Danica Patrick, First Woman to Win IndyCar Race

Auto racing has always appeared to be an aggressively masculine activity, with the role of women limited to the bikini-clad beauties handing out trophies. The current racing roster, however, has one beauty clad in the same suit as the boys. Danica Patrick debuted on the Indy Racing League scene in 2002; since that time, she has earned two Rookie of the Year awards and became the first woman to win an IndyCar race.

Danica Patrick’s Early Days

Danica Patrick was born on March 25, 1982 and raised in Roscoe, Illinois. Not a big racing fan as a child, Patrick did get exposed to a lot of motor sports, “The family would always go when my dad raced motorcross, and snowmobiles, and midgets. It was a matter of spending time with the family,” she told Hot Rod Magazine.

More interested in participating than watching, Danica started racing go-karts with her sister when she was 10. When Patrick was 12 she won the World Karting Association championship.

When Patrick was 16 she dropped out of high school, moved to England and raced in the Formula Bouxhall Winter Series. In this same year she attended the Formula Ford Racing School in Canada.

In 2002, after a runner-up finish in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, former Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal signed her and started training Patrick for Toyota Atlantic Series with Rahal-Letterman racing. In 2005 she was moved up to the Indy Racing League.

Sources in this Story

Notable Accomplishments

Patrick made her way into the Indy Racing League in 2005. In May of the same year she qualified for the Indianapolis 500, a race in which she finished fourth, the highest position ever achieved by a woman in the race. Patrick actually led the race for 19 laps and was the first woman to lead at Indianapolis. Watch Patrick describe that Indy 500 in an Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era Moments video.

Patrick finished the 2005 racing season with an overall standing of 12th. She was named Rookie of the Year for her performance in the Indy 500, as well as the 2005 Indy Car Series, and achieved three separate pole positions during the same season, tying a rookie record.

The 2006 season saw Patrick improve to a ninth place overall finish for the Indy Car Series Championship; in 2007, she started racing the #7 Motorola car and finished the season in seventh place overall.

On April 19, 2008, Patrick became the first female driver to win a major IndyCar race at the Indy Japan 300.

The Rest of the Story

Breaking the gender barrier in professional racecar driving is no simple task, but Patrick continues to forge ahead in her own style. In 2008, she posed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. While this decision might draw the fire of some racing critics, Patrick isn’t too concerned; as she says in an interview with reporters after the 2008 swimsuit issue came out:  “It doesn’t matter what people say. I’ve respected my own line. I haven’t crossed it.”

In 2006, Patrick published an autobiography, “Danica: Crossing the Line.” She has also hosted shows on Spike TV, and works as a spokesmodel for GoDaddy.com, a domain name registration site.