Danica Patrick – Desire

Danica Patrick – Desire


“I believe that each and every one of us has the power within ourselves to create the life that we really want. And I want to inspire you to go conquer your dreams, both professionally and personally.”

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?  While most people ponder this question, the answer for Danica Patrick was always simple — she wanted to be the best race car driver in the world.  In a predominately male-oriented sport, her aspirations of professional racing would certainly be easier said than done. From countless naysayers to being teased on the track, it was a bumpy beginning for the girl who just wanted to race. Danica was born with a drive that couldn’t be stopped. Her desire to live life in the fast lane turned her ambitious dream into a reality.

Born on March 25, 1982, Danica Sue Patrick began her life in the small town of Beloit, Wisconsin. The bubbly brunette lived with her loving parents and younger sister, Brooke. As a child, Danica often played with Barbie dolls and baked cookies with her mother – just like most young girls she knew.  By the age of ten, however, Danica realized she wasn’t your average kid. What really excited her was watching her father repair racecars in their garage. She quickly learned about RPMs, engines and auto maintenance. “To live, eat, sleep, drink and breathe racing” was her father’s motto. She frequently dreamt of winning the Indy 500, leaving her opponents in the swirling dust. Danica’s desire to race was undeniably handed down from her father, who gave her the building blocks she needed to pursue her dream.

Exhilaration. Freedom. Adrenaline. These words perfectly describe how Danica felt the first time she hit the gas pedal on her new go-kart. Her father set up the course in an empty parking lot, using old paint cans as barricades. Danica immediately felt comfortable behind the wheel and soon began karting competitively. “I loved the feeling of driving – being in control – using my head and outsmarting the other drivers,” declared Danica. The excitement was so powerful, that at the youthful age of ten, she knew she had found her calling. “It’s a sense of confidence and self-assurance that one is born with – not the kind you develop through years of success.  It’s like falling in love – you know when you know,” she once stated.  Gone were the days of piano lessons and soccer practice.  Danica had a one-track mind and racing became her sole desire.

Danica had everything it took to be a young driver: passion, support, confidence and talent.  She loved chasing her dream and the Patrick family did whatever it took to support her. For example, they traveled nearly every weekend throughout the Midwest so Danica could gain valuable race experience. As a young female, she often had to deal with scrutiny and tough situations. “It didn’t take long for me to understand that being the only girl driver made me different, and my presence on the track would not always be welcomed with open arms,” Danica recalled. Danica felt she had to continually prove herself, often being referred to as “the girl on the track” and as “driving the princess-mobile.” These comments only fueled her desire to be number one – and by age eleven, she was breaking records. The press began writing news articles on the talented young lady, as she was turning heads at every track she entered.

After several years of blood, sweat and tears, Danica was finally making a name for herself. With momentum rolling in 1998 (at just 16 years old), she proved her devotion to the sport by moving to England to advance her career. She practiced nearly every single day and worked on her upper-body strength. Professional races can occasionally last up to four hours, without a moment to relax. At only 5’1” and 100 lbs., Danica had to work a little harder than her competition to control an 1800 lbs. vehicle.

In 2001, Danica left Europe and returned to the States, more prepared than ever to race.  By 2002, she signed a driving contract with Rahal Letterman Racing, which at the time was co-owned by former racing champion, Bobby Rahal, and talk show host, David Letterman. “One of the most important things I look for in a driver is a desire to be a big fish in a big pond – not a big fish in a little pond. That is Danica Patrick.” Bobby Rahal explained. Over the next two years, Danica worked hard, but never won a race. “I’ll try harder than anyone else ever has just to make certain I can change the outcome in my favor,” Danica said. It wasn’t long before this positive attitude drove her into one of the most exciting times in her professional racing career.

Danica’s life was moving fast – sometimes at 220 mph to be exact! And after 14 years of racing, her dream finally came true. She qualified to participate in one of the most prestigious auto races in the world, the Indianapolis 500. On race day, May 29, 2005, Danica astonished the world as she led the pack for 19 laps – becoming the first woman ever to lead the Indy 500. This is an incredible achievement for any professional driver, despite gender. Her impressive 4th place finish also made history, as it was the highest standing ever for a female driver. Although Danica wasn’t the first female racecar driver, she made her mark in history by becoming the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

“There is nothing I want to do more than win. That has been one consistent motivating force in my life. My desire to be successful and to win has been the same forever,” she once stated. The media dubbed the new sensation, “Danica Mania.” Supporters saw her as a talented trailblazer, with the courage to put herself on the line at every race. She often inspired her fans by reminding them that anything is possible.

Give yourself permission to shoot for something that seems totally beyond your grasp. You may be surprised at your capabilities,” expressed Danica.

In 2008, Danica’s success was at full throttle, as she became the first woman to win a major-league race in a North American series. She victoriously claimed the checkered flag at the Indy Japan 300, after completing the 304-mile course. Five years later, during her first full season with NASCAR, she made history again by becoming the first woman to win the time trials at the Daytona 500. Danica has summed up her extraordinary achievements by saying, “Hard work always pays off. Achieving a high level of success is a difficult process, but it’s so worth the chase.”

After living her dream for more than two decades, Danica decided it was time to hang up her helmet. In true Danica fashion, she went out with a bang and raced in both the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indy 500 – nicknaming her finale the “Danica Double.” Though this pioneer is no longer competing on the track, Danica’s accomplishments prove that if you have a strong desire, you can accomplish whatever your heart desires. As you think about your own future endeavors, don’t be afraid to dream big. In the words of Danica:

“I believe that each and every one of us has the power within ourselves to create the life that we really want. And I want to inspire you to go conquer your dreams, both professionally and personally.”

Danica Patrick is one of the 144 “Wednesday Role Models” featured in the Student Athlete Program. This program is designed to improve the character, leadership and sportsmanship of high school athletes. To learn more about this program and how you can implement it in your school:

Check out the Student Athlete Program


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