Danica Patrick was a pioneer for women in motorsports but the lack of women currently driving in American motorsports is a wrong that is slowly being corrected. Patrick helped break down some barriers and social progress is coming but it has been slow.
“I’ve never asked for special treatment along the way. And I’m never going to hide the fact that I’m a girl, ever. That’s obvious, isn’t it?” – Danica Patrick
Patrick’s racing record has often been perceived as lacking and to some detractors her career on the track was that as a token female driver in a sport largely dominated by men.
During her seven season NASCAR Cup Series career Patrick drove in 191 races with seven top-10 finishes, one pole position, and led 64-laps in her career. She is the only woman driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to start on the pole, 2013 Dayton 500, and by finishing eighth in the race she achieved the highest finish for a female driver at the “Great American Race”.
She garnered more success during her eight season IndyCar career with 116 races, one victory, seven podium finishes, and two pole position starts. Patrick is the only woman to win an IndyCar race, 2008 Indy Japan 300, and the first woman to lead laps and earn a top-5 finish at the Indianapolis 500, both in 2005. She is one of 14 drivers to have led both the Indianapolis 500 and Dayton 500.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl. That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning. Then I feel like thriving in those moments, where the pressure’s on, has also been a help for me. I also feel like I’ve been lucky in my career to be with good teams and have good people around me. I don’t think any of it would have been possible without that. For those reasons, I’ve been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don’t stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make. We are excited to do it.” – Danica Patrick
Patrick had detractors during her eight-seasons in IndyCar and NASCAR. This is inevitable for pioneers in sports but as years roll by and the next generations take a foothold in motorsports there will be greater acceptance for female driver. Let’s hope the world keeps evolving to the point where it’s just a driver without throwing gender in front of the job title.
“I’ve never seen myself as a ‘girl driver.’ I’m just a driver.” – Danica Patrick
Patrick drove IndyCar fulltime from 2005 to 2011, and since her departure America’s top open-wheel racing series have had two women race fulltime, Simona DeSilvestro in 2013 and Tatiana Calderon is currently driving for AJ Foyt Racing.
Currently there are three female drivers competing in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series and there have been none in the top tier Cup Series since Danica Patrick retired after the 2018 Daytona 500. It’s been more than four-years since a woman drove in the Cup Series and hopefully Natalie Decker, Hallie Deegan or Jennifer Jo Cobb can break that glass ceiling again.