While she might not have achieved a great deal of success in terms of winning races, Danica Patrick still earned her place in motorsports history. Between her time on the IndyCar and NASCAR circuits, the Wisconsin-native is one of the most successful women to ever sit behind the wheel of a race car. Her driving career, however, couldn’t have got off to a worse start.
As a girl, Danica Patrick got her start in motorsports by climbing into the driver’s seat of a go-kart. Her first time on the track, however, ended with a crash that had her father fearing for the worst.
Danica Patrick’s successful IndyCar career
If you don’t follow motorsports, you might think that Danica Patrick took part in a few races, then stepped into the spotlight by dating Aaron Rodgers. In reality, though, she boasts a pretty impressive resume in her own right.
Patrick started her racing career driving go-karts and, unsurprisingly, showed plenty of potential behind the wheel. Her talent eventually earned her a spot in the Lyn St. James Foundation Driver Development Program; she also attended three more driving schools and headed abroad to break into open-wheel racing.
In 2004, however, Patrick returned to the United States to join Rahal Letterman Racing for the 2005 IndyCar campaign. She had a successful inaugural season, earning three pole positions and capturing both IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.
In total, Danica Patrick spent seven seasons—plus the 2018 Indianapolis 500— on the IndyCar scene. She won one race, earned seven podiums, and finished fifth in the overall 2009 standings.
Making the move into NASCAR
Danica Patrick wasn’t content to stay in the world of open-wheel racing, though. In 2010, she moved over to the stock car side of things, starting out in the ARCA Racing Series before working her way up the ladder.
After a bit more seasoning on the Nationwide Series, Patrick made her Sprint Cup debut in 2012; the following season, she took part in the full campaign, making herself eligible to earn points. While she clinched pole position at the Daytona 500, there wasn’t much to cheer about beyond that.
During her time as a NASCAR driver, Patrick took part in 191 races across the Xfinity and Cup Series. She didn’t win a single event but claimed seven top-10 finishes and one famous pole position.
Danica Patrick’s racing career almost ended in tragedy
Even if she didn’t find much success in terms of victories and top-ten finishes, Danica Patrick still made history as a female driver in the male-dominated world of motorsports. Her racing career, however, could have ended in tragedy in its earliest days.
When Patrick was about 10-years old, she and her sister convinced their parents to spend their savings on a pair of go-karts instead of a family pontoon boat. The first time Danica got behind the wheel, though, things didn’t go according to plan.
“A brake pin came out, so she didn’t have brakes,” Patrick’s sister Brooke explained in Brant James’ 2012 espnW story. “But I don’t think she was thinking that she couldn’t turn, so she went straight into a concrete wall. My dad was thinking, ‘I just killed my daughter.’ I think her experience was definitely more memorable than mine.”
Danica Patrick, of course, didn’t die that day and went on to change motorsports history forever.