Danica Patrick: Nascar’s Finest
Danica Patrick is an American auto-racing driver, model, and advertising (GoDaddy) spokeswoman and is no question the most successful woman in the history of American Auto racing. She has set several records for women drivers including the first woman to ever win the pole position for Nascar’s famous, Daytona 500 AND the first woman to lead the Indy 500.
To most men, Danica Patrick is a dream come true; a beautiful woman whose unrivaled combination of athleticism and sex appeal is enough to induce a serious case of whiplash. Both on and off the racetrack, this woman is a force to be reckoned with. For over a decade there has been much controversy surrounding Danica Patrick and her success. She has responded by standing tall against media attacks, athletic criticism, in addition to sexism. Despite much adversity, Danica Patrick has prevailed and through hard work and sheer dedication, she has successfully continued to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a professional racecar driver.
Born on March 25th, 1982 Danica Patrick was born in Beloit Wisconsin. Her father TJ was a championship-winning driver who would essentially race anything he could get his hands on. During a 1970’s snowmobile event, TJ met Danica’s mother on a blind date. Her mother Bev was a mechanic at the time for a female snowmobile racer. As you could see, the two had much in common and later led to a happy marriage producing two daughters, Danica and Brooke Patrick.
As little girls, both Danica and Brooke enjoyed anything with an engine. They were always watching and admiring their parent’s races and after long, they too began to develop a need for speed. Surprisingly enough, it was Brooke, Danica’s sister who first seemed to have the most enjoyment out of motorsports. She loved the mechanics of an engine and would always find herself in the garage toying with lawnmowers, carburetors and other mechanical parts. Together, they would hop in the seat of the old Ford truck and drive laps around the yard until one day, their father brought home two go-karts.
With their father acting as crew chief, they soon entered go-kart racing competitions and began testing out his expert mechanics. The new hobby brought out the competitive nature in them both as they soon found themselves racing on the track against a mostly male-dominated population. They often found themselves close to the back of the pack, forced into walls, driven off the track and bullied into other obstacles often resulting into wrecks. For Brooke, it was too much but for young Danica, she couldn’t get enough of it. It was the beginning of something that not even Danica herself could of even dreamed of. Danica began winning go-kart races all over the region including the World Karting Association Great Lakes Sprint Series (yes, this exists). In 1996, she dominated winning 38 of the 49 races she entered. However at just 14 years old, Danica was still splitting time as a High school teenage cheerleader during the week and go-kart racer on the weekends. She found herself immersed in racing and by the age of 16, she decided to earn her GED, drop the pom poms and move to England to pursue a career in racing.
After moving to the UK she began training and racing in British national series events against drivers including future Formula 1 world champ, Jenson Button. In just three years, she raced in Formula Ford, Formula Vauxhall and earned a second place in Britain’s Formula Ford Festival. This was the highest finish by an American in the entire event. Her success received much attention and in 2002, she signed with Rahal-Letterman Racing, which was co-owned by racing legend, Bobby Rahal and talk show host, David Letterman. A few years later, Danica Patrick became the first woman to ever lead the Indy 500. She led for 19 laps and ended up placing fourth which was the highest in IndyCar history for a female driver. That same year, she was named Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year.
As a result of her success, Danica Patrick began receiving an enormous amount of media attention. She was not only a beautiful woman, but she was also a fierce Indy racing competitor. In 2006 she published her own autobiography, Danica: Crossing the line and was named one of the 100 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine. Although several NASCAR teams contacted her about joining their race teams, she declined their offers and elected to sign with Andretti Green Racing, racing Indy cars instead. This contract was a whopping three-year, $21 million dollar deal and is to-date the most lucrative contract in the history of Indy Car Championship racing. In 2007 she continued her success by winning her third consecutive award for Indy Series, “Most Popular Driver.” Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2008 when she made history and became the first woman to ever win a IndyCar Race. That same year, Danica topped quarterback Tom Brady, golfer Tiger Woods and Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning as the most searched athlete. Danica Patrick had made it. In 2012, she was NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver and the following year followed that up by becoming the first woman to ever win the pole position at the famous, Daytona 500 NASCAR event. Although she did not win the race, she made history nonetheless.
Today, Danica Patrick has still yet to win a single NASCAR race and has only reached the podium seven times in the IndyCar race Series. Accolades aside, her many other accomplishments and enormous feats serve as inspiration to not only female athletes around the world by breaking down gender barriers, but to anyone else male or female thinking about stepping outside the boundaries of originality, and challenging yourselves to pursue your dreams regardless of the tough roads ahead.