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Patrick posts first IndyCar victory

She finishes almost six seconds ahead of pole-sitter Castroneves to win in her 50th start.

April 20, 2008|From the Associated Press

MOTEGI, Japan -- Danica Patrick became the first female winner in IndyCar history today, taking the Indy Japan 300 after the top contenders were forced to pit for fuel during the final laps.

Patrick finished 5.8594 seconds ahead of pole-sitter Helio Castroneves on the 1.5-mile oval after leader Scott Dixon pitted with five laps left and Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan came in a lap later.

"It's a long time coming. Finally," Patrick said. "I was managing to save fuel and keep the speed up and when I saw Helio I knew he was the one to beat."

The 26-year-old Patrick won in her 50th career IndyCar start.

"Thank you to Andretti Green. Thanks to my teammates," she said.

Dixon took the lead from Castroneves on the 93rd lap in the race rescheduled for today because of wet track conditions Saturday, but gave up the spot to pit for fuel.

"We led for a lot of laps but came up short," Dixon said. "But congratulations to Danica for her first victory."

Patrick, who started from the third row and made her final pit stop on Lap 148, stayed close to the leaders throughout the 200-lap race.

"I knew there was a good reason for coming to Japan," Patrick said.

Dixon finished third, followed by Wheldon and Kanaan.

Patrick finished a career-best seventh in the season standings last year, and was second in the race at Detroit's Belle Isle.

At the 2005 Indy 500, she became the first female driver to lead the race en route to a fourth-place finish. It was the best finish by a woman at Indy, and helped her earn rookie of the year honors.

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