Danica spurs women to try racingIt is Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Danica Patrick is making her way to the starting grid the way she always does, with punctuated speed. All athletes who reach the top level of their sport learn quickly that they must stay in perpetual motion. The more famous, the more speed they must carry. Smile, speak, sign autographs, but do it all on the move, lest you never arrive at your destination.
Patrick is seemingly always surrounded. On days like this, the impact she's had at big tracks is obvious. The less visible -- but perhaps more important -- effect of Patrick's popularity can be seen at smaller tracks and in youth racing. Girls and young women have a bigger presence than ever at the grassroots level, with much of that attributed to Patrick's popularity.
The crowd is particularly large on this night, despite its being merely a race-in event for the next night's NASCAR All-Star Race. Tonight, though, there is a buzz around Patrick. She is just six days removed from a seventh-place run at Kansas Speedway, the best finish of her two-year Sprint Cup career. Still, she can't help but pause, as she almost always does, when she hears one particular sound: the voices of little girls.
There are two, both around 9 years old and dressed in matching pink GoDaddy.com T-shirts. "Danica! Danica!"
She can't stop. There's no time. But she does slow down to turn and wave. "Hey, girls!" she shouted. "Nice shirts!" The girls squeal, they high-five and Patrick disappears toward pit road.