Danica Patrick has clinched the first female pole, after setting the fastest time at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, ahead of this season’s inaugural NASCAR race.
After the revelation that she is dating track rival Ricky Stenhouse Jnr., she finished strongly in practice, almost a full second faster than the rest of the field. Topping speeds of 196mph, she clocked a lap time of 45.8 seconds to secure the historic pole.
The ex-Indycar500 driver will undoubtedly welcome the focus back to a more professional topic. While it shouldn’t really matter who she is dating, media scrutiny has led to questions on both her relationship and her perceived image as a female driver.
TheSlate’s Laura Helmuth scathingly described her ‘GoDaddy girl’ image as‘spectacularly offensive’ and suggested it was setting the women’s movement back, following the advert for the website-hosting company on Superbowl Sunday. Citing Janet Guthrie’s scientific background and subsequent commercial appearance in an engine oil advert, Helmuth’s unveiled disappointment was palpable.
Patrick’s involvement with the advert is fairly disappointing. As a motorsport-spectating female myself, it would be great to see more females out on track across any of the championships and using their profiles wisely, to encourage more girls into the industry.
However, in the same week that FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh commented on the financial instability of many F1 teams, it is clear that sponsorship matters. Bottom line: money talks.