Indy Split: Danicamania!

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Indy Split
 is a fascinating, authoritative and overdue account of the big money battle that nearly destroyed the sport of Indy car racing. The book traces the roots of Indy car racing’s dysfunction, which began in 1945 when Tony Hulman rescued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from potential redevelopment. In this post, read about the buzz around Danica Patrick. Image: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

While Dan Wheldon should have been basking in the limelight of the most fruitful period of his career, his 2005 championship season was almost completely overshadowed by the arrival of Danica Patrick and the pop culture phenomenon that engulfed her.
As a child in Roscoe, Illinois, Patrick was encouraged by her father when she showed promise in go-karts. By the time she was eighteen, Danica was racing small formula cars in England in 2000, which happened to coincide with Bobby Rahal’s brief tenure with the Jaguar Formula 1 team. She finished second in the annual Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, matching Danny Sullivan’s achievement from 1972 as the best result for an American in the famous annual gathering of young drivers.
Rahal was impressed with Patrick’s skill and self-confidence, and he signed her to a long-term contract. She came back to America to compete in a handful of Barber Dodge Pro Series races in 2002 before spending two years in the CART-sanctioned Atlantic Championship. Although she never won a Formula Atlantic race, Patrick acquitted herself well and earned five podium finishes against some reasonably stout competition, including A.J. Allmendinger, Jon Fogarty, Ryan Dalziel, and Joey Hand.
The plan had been to take Patrick into the Champ Car series, but that changed when Rahal made his wholesale switch to the IRL. So for 2005, the twenty-three-year-old found herself competing for Rookie of the Year honors in the IRL IndyCar Series against the likes of Ryan Briscoe and Tomas Enge. Whether she was ready or not, Danica Patrick had hit the big time.