indy Car Series lined up Rahal Letterman Racing’s Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher – who will drive for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in a one-off effort this weekend at Kentucky Speedway -- to address the media in advance of the event. There is no doubt that the Patrick/Fisher tandem will be of great interest to the nation’s media. The last time two women took the green flag in a major Open Wheel race was… well… never, and a lot of people will rightly be interested in what Patrick and Fisher have to say on that topic.
I have no problem with any of that. On the contrary, I think it’s great that two women will be in the field at Kentucky. Further, I look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future when every national event will feature at least a half-dozen female drivers. I do, however, take issue with the IRL’s characterization of Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher as “Racing's Top Female Drivers.”
Patrick, last season’s Bombardier Rookie of the Year, is currently tenth in IndyCar points, with two top-five finishes and six top-10s. Fisher has not run a major-league race in nearly three years. Together, they have combined for a grand total of no wins in the upper levels of the sport.
Even semi-regular listeners to Sirius Speedway know that I have spoken at great length in defense of both Patrick and Fisher over the years. I have pleaded with the racing public to give them the time it takes to adapt to their chosen forms of racing, without the pressure of being expected to win instantly. Both drivers have achievements to brag about. Both have won IRL poles – and at Kentucky, no less; Danica in 2005 and Fisher in `03 – and both have contested for wins, even if they haven’t grabbed the brass ring yet.
I have preached the sermon of patience long and loud, and I will continue to do so. But let’s be realistic about exactly what Patrick and Fisher have accomplished, shall we?
They have yet to win a race; something that Shirley Muldowney, Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer and Melanie Troxell have all achieved – numerous times -- at the highest levels of drag racing. They have yet to win a championship; something that Muldowney and Sampey have also achieved, multiple times. With that said, it is ludicrous to paint Fisher and Patrick as “Racing's Top Female Drivers,” or anything like it.
At present, they are tied with Erin Crocker, Katherine Legge, Allison Duncan, Deborah Renshaw, Kelly Sutton, Ashley Force and Erica Enders (to name just a few); all of whom have climbed to the top levels of the motorsports ladder, but have not yet proven that they truly belong.
All of them may make it. Some of them will probably not. But either way, they will do so without the half-baked pronouncements of some PR hack, desperately trying to make a series sound bigger and better than it really is.