She's making herstory

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET

So far, in the brief time Northlands has been in the auto racing business, they've been living lucky beyond belief.

First, Ric Forest, Bruce Saville and the original investors group handed them the event to run after having invested more than $6 million in start-up costs to make the race a huge hit and a staple on the local sports calendar.

The next thing you know, the it's-never-going-to-happen Champ Car merger with the Indy Racing League finally happens, adding a heaping helping of extra sizzle -- not to mention extra cars -- to what instantly became the only surviving Canadian race in the combined series.

Now Danica Patrick wins a race!

I mean, how good is that? And talk about timing!

The two series combine. Danica wins. Indy 500 next month. First new IRL series stop: the Rexall Edmonton Indy, July 24-26.

WEREN'T REALLY SURE

Until Patrick won in her 50th IndyCar start, she was kind of like a live-on-the-inside sideshow on a long-ago midway. There was a crowd in front of the tent, but folks really weren't sure that they wanted to be seen going inside.

Now Patrick has become a certified, legitimate big-time driver who doesn't need to be featured in a "Traffic Stopper" spread on the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition (pages 172, 173, 174 and 176, if you must) to be an action attraction.

Yesterday, making the most of the moment, Patrick was made available on an IndyCar conference call which almost certainly broke some sort of record for the number of media types participating.

"I always did believe it would be big when it happened," she said, having raced back from Japan to make the most of every moment for the series that has been waiting for this moment for a long time.

"I'm really honoured people would say it's a really big thing," she said.

And it is big. It's being called the biggest thing to happen involving women in sport since Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis. It's big everywhere there's a race -- especially in Indianapolis.

"I'm sure it meant a lot to a lot of people. A lot of people have had great expectations. And hopes -- high hopes," she said.

"I think we've all been hopefully and anxiously anticipating this day. There have been people that have been putting general plans together how to handle this win. Now it's just about having fun.

"For me it's just a lot of relief. Really. I was excited for a little while. I was shocked for a little bit. Then mostly relieved that I got it done.

"I don't think any pressure in the future is going to compare to what it was like to get that win and have it forever.

'I'M REALLY PROUD'

"The historical part of it is something I thought about, that's for sure. It's a really wonderful thing. I'm really proud to be that person."

Patrick is quite aware that she made history for auto racing and for women.

"It's going to be one of those things that's remembered. It's a first -- and firsts are always in history books.

"I've definitely thought about that before, and I've always hoped and wanted to be that person."

Thirty-one years after Janet Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Indy 500, Patrick became the first woman in major-motorsport history to win a race -- in the 100th year of open-wheel racing.

She'd been second in a race before, and fourth at the Indy 500. But now she's won. And now tickets for future races are selling like crazy everywhere and people are projecting for the first time since the split of Indy car racing, the Indianapolis 500 is going to be the Indianapolis 500 again.

On the conference call I asked her about the timing, about how she couldn't have picked a better time for this win considering the two series finally getting together, the Indy 500 next month and the buzz around IndyCar.

"It's quite a mark in time," she said.

"I'm just proud to be part of it. This is a good time for IndyCar racing and it's exciting. There's a lot of really good stuff going on."

And then she volunteered that one place she's really looking forward to going is Edmonton.

"I always love going to Canada," Patrick said.

"I think that Canadian fans are always so genuine, so excited and so knowledgeable. I'm looking forward to going back," said the driver who got her start in the Atlantic Series, which had been a Champ Car preliminary event.

Even Northlands couldn't possibly screw this up. Could they?


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