In the Garage: Danica Patrick leaps at the end and wins for only time at Motegi – Reuters Sports News

It was on April 20, 2008, exactly 15 years ago, that Motegi experienced a historic moment for world motorsport. In a very cold weekend with a split grid, the women reached the top step of the podium in India with Danica Patrick.

We can say that the victory of the then 26-year-old driver was ripe. In addition to three great participations in the India 500, Danica had a streak of fourth places and, in 2007, impressed with podium finishes in Nashville, Texas and Detroit.

The Japanese stage of Motegi was the third of the 2008 season of Indiathe first after the merger between IRL and ChampCar. And there was a curious scenario: due to commitments already sealed and the impossibility of changing dates, the category had to divide the weekend into ‘stage 3A’ – Motegi, for the former IRL [Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe e outros] – and ‘Step 3B’ – long beach, for ex-Champ Cars [Will Power, Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani, Bruno Junqueira e outros].

Danica Patrick won the 2008 IndyCar Japanese Grand Prix (Photo: Indycar)

In this way, the grid ended up being split and, in Stage B, the drivers who formed the Champ Car grid returned even though they weren’t in the 2008 Champ Car season. India. Power is the one who triumphed at Long Beach, in what was marked as the last race in CART history. Frank Montagnywho did not play the season, finished second, with the Mexican Mario Dominguez in third place.

But back to the historic 2008 race on the Japanese oval. The weekend got off to a bad start, with heavy rain disrupting plans and forcing the organization to set the starting grid by championship points. So Helio Castroneves of Penske would start from the top position, followed by Scott Dixon of Ganassi, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti of Andretti, Dan Wheldon of Ganassi and Danica, also of Andretti.

And the race has already begun in ominous fashion. From the first lap, when the circuit was freezing and the tires did not heat at all, Andretti spun alone and ended up on the wall, receiving a shower of cold water in an extremely promising start to the season. .

Helio followed very calmly in the lead, escorted by Dixon and Kanaan, Danica battling with Ed Carpenter in sixth. The accidents continued, with the Canadian Marty Roth and, later, with the Brazilian Vitor Meira, of Panther.

On the track, Dixon came back from the pits ahead of Castroneves and took the lead, a position he held for much of the race – 101 of 200 laps. In fact, together, Scott and Helio led no less than 195 laps. The race story changed to yellow flag, with pit stops made on lap 148.

From then on, it became a fuel control event. Whoever managed to save more, would give the boat away in the end. And so came Danica’s victory. The American was quiet in eighth place, but was clearly not exploiting the car’s potential.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carpenter, Kanaan, Wheldon and Dixon, one by one, pulled into the pits, with Helio returning to the lead. It turns out the Brazilian was very slow to save fuel and didn’t seem to rely on Patrick’s daring. The pilot, discreet in eighth place, gained ground and, arriving at Castroneves, passed without difficulty.

“I’m really happy that it finally happened. But I will be lying if I say that I did not believe in this victory. When this happens, it seems that the penny does not fall, then everything emerges. I felt like a girl on the catwalk celebrating. Every time someone asked me if I was capable of winning a race. Alright, you won’t have that question anymore,” the American said.

Danica Patrick won the 2008 IndyCar Japanese Grand Prix (Photo: Indycar)

Having no more questions of victory and fully consolidated on the world stage, Danica remained until 2011 in Indiareturning to the podium in Texas and Homestead, in addition to coming very close to winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2009. He made a farewell return in the 2018 Indy 500, where he ended up give up.

Julia Fleming

"Prone to fits of apathy. Beer evangelist. Incurable coffeeaholic. Internet expert."

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