Originally created 07/03/05

Mania isn't going away for Danica



KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Danica Patrick would like to be known as a race car driver - nothing more, nothing less.

The 23-year-old IndyCar Series rookie star knows it won't happen, but so be it.

"For me, I don't really think about the female part of it, but as long as you guys do, you can keep writing the stories," said Patrick, who only increased her profile by winning Saturday's pole for the Argent Mortgage Indy 300. "A lot of (the popularity) is because I'm female, and I do recognize that. I'm not silly enough to think that, 'Oh, I'm a driver, and I'm going fast.'

"I kind of always had a feeling that good things and big things would happen if I performed well, and that's just it. As long as I perform well, I am different, and it's going to cause a stir. I just hope I keep doing that."

She did it Saturday, with a lap of 214.668 mph for her first pole of her career.

Patrick, a native of Roscoe, Ill., comes to Kansas leading the IRL Rookie of the Year race and sits 11th in points.

She is the runaway series leader in exposure with her fourth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 touching off Danica Mania around the country.

If all the hoopla that surrounds Patrick every time she races helps her series, she is fine with that.

"I do believe it could help," she said in an IRL conference call. "You have to start somewhere, and you have to imagine it's going to help. It definitely helped at Indy.

"All I know is that I've been telling everyone that watched the race for the very first time, 'OK, now the racing is pretty much the same every single weekend, so what you saw there is what you're going to see again and again and again.'"

Patrick has been satisfied with her start in the IRL but knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

"In an ideal world, you don't make any mistakes, so, yeah, I'm going to try all the time and get better all the time, I would imagine, just with experience," she said. "You live and learn.

"I'm not going to say that in five races or at the end of the year I'm never going to (make mistakes) again. It could very well happen again, but it's just minimizing and not doing it as much."

Patrick, just seven races into her IRL career, also has become very cognizant of her place as a role model for young women and aspiring female drivers.

"I'm so early in my career that I never really thought I would be a role model this early," she said.

"It kind of caught me off guard. I think it says a lot about how I've been brought up and what my values have been and how they've stayed good and how my parents raised me.

"It's very flattering that just being myself is enough to be a role model."



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