Wednesday, Feb. 3 is the 35th Annual Girls & Women in Sports Day, celebrating girls and women and promoting equality in sports.
In the spirit of this important day, this week’s INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable will focus on women in INDYCAR SERIES racing.
Today’s question: Which female athlete from a sport besides racing would you like to see compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and why?
Arni Sribhen: NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers are audacious athletes who aren’t wired like the rest of us. So is U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Why wouldn’t you want to be associated with her? On the field she’s a winner – Rapinoe has won two World Cups and an Olympic gold medal. She’s been recognized as best, the FIFA women’s footballer of the year in 2019, and she draws attention on and off the field. She’s an unapologetic icon for everyone, not just the LBGTQ community, and has partnerships with Nike, Hulu, Body Armor and Samsung, among others.
The 2021 rookie class already features two drivers who became stars before they were in INDYCAR. The attention alone would be at levels that the sport hasn’t seen since Danica Mania became a thing in 2005.
Does anyone know if Pinoe has a need for speed?
Curt Cavin: Simone (Biles) going wheel to wheel with Simona (de Silvestro) and Simon (Pagenaud) would be fun, eh?
At 4-foot-8 and weighing little more than a few gallons of racing fuel, the nation’s most decorated gymnast wouldn’t have trouble feeling at home in the tight confines of an Indy car cockpit. Gymnasts have a training regimen rivaling any INDYCAR SERIES driver, so there’s no issue there, and Biles also knows her way around Indianapolis, having trained here in recent years.
You want sponsors? Biles is endorsed by Nike, Kellogg’s and Hershey’s, among other big brands. She’s also still just 23 years old, young enough to develop into a championship-level driver.
Think NBC would be thrilled to have a four-time Olympic gold medalist to promote in an Olympic year? And Graham Rahal would be happy, too, because Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio.
Zach Horrall: The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the most challenging and diverse racing series in America, and it is filled with badass athletes. Therefore, I would love to see one of the most badass athletes of our generation, Serena Williams, step into an Indy car.
Not that she needs stats to back up her incredible talent, but Williams has 23 Grand Slam titles, more than any woman or man during the open era, and four Olympic gold medals. She’s clearly a natural, once-in-a-generation talent, and with some time in the simulator and a test or two down in Sebring, I’m certain she could go head-to-head with Scott Dixon on the Streets of Long Beach or Takuma Sato at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Not to mention, she’s got that audacious, “don’t mess with me” mentality that could overcome the pressure of a driver breathing down your neck while going through the Corkscrew at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Someone sign her!
Paul Kelly: There’s a trend among the picks by Arni, Curt and Zach – badass female athletes who make no excuses and take no BS from anyone. So, to continue that common thread, I nominate a female athlete who kicks butt like few others on this planet – world champion boxer Katie Taylor.
Taylor, from Ireland, is the current undisputed lightweight world champion. After her victory over Delfine Persoon in 2019, she became one of only eight boxers in history – male or female – to hold all four major world title belts (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) simultaneously.
She also was a decorated amateur, winning Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics after serving as the flag bearer for Ireland in the Opening Ceremonies. She also won five consecutive gold medals at the Women’s World Championships and six golds at the European Championships.
Taylor also is compelling because she’s a classic case of fire and ice. She’s an absolute machine in the ring, with her aggressive style producing a 17-0 record as a pro. But outside of the ring, she is quiet, humble, friendly and devout in her faith.
Plus, I think Taylor could more than handle herself in any disputes with other drivers. Think any of the current INDYCAR field would want to mess with this?