Danica Patrick has been a polarizing figure since her first foray into auto racing. Popular with fans and competitors, she’s not only broken records for female drivers in two forms of racing, she has sparked fan interest in every series in which she has competed. Now, Patrick has turned her attention to NASCAR racing full time. She’s already found success in both open-wheel and stock cars. Just how much? Take a look at her top 10 career moments.
From the beginning ..
Patrick has been turning heads since she started racing. She won several national and regional titles in the World Karting Association, then left home at 16 to compete in open-wheel series in England. She raced there from 1998 to 2000, gaining success highlighted by a second-place finish in 2000 at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
Patrick is well-known for her involvement in various causes, primarily her work with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) awareness campaign. Patrick has worked with various other charity initiatives, both in conjunction with the IndyCar Series and during a recent NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
Patrick continued to capitalize on her early performances. In 2003, while driving for Team Rahal, she became the first female to earn a podium finish in Toyota Atlantic. A year later, she became the first woman driver to win a pole position in the series and to lead the standings there.
Pack those stands
Patrick has proven to be an impressive fan draw throughout her racing career. That applies to any and every series in which she has run. Not only does she bring a unique perspective to the sport as a woman driver, but she’s personable and outspoken — and witty to boot. Her sponsor ad campaigns have also heightened her profile as she’s been unafraid to take risks and push the boundaries throughout her career. She is one of the most recognized sports figures.
Get in there
In 2009, Patrick continued her assault on the record books, particularly at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Patrick raced through the field and finished third in the prestigious Indianapolis 500, the top finish for a female driver in that event.
Patrick made her full-season foray into NASCAR a success immediately. After running 25 races as a part-time driver for two seasons, Patrick signed to compete full time with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series for the 2012 season. In her first qualifying attempt, at Daytona International Speedway, Patrick went out and ripped off the fastest lap to earn the pole position. It was the first pole position for a woman driver in one of NASCAR’s three major touring series since Shawna Robinson’s pole-winning run in 1994. Danica went on to finish 10th in the Nationwide standings in 2012.
Patrick found success quickly in NASCAR despite racing on a part-time basis during her opening two seasons. In 2011, she set a new mark in NASCAR. Patrick finished fourth in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the top finish for a female driver in any of NASCAR’s top three touring series. She went on to finish 10th overall in the standings in 2012, the top series finish for a female driver in any of NASCAR's top three touring series.
Take the lead
Patrick enjoyed success in the IndyCar Series for years and has paved the path for female drivers to follow. She set a new high mark when she took the lead in the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005. Patrick started fourth and finished fourth in the race, earning the rookie honors and both the highest starting and finishing positions for a woman in the event at that time. In addition, she led 19 laps, becoming the first woman to lead a race at the track.
Danica Patrick opened her NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie campaign in 2013 on a high note. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver became the first female to take a pole position in the premier series when she sped to the top spot for the season-opening Daytona 500.
Patrick gained acclaim in the IndyCar ranks quickly, but she finally silenced any detractors in 2008. Patrick, who had enjoyed success in the series up to that point, became the first female to win a major, closed-course, open-wheel race when she topped the field in April at Twin Ring Motegi.