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Critics can't daunt Danica Patrick

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Danica Patrick thinks the novelty of "woman in a man's world" is over.

"I think it has died down," the IndyCar rookie said in Manhattan yesterday while promoting Sunday's Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix.

"It's obvious that I am a woman. Everybody knows that. How many times can you write about me being a chick out there?"

But in some pro garages, it's still a hot topic.

After Sept. 11's Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, defending IRL champion Tony Kanaan fumed about a mistake Patrick made on a restart and put in question the 23-year-old Patrick's driving ability.

"I'm not very happy with the way the race ended," Kanaan said. "Danica jumped the start and put me down on the apron. I don't know what she was doing. First, you don't jump the start, and secondly you don't pinch people down like that. "

Yesterday, Patrick spoke about Kanaan's statement. And, get this: she's flattered.

"I almost take it as a compliment that people will say things like that," Patrick said. "I'm here and I'm competing with these guys. They're just gonna have to deal with it."

But as Patrick spoke more about what happened, you got the sense that Kanaan's words stung, at least a little bit.

"I'm not gonna go off saying things," Patrick said. "I got pushed below the white line a few times, but I'm not yelling at anyone. That's out of line."

Despite any of the gripes her competitors may have, Patrick is having a tremendous rookie campaign. Barring the unimaginable, Patrick will win this year's Rookie of the Year honors.

Despite all the success, Patrick is still looking for her first win of the year. And though she's been absent from victory lane, Patrick said she's learned a ton in her rookie season.

"One of the biggest things I've learned this year is to trust myself more," Patrick said. "I'm here because I can drive. I need to trust my instincts because usually they are right."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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