INDIANAPOLIS — It’s May 2005, late in the Indianapolis 500. A historic moment is beginning to happen, as the green flag flies and Danica Patrick’s blue-and-red car zooms into the lead heading into Turn 1. A quarter of a million voices roar in anticipation of history.
Danicamania began that day — to the point that Dan Wheldon’s victory for car owner Michael Andretti was almost overshadowed. It was Patrick — not Wheldon — who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, got the major endorsement deals and became the face of the series.
She remained the face of the series for the next seven seasons, a career that netted just one race win and never saw her contend for a series championship.
One might think her defection to NASCAR this past off-season might have left a gaping hole as May approached and the motorsports world turned its eyes to Indy.
It’s been quite the opposite.
The absence of Danica Patrick at Indianapolis has come and gone without much notice. While she’s in Charlotte running in the middle of the pack, there are still 33 cars at Indianapolis, and a new cadre of young American hot shoes set to join a core of drivers who have built fan bases over the years.