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Do Women Belong in Racing?

The racing world is all abuzz because something seemingly amazing happened. Two weeks ago Danica Patrick won the pole for the Daytona 500. Now, I do not mean to beat down Patrick’s accomplishment — she has had a tough road trying to pave her way through the racing world — but a woman taking the pole isn’t an event we need to chalk up to the racing gods as a miracle or something the media needs put on the front page. Why? First, reread the ground-breaking women listed above! Second, she’s done it before. Why then all the hullabaloo? This is exactly the problem and the point. Let’s pretend Danica Patrick was a male.

If Mr. Patrick won the pole for the Daytona 500, would mainstream newspapers publish several articles exploring the "meaning” behind his qualifying time? No, probably not. The public wouldn't care for more than 10 minutes, and subsequent articles would probably be a short blog on the top three qualifiers and the weather for race day. Nothing over-spectacular or exciting; after all, this is qualifying, not the actual race.

However, since we are talking about Patrick, a femaleracecar driver, qualifying times and other seemingly innocuous actions have taken on a new meaning. Patrick has gone down in the record books as being the first for X, Y, and Z, but it’s because she was the first female to do so — not necessarily because she was the first. Patrick entered racing like any other car enthusiast addicted to speed: she loved the thrill and she wanted to make driving her craft. She has just as much heart, talent, and courage to drive a four-wheeled missile at 200 mph as her male counterparts and I think she should be treated like the rest of the drivers. She is currently measured within the context of her gender, not wholly by her skills and her ability to win races.