NASCAR

Danica Patrick Posed Topless for SI Swimsuit Issue and Admitted in Final Interview Before Retiring From NASCAR: ‘Sex Sells’

Danica Patrick was undeniably one of the greatest female drivers in the history of motorsports. She is the only woman to ever win on the IndyCar Series. She did something most racers of the opposite sex rarely ever do and competed in a completely different discipline with NASCAR. 

While it’s foolish to think Patrick never felt additional pressure carrying the weight of her gender, she consistently maintained a position of “just being one of the guys” throughout her career. However, in her final interview as a NASCAR driver, Patrick opened up and showed she was more than a driver and revealed her business acumen when she openly admitted how she used her looks to her advantage.   

Danica Patrick was a racing pioneer

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Danica Patrick came blazing off the starting line when she made her debut with the IndyCar Series in 2005. That first year she garnered seven top-10 finishes and finished 12th in the final standings. She earned Rookie of the Year honors. 

Three years later, Patrick made history, winning the Indy Japan 300 and becoming the first woman to claim victory at a top-level sanctioned open-wheel car racing event. However, after racing IndyCar for seven years, Patrick did something drivers rarely do and switched to another racing discipline with NASCAR. 

She ran a full-time Cup Series schedule in 2013 and made an impressive debut, becoming the first woman to win a pole position at the Daytona 500. She followed it up with an eighth-place finish in the race. That weekend turned out to be the highlight of her rookie season and one of the biggest moments in her career of making left turns. In five full seasons, she earned seven top-10s.

Upon her retirement from racing following the 2018 Daytona 500, Patrick had set numerous marks for women in American auto racing, including first to win an IndyCar Series race, highest finish in Indianapolis 500, first to clinch a pole position in the NASCAR Cup Series, highest finish at the Daytona 500, and the most starts, laps led, and top-tens in the Cup Series. 

Danica Patrick admits ‘sex sells’

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In Danica Patrick’s final interview before her last race at Daytona, Fox ran a piece on her career, which included a sit-down session with Jamie Little. She talked about her career and all of her accomplishments. Little mentioned how Patrick started out wanting to be just “one of the guys” in the male-dominated sport, but eventually, she decided to embrace her femininity.  

Patrick agreed. 

“I mean, I’m trying to avoid the saying ‘sex sells,’ but, um, you know I think you have to use all of your attributes,” Patrick admitted. “If you’re funny, play it up. If you’re a daredevil, show it off. But it all has to be backed up by ability.” 

Posed topless for Sports Illustrated 

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While Danica Patrick battled against men in a sport predominantly viewed by a male audience, she also recognized that she appealed to that same audience because of her appearance. There’s no better evidence of this than her gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated’s popular Swimsuit Issue, not once, but twice, in both 2008 and 2009.  

In 2015, Patrick talked with the magazine about her experience.

“I had so much fun. It was a great experience,” Patrick told SI. “I loved it, completely. I wish I was a swimsuit model because it was really fun. I like doing photo shoots, and I enjoy the artistic side of it. SI has always been so good to me, and I was so honored to be asked back for a second time.”

Danica Patrick posing for SI included a bit of irony because it’s an absolute certainty that many of the racing fans who refused to give her credit through the years for her accomplishments on the track took the time and viewed her photos in the magazine or online. In the end, she won.