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This Day in History -- May 29

On this day in 2005, 23-year-old Danica Patrick becomes the first female driver to take the lead in the storied Indianapolis 500.

Having previously distinguished herself in the Toyota Atlantic series, Danica Patrick had qualified fourth - another best for a woman - for the 89th Indianapolis 500, only her fifth Indy Racing League event.

Patrick entered the Indy 500 in a car co-owned by Bobby Rahal, winner of the Indy 500 in 1986, and David Letterman, the late-night talk show host. After a pit stop on the 79th lap of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, Patrick stalled her engine, falling from 4th to 16th place. She spent the next 70 laps climbing back into the top 10, then took the lead with 10 laps left in front of 300,000 screaming fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Three years after Patrick's star-making turn at the Indy 500, she became the first woman to win an Indy Racing League event, defeating the two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves by nearly six seconds in the Indy Japan 300. Having left her previous team a year earlier, Patrick had joined the team owned by Michael Andretti, son of the legendary driver Mario Andretti and a former racer himself.

In a statement honoring Patrick's victory, fellow Indy driver Sarah Fisher linked the accomplishment with that of Guthrie and other trailblazing women: "Today marks the celebration for all of us who have chipped away at the barriers that many women have faced in fields that are dominated by men. To finally have a female win an open-wheel race is simply a progression of what Janet Guthrie started."

gary grossman May 29, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Notable May 29 birthdays: G.K. Chesterton, Paul Ehrlich, Melissa Etheridge, John F. Kennedy, and at least one Athenian <g>.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) May 29, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Happy Birthday, Gary! They are in good company, no?

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