Indianapolis 500: Women seek elusive Indy win

2013-05-24T00:00:00Z Indianapolis 500: Women seek elusive Indy winThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS - Katherine Legge didn't know she'd have a shot at the Indianapolis 500 until it was time to qualify, when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports decided to put her in its second car at the last second.

Pippa Mann chatted with tire makers, dropped in on the folks from the television networks and even tried to get cozy with engine maker Honda in the hopes of landing a ride.

Both of them have overcome long odds to join Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro in Sunday's 33-car field, matching the record of four women starters. But in their minds, just starting the race is no longer a story: The next big story will be win a woman finally wins.

"Until somebody is competitive on a regular basis, and winning races, and then probably more than one, it's still going to be a bit of a novelty," Legge said Thursday. "And it stinks in a way, because there's no reason for it."

Especially given the history of women at the Brickyard.

Janet Guthrie was a pioneer when she qualified for the first time in 1977, eventually making three starts at Indianapolis. She finished ninth in 1978, and even put to rest much of the remaining machismo when she revealed that she had driven with a broken wrist.

Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher were still considered unique when they started in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," but it wasn't until Danica Patrick's arrival in the mid-2000s that more barriers began to fall. She qualified fourth in 2005, eventually led 29 laps during her open-wheel career and finished third in 2009 after challenging for the win.

"Danica's done a great job, and Danica's made a lot of money in the way she's marketed herself," Legge said, "so nobody can blame her for that. She brings attention to it, for sure, which is a positive thing, but we're all individual people trying to do it our own way."

And now that Patrick is running full time in the Sprint Cup series - she'll start Sunday's race in Charlotte - the focus has turned to who will take over for her.

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