Go Daddy , NASCAR Sprint and Nationwide Series™ driver, Danica Patrick, the first woman to win a major closed-course auto race, brings racing talent and a fresh image to the racetrack. The record-breaking athlete began racing go-karts before she even had a driver’s license. She jump started her career overseas and made history with the highest ever finish for a woman.
Since then, Danica’s career has been on the fast track with considerable wins and high-profile endorsements. Throughout her profession, she has received numerous industry awards and honors.
Danica Patrick - In the Beginning
Danica Patrick grew up in Northern Illinois in a little town just north of Rockford called Roscoe. When she was just 10 years of age, she and her 8-year-old sister formed an interest in go-karts through a neighbor who raced them. Her parents were very supportive and even despite a minor crash on her first attempt, she fell in love with racing right away.
She continues, “As you make steps up, it gets faster. You start with a little five horsepower engine that does 45 miles per hour and you eventually graduate up to the IndyCar Series and those cars do 240 miles per hour. For me, it took 12 years to get there.”
“My first time in an Indy car, they told me to take it easy and not to rush but by the seventh lap I was flat out,” she declares. “I learned quickly that when the car is comfortable, it’s comfortable. If it’s not, that’s when accidents happen.” Danica is routinely questioned about what it’s like being female in a male-dominated field, and she responds by pointing out that it actually helps to be unique and different. This is especially true when it comes to sponsorship and funding, which is critical for the sport. At the same time, however, there are no free rides or special treatment because of her gender.
It can be a hostile environment out there on the track and you have to earn everybody’s respect. That only comes with wheel-to- wheel competition.
Danica is no stranger to the camera. When she was only 14 years old, new to high school and still racing go-karts, ABC Sports followed her around for an afternoon for a show called Passion to Play, The Making of a Champion. Later that same year, MTV followed suit filming for a day for their own show. In 2006, she starred in a music video for Jay-z along with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and earlier this year she played a car thief in a music video for Miranda Lambert called “Fastest Girl in Town.” With a grin, Danica is quick to point out that it was all for a role for the video and that aside from breaking a few speed limits a time or two, she does not participate in any illegal activities.
“From a young age, I had a lot of exposure to cameras and to that kind of world more than anything because it put me on TV and made my brand more valuable. It made me valuable to a sponsor, which is so important in this field,” Danica says.
She continues, “My life is always changing and different. Just when I think it won’t be drastically different, again in two years all of a sudden it takes another shift. Every few years it just seems to be more interesting and bigger than I ever thought.”
A Pit Stop for DRIVE4COPD
Today Danica is driving people to learn about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in memory of her grandmother who died from emphysema, a form of the illness. Danica remembers how her grandmother struggled to breathe and the impact that had on her life. She is determined to help others recognize signs of the ailment and take action to breathe better. So she’s raising awareness for COPD as the leading ambassador for the DRIVE4COPD campaign.
Danica firmly believes the cause deserves awareness as it is estimated that 24 million people, a majority of them women, have COPD but remain undiagnosed. DRIVE4COPD provides screening so people can understand the signs and symptoms and see if they are at risk for the disease. In just under three years, the organization has screened 2.5 million people and raised awareness and money for education
and a cure.
“Early detection is the key as screening can help with options,” Danica says in closing. “Thank God that technology and science allows these options, but the ultimate goal is really to find a cure!”
For more information about COPD or the DRIVE4COPD program, please visit www.drive4copd.org.
If you don’t think it’s worth doing a screening for yourself, just think about those who would have to watch you suffer or even have to take care of you.
Photos: Harold Hinson Photography