There are plenty of well-known athletes throughout the world, but those who command mainstream attention are simply known by one name. Babe, Wilt, Mickey, LeBron, Kobe, Shaq… and Danica.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, joined the mainstream ranks by going against the current, immersing herself and succeeding in the male-dominated world of professional motorsports.
Patrick’s journey began in Roscoe, Illinois, 90 miles northwest of Chicago and 5 miles south of the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, where she was raised. Like many of today’s successful drivers, including SHR co-owner Tony Stewart, Patrick began competing in go-karts at a young age.
After racing at various levels in different racecars, Patrick burst onto the national scene in May 2005 when she stunned the world by leading 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first Indianapolis 500, becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race. Three years later, in April 2008, Patrick became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series with her victory in the IndyCar Series Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan.
In February 2013, as Patrick transitioned to the NASCAR Cup Series, she once again made headlines around the world with her record-setting performance in the 55th Daytona 500 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. She became the first woman to win a NASCAR Cup Series pole when she set the fastest time in qualifying for the Daytona 500 and then finished in eighth place, the highest finishing position ever for a woman in the “Great American Race.”
One of the most recognizable athletes in the world, Patrick has graced the cover of ESPN: The Magazine and TV Guide and was featured in pictorials in the 2008 and 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has appeared in 14 Super Bowl commercials, more than any other celebrity.
As Patrick continues to set new marks in the NASCAR ranks, off the track she finds balance by working out, practicing yoga, going on long walks with her dogs Dallas and Ella, cooking and spending time with family and friends.