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PATRICK GIVES HISTORY LESSON.

Byline: David Felton

Staff Writer

LONG BEACH -- It was hard to tell. Was Danica Patrick more relieved by winning, or that she won't have to hear the same inquiries, over and over again, before and after every race?

"I'm really glad I don't have to answer that 'When are you going to win your first race?' question," Patrick told several hundred members of the media Sunday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

She arrived after a combination of helicopters, jets and cars brought her from Japan to Long Beach following her IndyCar Series victory at Twin Ring Motegi. "I'm sorry. I lacked a crystal ball."

Hours earlier, Patrick became the first woman to win an IRL event.

She then embarked on a journey that included a helicopter ride from the track to the airport, a 12-hour flight and finally a short drive on the freeways to reach the 1.968-mile temporary downtown street course.

When asked it she felt historic after her milestone victory, Patrick replied, "I do feel kind of old today," perhaps a product of the jet lag that was clearly visible on the 26-year-old's famous face.

"It's going to be one of those things people remember," Patrick continued.

"It's a first. Firsts go into the history books. -- I always hoped and wanted to be that person."

Patrick won thanks to a beautiful job of fuel management. She stayed close enough to leader Helio Castroneves to not lose sight but didn't really open up until the final 10 laps, the same time he was backing off so he could reach the checkered flag.

"When it came down to 10 (laps) to go, I was like, 'Where's Helio?'" Patrick said. "I kicked it up a notch and got by him. I didn't want to think, "I should have pushed harder."'

Will Power, who won Sunday's Champ Car race, was quite impressed.

"I watched that race," the Australian said. "I felt really happy for her. She saved more fuel and won fair and square."

david.felton@presstelegram.com

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Hours after winning her first IndyCar race, Danica Patrick made it to Long Beach.

Steven Georges/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 21, 2008
Words:362
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