Oh Those Women Drivers!

In case you missed it:

Robby Gordon accused Danica Patrick of having an unfair advantage in the Indianapolis 500 and said Saturday he will not compete in the race again unless the field is equalized.

Gordon ... contends that Patrick is at an advantage over the rest of the competitors because she only weighs 100 pounds. Because all the cars weigh the same, Patrick's is lighter on the race track.

"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier. I won't race against her until the IRL does something to take that advantage away."

Wow, Mr. Gordon must feel very strongly about the importance of weight to a racecar (palindrome!) driver, since he’s willing to stake his entire career on it. I guess that’s why he’s 5’10” and 200 lbs. Of course, I’m sure his extra cargo is all muscle. Or, at least, one muscle. The one you use to turn a steering wheel slightly counterclockwise.

Actually, I’m not sure his complaint has any merit. I mean, okay, she weights 100 lbs. But she must be wearing at least 45 lbs. of advertising.

And besides, it’s not as if males don’t have physical advantages over females in some sports. When the Amazons decided to compete against men in archery they lopped off a breast; it seems like the least Gordon could do is forego a Kristy Kreme once in a blue moon.

Yes, I realize that the I5K is already over. But I feel it’s our duty, as an Internet, to heap as much ridicule on this guy as possible, even after the fact.
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41 comments.

  1. Especially strange since, as I hear it, Gordon doesn’t compete in the Indy 500, but in NASCAR instead. (In which Danika also competes)Not sure if this is true, but it’s what I heard.

  2. I’m wrong, he’s focusing on NASCAR THIS year, and used to run in the Indy 500.

  3. Robby Gordon is an asshelmet no matter WHICH series he’s competing in. Ask his fellow NASCAR drivers which one of their compatriots they most wish to avoid on the more challenging tracks, and I’d bet “Rubby” gets a majority of the votes.

  4. I5K would be Indianapolis 5000. Should be I5C.

  5. If he doesn’t like it, maybe he should pay some horse jockey to drive his car. Oh, unless he’s actually in racing because he wants to compete, in which case perhaps he should stop crying.

  6. I think he has a valid point, but only if this new driver weight rule was equally applied to all drivers, like in horse races. They add weights so that on every horse jockeys plus weights are the same. Plus it takes a lot more skill to drive any race car 500 miles (or even 5) than jamming on the gas and turning left.

  7. It’s not just women… drivers complained about the same thing here in Vancouver when Christiano Da Matta won the Vancouver Indy a few years back… he’s only 120 pounds soaking wet.

    Hell, I’m about 170, but it was still enough to beat my 200 pound buddy at the go-kart track… :)

  8. Hell, I kicked my 85 pound daughter’s ass at the go-kart track. Put ‘er right in the wall! THAT’S racin’!

  9. The comparison with horses is dodgey physics. More weight is basically all negative for the jockey. Heavier vehicles, on the other hand, will have better traction, roughly in the weight ratio. This will at least partially cancel the effect of the additional mass that needs to be pushed or stopped. In theory, the heavier vehicle may have an advantage some conditions, eg wet track. I’m not familiar with the situation here but if the cars can spin wheels under acceleration, I’d guess things would just about cancel out.

  10. Gordon is 5’10 and Patrick is only 5’2, so Gordon has an unfair advantage in that he can see over the steering wheel better.

    Seriously though, each driver I’m sure has their own advantages and disadvantages, as it is with any sport. And if Patrick’s weight is that much of an advantage, that how come 3 men weighing more than her placed before her in the Indy 500?

  11. Let me translate for Mr. Gordon:

    “I can’t win, so I’m going to blame my inability on the weight advantage of another driver.”

    Perhaps he’d like Shaq to play on his knees so he doesn’t have such a size advantage. Or maybe Barry Bonds should use a bat three inches shorter than everyone else.

    In all competitions, each participant has their own unique advantages. It’s all part of the sport. Gorden has always been an ass, and his comments only cement that reputation.

  12. I am loving these comments. All this talk about not weighting the field to make up for a perceived handicap (weight advantage) make most of you sound like, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, Republicans.

  13. I love the comment about extra weight giving you extra traction. It just doesn’t work that way; the small increase in extra traction due to a given amount of weight does not make up for the negatives of the extra weight. You will be able to go around a corner and accellerate faster with less weight, not more. Either that or all the engineers in nearly every motorsport are stupid-heads.

    There is at least one motorsport series that does the minimum car weight check *including the driver* (I think Formula 1 does it that way, but I didn’t just verify that or anything). Robbie (robby?) should say that is what he wants to see, and not complain about Danica being unfair. She is just racing by rules, like anyone else. A lot of the best open wheel drivers have been relatively small men.

    Besides, while the advantage she has is probably significant on a road course, it probably is not significant on the high speed ovals, and especially NOT at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! It is a high speed huge (HUGE) rectangular track with long radius banked corners so the cars don’t slow down/speed up during the lap very much (they were only losing about 20-25% of their speed in the corners the last time I was paying attention to Indy racing, and I doubt that has changed much with the current cars). The main problem to high speed/accelleration at this track (other than on the out lap) is fighting the aerodynamic drag of the car, not the mass/inertia. I’d bet you could stuff 100 extra pounds in the cockpit of Danica’s car and her laps times would not change much at Indy.

    In NASCAR, which is almost totally ovals, the aerodynamics of the cars are much worse than formula cars, and where 100 pounds is a much smaller percentage of the total weight, his complaint is laughable.

  14. Am I missing some high school physics here? Sure, more weight takes more force for linear acceleration, but on curves at constant speed in ideal circumstances, where the centripetal force is due to friction, mass neither helps nor hurts you.

    mv^2/r = ma, mass cancels, no?

    The “weight effect” is completely drowned out by other factors in a long race like this with pit stops. Danica should offer to put a hundred pounds in her car just to show up this tool. I bet he still wouldn’t show.

    And what’s up with the republican comment? I’m not sure who or whether anyone should be offended by that. Any rule will privelege some people more than others. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make a nuanced distinction between fair and unfair rules. Or at least I think I can make a distinction between controlling for body weight in NASCAR (ridiculous) and a progressive tax system (warranted to a certain extent).

  15. As the Pythons set out in the Quest for the Holy Grail it is a simple question of weight ratios. A quick search on Google led me to the 1994 Indy car specifications; which stated the car weight as 1550lbs. So every one whip out your trusty pocket calculators… what’s 100/1550… that’s right 6%. Wow, 6%…. that isn’t significant AT ALL!

    What have we learned (or perhaps confirmed)

  16. faded,

    Sure the mass cancels, in High School physics that is. When you start looking at the actual factors you get into stuff like friction, which may depend on the mass too (my recolection is a bit hazy as I haven’t had any physics for 3 years). The effects from friction when cornering may be larger than we expect, but considering the downforces in place from the spoilers and wings, I don’t think the difference in weight makes much of a difference.

  17. Gooooooo DANIKA!
    She did awesome for a ROOKIE who had never raced a 500 mile race before.

    For a rookie, any rookie, to get fourth is astounding! Can’t wait til next time when she has a big more experience with the fuel thing – which is the only reason, it seems, that she didn’t win.

  18. Adding weights to Danika’s car is certainly one option, but I kind of like the idea of Gordon getting extreme, radical liposuction.

  19. What if we tie Gordon to her front bumper to even up the weight?

    He’d probably complain that it would increase her traction.

  20. I agree with him. The racing association should require her to have lead breast implants. If there’s still a weight difference, they can give him a labotomy.

  21. Damn — lookit all the physics in these comments — never have I been more delighted.

    I’m no racing fan (I spent too much of my childhood cheering my dad and uncles from the stands of dirt-track modified street stock races and [gasp] demolition derbies to want to relive that horror), but I say they should weight-equalize car and driver, just to shut up the misogynistic hillbillies trying to keep the sport “boys -only.” (I don’t remember anyone ever complaining that Dale Ernhardt (sp?) had an advantage, and that guy couldn’t have weighed more than a buck 40 — he was skinny like a weed!)

    On a related note, I think Danica Patrick is very pretty.

  22. Why stop at racing? He should call for the NBA to put stilts on the shorter players.

  23. David – I concur. Danica Patrick is tha shizzle.

  24. RE: Freedom Fries

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1491567,00.html
    It was a culinary rebuke that echoed around the world, heightening the sense of tension between Washington and Paris in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But now the US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to “freedom fries” has turned against the war…..

  25. Yes, Robbie Gordon is an asshat. BUT. Both NASCAR and Formula 1 use the weight of the driver in calculating the minimum weight of the car. Several other sanctioning bodies also at least factor in some amount of fixed weight to allow for the driver. The IRL (under whose sanction the Indy 500 is run) does not, and that’s what Gordon was complaining about.

    Yes, IMS is a big, fast track, but had Danica’s weight advantage been removed, calculated over her qualifying run, would’ve put her 10th on the grid instead of 4th.

    Even in amateur racing (where I compete), some of the classes are so closely matched between cars that driver weight is the only real differentating factor, and it’s surprisingly noticeable on the track.

  26. It wasn’t too long ago that a Nascar driver and crew chief got fined big bucks for not having a full tank of gas in the qualifier. Evidentally, weight does make a noticable difference.

  27. They were discussing this over at Pandagon…and it was pointed out that he clarified his meaning on his webpage (and took great pains to say he thinks she’s a great driver and doesn’t care that she’s a woman) and that the quote was taken a little out of context in that he mentioned light men in the same interview as he mentioned Danika Patrick (and has, in fact, been bitching about weight unfairness for years and quit driving Indy in protest, apparently). Seems like that statement on his site was taken down or obscured, but they do link to a yahoo article quoting it. Several of the Pandagon commenters still came down on the side of him being an ass (and I think that he is at least being whiney about being a big guy)…but it hadn’t been mentioned here yet that he insists that its all about weight. The pandagon thread is a lot more in-depth than I.

  28. Robby Gordon was commenting that most race series weigh cars and drivers; the IRL does not. It still doesn’t change the fact that R. Gordon is a pair of flapping lips attached to an a**hole.

    All things being equal, a lighter driver has the advantage over a heavier driver. (Remember that these masses that we apply physics too are sprung on suspension, and it’s the suspension that makes the physics fun!)

    That being said, I’ve had a crush on Ms. Patrick since before she was a rookie in Formula Atlantics. I would, uhm, happily fill her gas tank any day…

  29. very odd…virtually all pro series measure minimum weight of the car including the driver, so that the driver’s weight is of little importance. The only advantage of a light driver is that they may get to put balast in more advanageous locations than a car with a heavier driver.

  30. um, wouldn’t a 200lb driver have more fluid in his body, thus enabling him, even a little bit, to sweat more over the long haul without feeling adverse effects of dehydration. a protection that the 120lb drivers don’t have?

  31. oh, and the bigger driver could be carrying more muscle mass, making it easier to turn that wheel “a few degrees counterclockwise,” and stomp those pedals over the long haul…

  32. I find Gordon’s comments as offensive as the next person and I admire Patrick for performing very well at a difficult event.

    Having said that, if the only physics you know was learned in high school stop trying to use it to prove a point because you sound like a freaking idiot.

    And to the person who said that a 6% difference in weight is insignificant, congratulations. You just made thousands of engineers from across the nation choke on their morning Cheerios.

  33. “And to the person who said that a 6% difference in weight is insignificant”

    Oh I am so very sorry, perhaps you could tell me how much traction is gained by the spoiler. Or the percent change in acceleration due to wind changes during the race. Or the percent change due to the multitude of other conditions that engineers have no control over.

    What pry-tell does a 6% change in a downward force do to the distribution of weight over the four wheels of the car? What gain is had from loosing that weight over the driver

  34. Also I am sorry for that retort but honestly that guy hit me where it hurt… right in my science… I am really a much more amicable jerk in real life :)

  35. *laughs* Settle down there JonBen, as a real physicist or physics student, whichever the case may be, you should find the above arguments involving physics as laughable as I did.

    The 6% comment that was directed at you is not so much an issue of physics as it is engineering. A 6% increase or decrease in weight will have a very real and measurable impact on the performance of a car traveling at that speed and distance. You can only milk so much power out of an engine, which is why weight is an issue.

  36. Dear ,

    You’re right. Showing a high school formula makes faded sound like an freaking idiot whereas you saying “you can only milk so much power out of an engine, which is why weight is an issue,” makes you sound like a genius. Did you even read what some people have said here? It’s a bit more nuanced than “it makes no difference at all.”

    I can only milk so much evidence out of your argument, which is why its weight is at issue.

  37. Wow. Robbie Gordon sure is a douche.

    Hmm. A CRAPCAR driver who’s a douche bag. I am SHOCKED!

  38. I5K ? Indy drivers only turn right?

  39. If we discount Danica for a moment, what typically is the difference in any given race between the lightest and the heaviest driver?

    It seemed to me initially that Gordon’s whining was more sexist than, ummm, weightist, but if he really has been complaining about weight differentials pre-Danica, then I’ll cut him some slack (he will be SOOO relieved, hee hee)

    As repeated ad nauseum, we have two choices:

    1) Change the rules to weigh car AND driver.

    2) Don’t.

    Brilliant deduction, if I do say so myself!!!

    The most I got out of physics class, by the way, was how much fun it was to play with a Tesla coil. Hmmm, how much does one cost, anyway?

  40. In the NASCAR Cup series the drivers weigh in and the car + driver is used to total the weight. That is what Mr Gordon is whining about.

    If they don’t change the rules for IRL we may start seeing moonlighting horse jockeys behind the wheel. Wouldn’t it be fun to see them stand up in the car as they cross the finish line?

  41. But having to stop every 15 mins to go to the bathroom should seem to even things out… well at least that has been my experience with going on roadtrips with women