Indianapolis: Danica Patrick has been the undisputed queen of the Indianapolis 500 since she first arrived at the Brickyard but next month there will be a few more women vying for her crown.
Once a curiosity on Gasoline Alley, there could be four women on the starting grid for this year`s 500 with American Sarah Fisher, Venezuela`s Milka Duno and young Swiss sensation Simona de Silvestro fighting for spots in the 33-car field.
If anything, the novelty this year may be the United States drivers, with as many women with full-time drives as American men (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti) racing North America`s premier open wheel series.
"It`s a sign of the times," Patrick told Reuters on a conference call to promote her new video game Blur. "People are becoming more open to it and giving it more chances.”
"We`re also seeing the other side of it, the marketing side as well.”
"I didn`t know how long it would take but as time changes and culture embraces a genderless world it was inevitable it would happen but I didn`t know how long it was going to take."
While pioneering Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James and Fisher paved the way for women at the Brickyard, it has been Patrick`s results that have earned credibility.
Much of her reputation has been built at the Brickyard, where she rocketed onto the Indy car scene with a fourth place finish in her 500 debut in 2005 and then blasted home third last year.
But this season, Patrick, the only woman to reach Victory Lane in an Indy Car race with her 2008 win in Japan, has been getting more mileage out of her racy commercials and photo spreads than her results.
In three of four races this year she has not finished better than 15th, her best result a seventh in St. Petersburg, Florida.
She began her season flirting with a future career in stockcars but her results there were even less inspiring, finishing 35th and 36th in two Nationwide events, the feeder series for NASCAR.
Patrick will be glad to see the early season road courses in her rear-view mirror and look ahead to the next four events on ovals where she has shined.
"I`m not going to lie, I`m relieved right now," she said. "I`ve had a rough start to the year, definitely not like last year where the first five out of six races were top fives.”
"Sometimes you hit right from the get go and sometimes you have a strong end to the year. Sometimes you have a great year all year and sometimes you have a bad year all year.”
"Sometimes it just goes your way and sometimes it doesn`t ... I`m just waiting for it to go my way a bit more often."