In the post-Danica Patrick era, IndyCar still has plenty of Girl Power. And a new initiative is intended to put more women into race cars and, hopefully, Victory Lane.
Katherine Legge, one of the world's most respected female drivers, leads the pack rising through racing's ranks. A rookie in the IndyCar series, the former ChampCar veteran will drive Dragon Racing's No. 6 car in Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Legge, 32, also is the marquee driver for TrueCar Racing's Women Empowered Initiative, the world's first all-female racing team.
"I've been involved with it since the beginning," Legge said. "It's been a fantastic journey.
"I thought it would be a 'Girl Power' thing and it has but guys also get really interested in it. Men have sisters, mothers, daughters. They've really gotten on board with it as well."
Legge and her TrueCar teammates visited Sacramento on Wednesday on their way to Sonoma. Besides IndyCar, they also race in Star Mazda (Ashley Freiberg), USF2000 (Shannon McIntosh), World Challenge (Shea Holbrook), Mazda MX-5 Cup (Emilee Tominovich) and Rally America (Verena Mei). Holbrook will compete in Saturday's Cadillac Grand Prix at Sonoma.
Most have been racing since grade school.
"You still definitely get guys who can't handle being behind you," Freiberg said. "That gets better as you go up the ladder."
Said McIntosh: "Obviously, you want to be recognized as a driver. But in marketing, (being a woman) plays such a big role."
Mei took a different route.
"I was a poster model in the automotive industry," she said. "But I decided I'd rather race and sent myself through racing school."
Mei became a stunt driver and competed in drifting before moving to rally cars.
Women can compete head to head with men in racing, Legge said.
"Driving is not about outright strength," Legge said, "but about reflexes and ability. But Danica (now in NASCAR) so far has been the only one with equal opportunity.
"But there are a number of really good female drivers coming up through the ranks, not just in America but around the world. We will get to the point where women will win the Indy 500. We'll be the ones who made the difference and helped get them there."