Danica Patrick became the first female winner in IndyCar history recently, winning the Indy Japan 300 by 6 seconds.
Some women’s advocates and Patrick herself are complaining about a new rule which feminists claim is “aimed at the women in Indy.” The rule says that lighter drivers have to carry ten more pounds on them.
Race car driver Robby Gordon has a different perspective, saying that Patrick is at an unfair advantage over the rest of the competitors because she only weighs 100 pounds. Because all the cars weigh the same, Patrickâ€™s is lighter on the race track. He says:
â€œThe lighter the car, the faster it goes. Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier.”
I know nothing about auto racing beyond what I learn from watching old Speed Racer cartoons with my daughter, but Dan H., a reader, does. He writes:
“Auto racing is about accelerating and decelerating weight in a straight line and an arc (corner). It takes a calculated amount of fuel (power) to accomplish this feat with the largest variable by several orders of magnitude the amount of weight that is being thrown around. Ever hear of ‘Power-to-Weight Ratio?’ In heavily equalized cars weighing 1500 pounds, a 100lb driver vs. a 165lb driver is a rigged race. Robbie Gordon is dead right: Forget It!
“With nearly the sole exception of Tony Georgeâ€™s Indy Racing League, all of the major series, and quite a few of the club racers, recognize this and either weigh the car and driver together or separately and make adjustments. The IRL introduced a laughable adjustment just this year.
“While racing officials do not concern themselves with the driverâ€™s height, muscle mass, shoe size, eye color, gender, carbon footprint, or about a hundred other personal characteristics, they very much want to balance the weight across the drivers then let ‘em race. In auto racing, the driverâ€™s weight looms as large as horsepower, tire width, vehicle height, spoilers, and more.
“People demanding that Danicaâ€™s huge weight (speed) advantage be ignored have never fielded a $45,000,000 race team. She weighs 75 pounds less than the average male driver in a sport where the teams pay $500,000 to get 2 pounds out of the weight of a manifold.
“She is a mid-pack performer at best that finishes higher up because of her incredibly advantageous weight. Bolt 20 pounds in the chassis beside each shoulder and her gender-provided weight bias disappears…and so does her up front finishes.”
From what Dan H. says, it sounds a little like the Boston Marathon a few years ago where a woman “won” the race because the female runners started the race 29 minutes before the men. If they spend $500,000 to decrease a car’s weight by two pounds, a 75 pound difference seems staggering, and the 10 pound balancing that Patrick and feminists are complaining about seems pretty minor.
On the other hand, I wonder if Patrick’s strength disadvantage also means something. Let’s say, for example, that they equalized the weights, as they apparently do in most of the races. Would it then be unfair to Patrick because she is effectively forced to carry “dead weight,” while the male drivers’ extra weight is at least in the form of muscle that helps them drive the cars?
On another level, even to compete and be a “mid-pack performer” as a professional race car driver, as Patrick has done, seems like quite an achievement.
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Â Glenn Sacks, www.GlennSacks.com