Danica Patrick is one of the stranger celebrities in sports at the open of this decade—she appears in GoDaddy ads that cheapen her image but she is, unlike many of her peers in those ads, an extremely competent driver; she began her career in open-wheel racing but has moved to NASCAR, where she's seen less success and become even more of a public figure. In the 2011 Indianapolis 500 she nearly managed to push all those concerns aside, leading for several laps late in the race before finishing 10th overall.
Racing needs Danica Patrick to emerge as even more than a year-in, year-out contender, and Danica Patrick needs racing to legitimize her place in the public consciousness. 2011 was almost the year, but it didn't quite work out for the sport's most famous driver, who will remain, one more year, not especially famous for her driving.
For more on the Indianapolis 500, including results and analysis on each of the driver involved, check out the storystream on SB Nation.