Setting a New Standard
Say goodbye to the days when a woman starting an IndyCar Series race is news and say hello to the days when a woman not making the field is the story.
Danica Patrick, Milka Duno and Sarah Fisher are giving the racing world something to talk about.
The Kansas Lottery Indy 300 marked the first time in IndyCar Series history that three women started a race - an event that will be repeated at this weekend's Indianapolis 500.
For each of these women, the other two are just competitors, another car to pass on the track. However, there is a trend developing that is bigger than any one of these women.
Women are gaining a stronger footing in motorsports than they have ever had before.
"I see it just as culture; it's just evening out everywhere, whether it's ethnic differences, male/female, black/white. I think that women are doing more quote 'male jobs' - they're presidents of companies, they're competing against men. I think it's a sign of the times more than anything," said Patrick.
It seems fitting that such a historic milestone for women would happen in Kansas - where there is a history of affording women opportunities long before any other state. For instance, Lynette Woodard, a native of Wichita and a record-breaking basketball player while attending the University of Kansas, was the first woman to sign with the Harlem Globetrotters.
The first female mayor in the United States was Susanna Salter of Argonia, Kansas. She was elected to office in April of 1887 - over thirty years before the 19th Amendment was passed that extended suffrage to women.
The women of the IndyCar Series may not be opening political doors, but they are opening doors to the traditionally male dominated world of motorsports.
Duno, Fisher and Patrick pushed the bar higher for women when they all started the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 on April 29, 2007.
Duno had sportswriters across the country scrambling on April 26 when she tested at Kansas Speedway and became the first Latino woman to earn her rookie license. Three days later, she became the first Latino woman to start an IndyCar Series event.
Patrick shook the racing world's foundation when she started and finished fourth in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, the highest finish for a woman at the race, and then won her first pole at Kansas Speedway just three races later.
Don't be surprised if one of these three women opens the gates to victory lane for other female drivers.
Sharla Shivers, a University of Kansas graduate, is a special correspondent for www.kansasspeedway.com.