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Patrick emotional about win

By Mike Harris
Associated Press
LONG BEACH, Calif. ó When Danica Patrick finally got her first win, it was late on a Saturday night back home in the United States ó not ideal timing for one of the most historic victories in open-wheel racing.
And although the victory came an ocean away, in Japan, the 26-year-old Patrick wasnít complaining.
iI was excited for a little while, shocked for a little bit and mostly just relieved to get that done,î Patrick said Monday, still relishing her win at Twin Ring Motegi, the first victory by a woman in major open-wheel racing. iIím not shooshing it aside, but Iím definitely glad that one is over.î
The win came in her fourth full season and 50th career start in the IRL IndyCar Series, and she had spent much of her time before this answering questions about when sheíd earn her first victory.
Not any more.
iI donít let people dictate how Iím supposed to feel or how Iím supposed to do,î she said Monday in a teleconference. iBut itís nice not to have to answer any questions about when and how and why it hasnít happened.î
Patrick, who had a relatively sleepless 12-hour flight Sunday from Japan and watched the last half of the Champ Car race on the streets of Long Beach, is part of the newly unified open-wheel series. Along with a pair of fellow Americans ó 19-year-old Graham Rahal and 21-year-old Marco Andretti, both drivers from great racing families with loads of potential ó she carries the seriesí hopes.
iPeople are finding out about IndyCar more,î she said. iA lot of people are affected; itís not just me. I hope itís growing, and thatís the idea. Weíre all working hard to capitalize on the great moments happening in the league, and this week itís me.î
Rahal won on the street circuit earlier this month in St. Petersburg, Fla., becoming the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race. Andretti, the top IndyCar rookie in 2006, has shown signs of snapping out of a yearlong slump.
Now, Patrick, who three years ago ignited a national case of iDanicaManiaî by leading laps and finishing fourth in the Indianapolis 500, is a winner.
Although it would have been nice for Patrickís first win to have come on home turf in America ó and in prime time ó there should be no more comparisons to tennisí Anna Kournikova, who built a reputation based on glamour but never won a singles title despite coming tantalizingly close several times.
Like Kournikova, Patrick has become nearly as well known for posing for magazines ó including this yearís Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue ó and her work as a commercial spokesman as for her driving. But now sheís not just another driver trying to find her niche.
iIím definitely just part of a wave of women that are doing different things, great things, outside of the normal world,î she said. iI donít think itís just me. I think itís just showing weíre capable of anything, and vice versa. Thereís so much more gender crossover now than there ever has been. So I really just believe that Iím part of a really big picture.î
Patrick finished a career-best seventh in the standings last year, her first with Andretti Green. Now, with her win, Patrick is third in the standings heading to Kansas Speedway next weekend, thoughts of a championship swirling in her head.
iIíve always believed that itís victories that I needed to be really in championship contention,î she said. iIím a consistent driver by nature, so consistency is one of those things that wins you championships.
iBut you donít win championships without winning some races. So, hopefully, we can do that this year, win some more and have a shot at it.î

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