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Today, women are racing with hearts like a wheel
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Things change, especially in the male driven world of competitive racing, and mostly for the better.

Sunday was no different.

Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to win a major open-wheel race, capturing the Firestone IndyCar 300 by finishing 5.86 seconds in front of veterans Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.

So, congratulations, Danica. I'm a huge fan who's celebrating the fact that you finally got an Indy win under your belt.

Watching Danica race for the first time in 2005 made me a believer, especially after her history-making debut in her rookie year.

In the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500, Patrick shocked the world by taking fourth place, the highest finish by a woman since Janet Guthrie placed ninth in the 500 in 1977.

It's amazing to hear about women such as Guthrie, Shawna Robinson, Patty Moise, Lyn St. James, Lella Lombardi and Christine Beckers who paved the way for future racers.

Such an example is 27-year old Sarah Fisher, who finished 18th in last year's Indianapolis 500 and Chrissy Wallace, the niece of Rusty Wallace, who made her NASCAR debut by finishing 18th in the Craftsman Truck Series at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last month.

But the one lady who stands out is Shirley Muldowney. After all, Muldowney was the first driver, male or female, to repeat as National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Winston World Champion and the first driver to the Championship in 1977, 1980 and 1982. She retired in 2003 at the age of 63.

Muldowney has helped open the door for Ashley Force, the oldest daughter of NHRA legend John Force, who recently has taken the lead (326) in the points standing of the NHRA Funny Car division in front of Tim Wilkerson (321 points) and Cruz Pedergon (294).

Ashley's younger sisters, Brittany and Courtney, have also followed in their father's footsteps and made a name for them in the world of drag racing.

And still, it's killing some of you who believe that women don't have any business in the world of competitive racing.

Many people have criticized how Patrick cried when she finally won her first Indy race, but people don't realize what kind of price she had to pay to get that one sweet victory.

She's got every right to cry.

Although many miss legends A. J. Foyt, Dale Earnhardt, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti and Richard Petty, who ruled the asphalt as gods of the speedway, we don't cheer for them anymore - their names are a distant memory.

Danica's win has opened my eyes that in truth, women still have a long way to go, particularly in racing. These ladies have shown they can run with the big boys and have successes that some of their male counterparts only dream about.

Many refuse to accept women in racing. However, what Danica and others have done over the past several years is evident that women in racing are here to stay.

Danica deserved to cross that finish line at Twin Ring Motegi, no question about it. She will one day win the Indy 500, and will sip her first cool bottle of milk and kiss the yard of bricks for the first time.

But for now, Danica Patrick should enjoy her win expecting many more to come.

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