A year ago April, when Danica Patrick won her first Indy car race in Japan, it wasn’t available on TV in North America and I had to watch it on streaming video on my home computer.
Davey Hamilton, the nine-time Indianapolis 500 starter who came to Toronto to promote this year’s Honda Indy by driving a two-seater Indy car through the streets of the city (I’ll tell you more about that in a second), was doing the Internet broadcast and was quick to note that Patrick’s fuel strategy might have given her an edge.
“Everybody else is either going to have to stop, or slow down to conserve fuel,” he said on the broadcast.
“Not her. She could win this thing,” he went on to say about 25 laps from the finish.
And that’s exactly what happened. Ed Carpenter (among others) had to slip into the pits for splash-and-go stops while Patrick just kept the hammer down. She caught Helio Castroneves with two laps to go and he was literally crawling at that point because his tank was almost empty. She blew by and the rest, as they say, was history.
Can she repeat? Probably not – but don’t bet a lot of money against it happening.
The good news today is that, if you’re interested, you won’t have to do what I did last year and watch the race on your computer. TSN will have it, live and in colour, Friday night at 10:30, right after their Friday Night Football game.
Now, I expect Patrick to sign for another year or two in Indy car. She could stay with Michael Andretti or she could move to Target Chip Ganassi (although rumours of that scenario have pretty much dried up lately).
The key thing is that as she continues to drive the open-wheel cars, she is going to start preparing for what will be an eventual move to NASCAR. She has visited several times this year with Tony Stewart and whether it’s with his team, or with Ganassi’s, or someone else’s, she’ll likely start to test the waters next year in ARCA, the Camping World Truck Series and then the Nationwide Series when there isn’t a conflict with her Indy car commitments.
She plans to walk before she can run, which is the smart thing to do. If it turns out she can’t drive those cars or trucks, she won’t make the move. She has the option of saying no.
But three years from now (who knows? maybe sooner) I bet she’ll be at Daytona to embark on her new career in the Sprint Cup series.
Now, about Hamilton. The two-seater Indy car he brought to Toronto in June to plug the Honda Indy is street legal in the U.S. but not in Canada – primarily because it doesn’t have fenders.
So he arrives with it at the Star one morning about two weeks before the race and takes one of our multimedia reporters, Scott Simmie, out for a ride. (I wanted them to go through a Tim Hortons drive-through in it, but there’s isn’t one close to the Star.) In any event, just as they got back to the paper after 15 minutes of tooling around downtown T.O., the cops arrived.
“You can’t drive that thing on the streets of Toronto,” says the officer.
“Okay,” says Hamilton, “I won’t. You can be assured, officer, that from now on, I will just take it out of the trailer and let people look at it.”
So then he goes to the Sun and takes one of their guys out in it. They get back to the Sun and another officer arrives and they go through the same routine.
“I promise I will never, ever, do this again,” Hamilton says solemnly.
So then he goes to City TV and he’s driving one of their reporters along Queen St. W. and, in his words as he told me this story at Oswego Speedway last weekend:
“Five of them showed up. They had the sirens on and they surrounded me.”
“I told them I would park it. And I did. I didn’t want to push my luck any further. Toronto’s a nice city but I didn’t want to find out about the jail there.”