Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 marked a historic moment, as 23-year-old Danica Patrick became the first woman ever to lead the race, and then placed higher than any other women to compete in the Indy 500. Janet Guthrie had been the highest placing woman, winning ninth in 1978, reports the New York Times. Patrick, the fourth woman ever to compete, surpassed that mark by placing fourth in the race after leading with only 10 laps to go.
Patrick has received a great deal of attention leading up to the race. MSNBC pointed out that her high caliber equipment and skills made her a real presence on the course, while her personality and status as the lone woman competitor could increase her marketability as well as the overall popularity of racing. Unlike her predecessors, Patrick has enjoyed the respect of fellow drivers, reports the Washington Post, as she moved up the ranks along with them. Legendary driver Mario Andretti even told the Christian Science Monitor that “her ability is not to be taken lightly.”