Additional Articles
on Danica

Danica Upset With Rule Change
Patrick Is in the Spotlight Once Again in Texas
Danica plans to deliver at Indy
Catching up with Danica
For Patrick, focus stays on racing
Speedway gearing up for Patrick: Her presence has helped ticket sales for IRL race
Rookie female driver on fast track at Indy 500
Danica Patrick on Record Rookie Pace
Danica Mania: The Aftermath
Danica Races To The Altar
'Danica Factor' Drives Marketing
Patrick joins 'Race Divas' lineup Friday, November 25, 2005

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The Critics:

Related Stories: More Danica-1, More Danica - 2, Women Racing, Women in Racing, Notable Women
Danica Pattrick , , or E-mail

Danica Patrick drives for Rahal-Letterman Racing where she is shattering records, becoming the first women in history to win a pole position in the Toyota Atlantic Championship.

At the age of ten, Danica exploded onto the karting scene, placing second in points against 20 other drivers. In her second year she began to climb, racing in the WKA Midwest Sprint Series in Yamaha Sportsman and US 820 Sportsman, placing second and breaking two track records in a single day.

By Danica’s third year, she had seized her first national points championship in WKA Manufacturer’s Cup in the Yamaha Sportsman class. By the age of thirteen, she had won the WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series title in the Yamaha Restricted Junior and US 820 Junior classes.

Danica solidified her reputation the following year in the Yamaha Jr. and Yamaha Restricted Jr. classes winning a knock-out 39 of 49 feature races. In her last year of karting she won the Grand National championship in the Yamaha Lite and HPV Lite classes.

By the age of sixteen Danica was racing in the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series in England, placing in the top ten of the 14 races.

2000 was a record year for 18 year old Danica when she finished second in the England Formula Ford Festival, the highest finishing American driver since 1998, stunning the critical British racing community. This success brought her to the attention of three-time Champ Cat titleholder and 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, who believes that Danica is the next female sports star in North America.

Danica became a household name when she entered the Toyota Atlantic Series and became the first full-time female driver in the history of the series.

2003 has been a key year for this young and talented driver as she shows that she’s got what it takes to win. With a choice of the Indy or Champ Car series next year, this could be the time that she climbs into the racing limelight. To see what happened with Danica during the 2004 season, watch Girl Racers!

To find out what time Girl Racers is on Global TV, join our mailing list.Visit Danica Patrick’s web site at

That Patrick came as far at such a tender age is all down to her supportive family, which has been with her from Day One. Her father, T.J. Patrick, a former driver himself who has raced everything from snowmobiles to midgets, worked on Danica's karts during that phase of her career and still advises her long distance, trying to retain his impartiality while evaluating his own flesh and blood: "When we're racing I look at her as a racer, not a daughter. When she puts on that helmet she becomes a completely different person."

Danica's mother, Bev, and younger sister Brook, almost 16 years old, were also part of the foursome that traipsed around the United States and Canada pursuing Danica's karting career. Brook was actually into karting before her older sister tried it out but Brook gave it up and ultimately evolved into Danica's public relations division at the tracks, helping out with Danica's fans and handing out pictures and T-shirts with Danica's sponsors' names on them. Bev Patrick, the mother who inspired this industrious brood, takes quiet satisfaction in the way people respond to her daughter: "I like to see everyone's reaction when she comes off the track and pulls off her helmet and throws out her hair; they point and say that's the girl, that's the girl!

Rookie female driver on fast track at Indy 500

Three other women have raced at Brickyard, but none with traction of Danica Patrick She is not the first, but so far, Danica Patrick is the best. The best media darling. Self-promoter. Ambassador for women in racing.

Oh yes, and driver.

Ever since Janet Guthrie withstood catcalls and insults for daring to infiltrate the field in 1976, only four women have cracked the grid at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the fabled Memorial Day weekend race, a contest so testosterone-fueled, the starting call still remains, "Gentlemen, start your engines."

Purists mostly considered Guthrie, Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher, now making inroads toward a NASCAR career, as also-ran novelties.

But when Patrick posted the best-ever qualifying mark for a female driver May 15 for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, capturing the fourth position in the 33-car field, the good old boys who crowd the Brickyard's infield may finally have to concede that a woman might just win this thing.

Patrick told her race team's co-owner, talk-show host David Letterman, as much Monday night when she was a guest on his show.

"Here I am, boss!" she quipped as she came on stage, wearing a short skirt that showed plenty of leg.

"I have a feeling it might change motor sports forever,'' Patrick said when Letterman asked her to describe the significance of a woman in the winner's circle. "You know, they talk about the women that have come through, and like you said, it's been something like 88 years that it's been around, and for only four women to come through.

"We all know their - well, I know their names, anyway."

The audience broke into laughter. Patrick, it seems, had won everyone over yet again.

Despite a slight wheel lift in the first of her four qualifying laps that left her bitterly disappointed not to start on the front row, Patrick's No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz Honda turned in a four-lap average speed of 227.004 mph to capture the inside spot on the second row, alongside and ahead of Indy Racing League veterans Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti.

Pole-sitter Tony Kanaan, the defending IRL series champion, will lead the pace with a qualifying speed of 227.566 mph.

And while the talented Brazilian has been good-natured about the hoopla surrounding Patrick, Kanaan is more concerned about getting a jump past a pair of former IRL series champions alongside him on the front row -- Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Sharp -- than the possibility that Patrick could upstage him on Sunday.

"It doesn't change my life at all. I think it's good for the series,'' Kanaan said in a teleconference Wednesday. "She's definitely very fast.

"Obviously, she's a girl, and she's doing good. So, obviously she gets more attention than any of us. I'm racing against 33 other drivers, so whether she's a girl or boy it doesn't matter. Hopefully it will bring more people to the race and to watch it on TV. I definitely think it's good for the series.''

The folks at the Indy Racing League certainly believe that.

Patrick has emerged as the series' most marketable star. She's 23 and feisty, all of 5 feet 2 and 105 pounds, and has the megabucks backing of team bosses Letterman and Bobby Rahal, despite her status as a rookie driver in the IRL.

Her long hair flows. The long pink fingernails remain intact beneath Nomex-clad racing gloves. The Roscoe, Ill., native has been driving everything from go-karts to 200-mph formula cars in England to Toyota Atlantic cars since the age of 16, so she definitely has credentials.

And it doesn't take a lengthy Internet search to find those equally racy photos from a recent spread in the magazine FHM, the ones showing the dark-haired Patrick -- "girl racer," one site calls her -- barely wearing a black and red leather teddy and bustier, straddling a vintage '57 Chevy with such gusto, it would make Paris Hilton blush.

Yet if someone ventures to ask Patrick whether, genetically, a man might be better suited to prevail in the 89th running of the Indy 500, brace yourself for a comeuppance.

"Or a female driver to be a better race car driver than a man?" she responded during a recent teleconference, getting some laughs. "I'm sorry, I had to throw that in there.''

With that barrier broken, Patrick could better explain herself.

"If anything, the toughest part for a female ... is the actual fact that you're a female,'' Patrick said. "It's not whether you have better reflexes, worse, or anything like that, but just to have a race team that backs you, a team that really believes in you, because it really just hasn't happened.''

Her arrival at the Brickyard comes at a time when the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" could really use a boost. Some of the luster has worn off the storied event, as open-wheel racing's fractured business side has seen the IRL and Champ Car World Series lose considerable ground to the phenomenon that is NASCAR.

But in America, Sunday is still Race Day. Beer will be swilled, there's meat on the grill, and sports fans can't help but feel a connection to a race their fathers and grandfathers once worshiped.

Patrick's presence, of course, has generated a whole new wave of interest in the venerable Indy 500.

"I think that 'the hoopla,' as you call it, is a little bit more than normal, especially with me, due to the fact that we've been doing really well and things have been going good for us,'' said Patrick, who's coming off a fourth-place finish April 30 at Twin Ring in Motegi, Japan, a race that saw her start from the front row and lead for 32 laps. "I know that the media and PR for Team Rahal and for IRL has had a lot of interest in me is all I know.''

Regardless of where, and if, Patrick finishes Sunday, you can bet there will be plenty of eyes following her No. 16 car through those 500 miles of left-hand turns. In the end, though, the buildup won't help her win.

"The race itself,'' Kanaan reminded, "is the hardest part.''

Source: - Nancy Gay, Chronicle Staff Writer 5/27/05,

Patrick Is in the Spotlight Once Again in Texas

The spotlight on Danica Patrick has grown brighter since she finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500. Many competitors are impressed with the rookie's composure in the glare

The media glare focused on Danica Patrick at Texas Motor Speedway might be daunting to drivers with far more time in the spotlight.

But the 23-year-old Indy Racing League rookie isn't the least bit bothered. In fact, she's having a pretty good time as she balances the frenzy of fan attention and a multitude of interview requests with preparations for Saturday night's Bombardier Learjet 500, a race likely to see lots of three-wide racing at more than 200 mph.

The first question Patrick fielded Friday during a packed press conference was about the cool, calm demeanor she has worn since the beginning of the month of May at Indianapolis, where she led laps and finished fourth - both firsts for a woman in the 500.

Asked if she somehow knew this "Danica Mania" was going to happen someday and had prepared herself for it, Patrick smiled shyly and replied: "Would it sound cocky if I said yes?

"I never knew what was going to happen. All I knew is that, best case scenario, it would, that it would be big news and that it would have an impact and it would help the series and it would inspire young kids and girls and be a really great story.

"Maybe that's why I feel completely myself. It's a big deal, but I don't feel it's something that I'm going to overanalyze and say, `Wow! I'm in the newspapers every day.' I feel it's just kind of a story right now, something that people are excited, interested and curious about, to see how it unfolds."

Tony Kanaan, the reigning champion of the IRL and winner of four races in the IndyCar Series, stood briefly at the back of the crowded room, watching and listening. As he turned to leave, Patrick saw him and said, "Next question, Tony Kanaan."

He smiled as he left the room, turning and saying, "You're doing OK."

Source: Tony Gutierrez,

Danica plans to deliver at Indy

Although she's only 5-1 and three-quarters and 105 pounds, Danica Patrick has an iron-grip handshake that instantly conveys the intensity that helps make her the first woman with a genuine chance to win the Indianapolis 500.

"I hope and expect to win here," Patrick says. "I think if the day goes well and I can make it through traffic and have a smooth day without any mistakes, I don't see why I can't."

By A.J. Mast, The Indianapolis Star

"That's her trademark," says Lyn St. James, the seven-time Indy 500 driver who mentored Patrick as a teenager. "I remember telling her that she didn't have to take people to their knees to get their attention."

Indeed, the motor sports world is paying rapt attention to Patrick as Sunday's race approaches.

With a No. 4 qualifying position, Patrick clearly can handle a car. As a member of the Rahal Letterman Racing team that won the 2004 Indy 500 with Buddy Rice driving, Patrick has the equipment and crew. And having raced on England's rugged formula circuit as a teenager, Patrick has paid considerable dues, even at 23.

Patrick also is the most marketable face in the Indy Racing League, having graced the pages of FHM magazine in scant attire alongside a '57 Chevy. The magazine's Web site lists that April 2003 issue as long sold out.

But team co-owner Bobby Rahal, winner of the 1986 Indy 500, stresses Patrick "doesn't want to be the next Anna Kournikova," a reference to the tennis goddess who never won a Grand Slam singles title.

"Most importantly," Rahal says, "Danica understands she has to deliver the goods."

Patrick, an Indy rookie from Roscoe, Ill., who will be the race's fourth woman entrant, had that understanding at 16 when she moved alone to England to race formula cars. The English tracks are well known as the place where young drivers from Europe and South America initially prove themselves.

For Patrick, England was a three-year gut check. She was a three-time national go-kart champion — racing against both genders — and knew she it was time to take the next step.

"It was my college," Patrick says. "England is great for racing, like Harvard is great for law."

At 16 she was pushing cars at 200-plus mph speeds for an English team but still was a year too young to have a British drivers license. Her first two months in England, she slept on the couch of a woman who worked for Jaguar, then Patrick moved into a 6-by-8-foot room "that was like a closet."

At the tracks, she was less than welcomed. "All the drivers hung out together, and I was left out of the equation a lot. They wouldn't call me. It was boys being boys."

On days when she ran the fastest test laps, Patrick remembered hearing other team managers telling their male drivers "she's frigging going faster. What are you doing?"

That experience steeled the young woman who had been a cheerleader from the sixth through 10th grades.

"I got really hard over there," Patrick says. "I got really cold and just hard. I had to be. I had to get tough."

Her turning point came in 2000 when her team's top driver got a new car, and she inherited his old one. With her first quality equipment, Patrick placed second in the Formula Ford Festival, the best finish ever by an American.

Among those taking notice was Rahal, who signed Patrick in 2002 to race in the Toyota Atlantic series, where in 2003 she became the first woman to get a top-three finish.

"England is the motor racing equivalent of a street fight," Rahal says. "If you can go over there and compete in that atmosphere, it really speaks volumes not only about your talent but also your determination. I just thought, why not give her a chance?"

Team co-owner David Letterman, scheduled to have Patrick on his Late Show with David Letterman as a guest Monday, says the decision to sign her was left to Rahal.

"So lo and behold it turns out he's a genius," Letterman says.

And if Patrick wins Sunday, Letterman says, "It'll turn motor sports on its head."

Bringing attention to her sport

The history-setting aspect of a Patrick victory at Indy would extend far beyond motor sports.

Consider the media storm surrounding Annika Sorenstam's appearance in the men's Bank of America Colonial tournament in 2003, even though the golfer missed the cut.

In mainstream, marquee sports events, jockey Julie Krone's 1993 Belmont Stakes victory atop Colonial Affair probably ranks as the most significant example of a woman prevailing against the world's best men.

Patrick says it isn't too soon for her to win. "I hope and expect to win here. I think if the day goes well and I can make it through traffic and have a smooth day without any mistakes, I don't see why I can't."

April 30, at Motegi, Japan, in only her fourth IRL race, Patrick started from the front row, finished fourth and led for 32 laps. She still is looking for her first win in open-wheel racing but believes once it comes, she will be a consistent visitor to victory lane.

"I bet you it will get easier," Patrick says. "You almost learn how to win, you know? It happened to me in go-karts, too, after I won my first race. All of a sudden, I just won everything forever. I think it can happen somewhat like that here."

Patrick believes an Indy victory would do more for IRL racing than for women drivers. The Indianapolis 500 has diminished in stature since 1994, when the IRL broke away from the traditional governing body for Indy-car racing, CART.

"I really want to do this stuff for the series," Patrick says of her recent crush of media interviews. "I want them to have tons of fans. I want them to have great ratings on TV, and I'll work extra to help them because it's what's going to keep me in a racecar. If I'm the most marketable, then let's go, let's do it."

Another boost for Patrick is that her male counterparts seem to accept her.

"She doesn't have a ton of experience out here, but she's driving the wheels off the car for that level of experience," says Scott Sharp, Indy's No. 3 qualifier. "She's really kept her composure, and nothing has lessened her confidence."

That was apparent in her qualifying run, when Patrick veered sideways during the first of four laps but recovered and went faster in each ensuing lap. If not for that one bobble, her 10-mile qualifying time of 2 minutes, 38.5875 seconds likely would have beaten Tony Kanaan's 2:38.1961 for the pole position.

"I think most people would have gotten frustrated, but she kept her wits together and put together a run that was fourth best," Rahal says. "That really impressed us. A mistake is made and yet that mistake isn't allowed to negatively affect the remainder of the run."

After the qualifying run, Patrick says, Kanaan gave her a memorable thumbs-up while riding by in a golf cart with driver Dario Franchitti.

"You can tell when it's sincere," Patrick says. "That was really cool. I felt like, 'Yeah, I belong here.' "

Race-day jitters a must

Sarah Fisher, 19 when she first raced at Indy, lost her sponsor and switched to stock-car racing. Guthrie was 39 and St. James 45 when they debuted at Indy, and St. James expects Patrick's youth to be a big help.

Racing's fresh face shows us too much

Dressed to thrill. Magazine cover girl Danica Patrick finished fourth in the Indy 500. AP

Like most of you, I didn't know who Danica Patrick was as recently as just weeks ago.

Danica Patrick?

Was she, like, the twin sister of the ESPN "SportsCenter" dude?

Turns out, thanks to the recent Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick is the hottest name in sports right now, a smart and talented woman who finished fourth in that famous race, even holding the lead late enough to cause some serious excitement. And she's just a rookie, too. To say she's rejuvenated a struggling sport is like saying Tiger Woods rejuvenated golf.

Yeah, Danica Patrick is hot, hotter than a car hood in a July sun.

"Sports Illustrated" even put her on its current cover, which is really a wondrous thing, seeing as how the magazine rarely ever puts a woman on its cover unless she's wearing a string bikini and a suggestive smile.

So it's been kind of exciting to see a fresh female talent emerge like a bright new color in our sports spectrum.

This all makes Danica Patrick another excelling example of what a woman can accomplish in sports, even in a sport dominated by men, and the focus they can bring. And this is what many women say they want, right? They want to be seen for their sport and not their skin. They prefer athleticism over sexism.

Danica Patrick appeared to be the perfect new spokesperson for such a cause.

Until we found out that she's already gone all Anna Kournikova on us, already selling out by selling her body to a men's magazine.

Danica Patrick, it turns out, put racy into auto racing with a photo spread for "FHM" magazine. Now, "FHM" isn't exactly down the alley of "Playboy," "Penthouse" or those other peddlers of pornography, but it is, at best (or perhaps we should say at worst) a hardcore R-rated magazine. "FHM" is an acronym that stands for "For Him Magazine," and as a lifelong card-carrying member of the male species, I can tell you that it appeals to the lowest common denominator in men.

For that matter, it also appeals to the lowest common denominator for women who agree to pose in it.

Danica Patrick did agree, and "FHM" showed her in all sorts of provocative poses, cavorting in, around and on a car while wearing flimsy lingerie.

It's not a good combination, nor a good message she has sent.

The photos are from two years ago, and you wish you could say that Patrick disrobed for the spread back when she was young, impressionable and immature. But she is 23 now, putting her at 21 when she consented to what we now hope was a momentary lapse in judgment.

But this is the disturbing trend for female athletes. It seems we can't have an Olympics anymore without a handful of female athletes posing in various stages of undress -- or else undress entirely. The great Olympic skater, Katarina Witt, posed for "Playboy." So did Olympic high jumper Amy Acuff. And others.

Olympic swimmers Angel Martino, Dara Torres, Amy Van Dyken and Jenny Thompson once posed nude together in "Women's Sports" and "Fitness" magazine with an American flag towel the only thing barely covering them.

Then there was soccer star Brandi Chastain, who wanted us to believe that stripping off her jersey after scoring a dramatic goal was a spontaneous gesture. But then she followed that up by posing naked -- save for two soccer balls she was holding -- for "Gear" magazine.

And the list goes on.

Now we can add Danica Patrick to that list.


Why do women do it?

When Olympic swimmer Jenny Thompson posed naked in "Gear" magazine, she also posed topless for "Sports Illustrated," with only her hands covering her breasts. She said she did it "not to get more attention or be a sex symbol or anything like that. I did it because I like to present an image of strong women, muscular women, for young athletes."


Many women, when they're being honest, admit that they just want more exposure. And there's nothing wrong with that. But when they start taking their clothes off, you wonder just exactly what kind of exposure they're talking about?

Do women want to be taken seriously as sports athletes, or do they want to be taken salaciously as sex symbols?

It falls into the universal question that all men ask, the mantra that we all chant reflexively:

What do women want?

Some women reason that selling their bodies sells their sport and brings needed attention to it. Well, no kidding. If there's any doubt that sex sells, check out eBay, where "FHM" back issues of Danica Patrick's photo spread are selling for a buy-it-now price of -- are you sitting? -- $59.99.

But is the price worth it? No, not the $59.99 price. But the price women pay when they sell themselves as sex objects.

I mean, really now, which motor is Danica Patrick more interested in revving?

I don't know.

Like most of you, I didn't even know who Danica Patrick was until just weeks ago.

I just hope that, from here on out, she chooses to be a symbol for her sport, and not a symbol for sex.

Catching up with Danica

Born: March 25, 1982, in Beloit, Wis., only because that's where the nearest hospital was for her northern Illinois hometown of Roscoe.

Marriage: Patrick will wed her physical therapist, Paul Hospenthal, 39, on Nov. 19 in Phoenix, where they live. Patrick is wearing a 4 1/4-carat diamond ring. The two met when team co-owner Bobby Rahal referred Patrick to Hospenthal for treatment of a fortuitous hip injury. "I did it during some stupid 6 a.m. yoga class, where I was competing with the people on TV," Patrick says.

Children: "It's just not really in the cards right now. When racing's over, that's the only time it would happen, but right now it's a no."

Would she want her daughter to race? "I don't think I'd wish this on anyone. This is a long process. This is a lot of hard work. I would never push racing on anyone."

Superstitions: "I have to get in the car from the left side."

Craziest moment: Beating four-time Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendall in a pro-celebrity race, then, collecting on their bet, leading him down pit road with a collar and leash.

On how she's perceived: "I have so many different sides to me. People can see me on the street and never think I was a race car driver. Or people can see me in pit lane and say, 'That's one mean chick.' "

On her FHM photo spread (viewable at www.danica "It sure created a lot of stir, and people still talk about it. I'm more into doing a Vogue or Glamour photo shoot. Big gowns, that would be beautiful. That's what I want to do, the high-fashion stuff. Just really out there, big hair and makeup. That would be fun."

Mom's take on the FHM photos: "There was only one that I think I could have done without."

And on how Patrick was treated in go-kart racing: "I don't know if it was resistance so much as that no dad wants his boy beaten by a little girl."-- Tom Weir


"We were kind of at what would be perceived as the end of our careers, and she is really at the prime of her career," St. James says. "She's everything the sport wants and needs right now."

The go-kart success landed Patrick in St. James' developmental program at 14. It's where she was taught about the business and mental side of racing.

St. James says she was struck by Patrick's presence the first time they talked.

"It's hard to put into words, but there's just another level that you're looking for with drivers," St. James says. "A certain poise and a certain intensity. She had an intensity that is unusual for someone that age."

Patrick says: "Lyn St. James told me once that you have to find out what makes you tick, what makes you work. I was so confused at 14. I was like, 'Uh, you drive the car, what do you mean tick?' "

But she learned.

Away from the track, Patrick savors watching reality TV and spending at least an hour lounging in men's briefs and a long-sleeved T-shirt every morning while she reads the newspaper. Another pastime is reciting dialogue from comic movies like "Dumb and Dumber," which she has watched about 50 times with her only sibling, younger sister Brooke.

But on the track she thrives on having the jitters.

"I perform really well when I get nervous," she says. "When my stomach is in knots, I think that the best comes out of me. I don't know why that is, and it doesn't feel very good, either."

Good family support system

Patrick's first race, in a go-kart at 10, didn't bring instant success.

"I couldn't even keep up on the parade laps," says Patrick, who fell a lap behind after just six times around the track.

She was competing only because Brooke, then 8, had asked to try go-karts. Their father, TJ, a world snowmobile racing champion in 1978, was happy to extend the family's racing roots. TJ met his wife, Bev, when she was working as a mechanic for a woman snowmobile racer.

Brooke, now 20 and studying to become a physical therapist at the University of Tennessee, soon had a race where she crashed four times and she quit. But her sister was hooked.

"I'd go around the track in maybe 52 seconds, and then I'd come in and say, 'Was that 51?' " Patrick says. "Dad would say, 'Yeah, it's 51 now.' It was that setting out to go faster and doing it; seeing the improvement that was so satisfying and confidence-building. It was, 'OK, let's do 50; let's do 49, 48.' I just got attracted to it."

By the end of her first season, Patrick was winning go-kart races. Her father says he's proudest of the closeness the family developed while making 15-hour drives to races, although he does remember his youngest daughter often ending sisterly arguments by saying, "Be quiet. You wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me."

The Patricks have a successful plate glass company, which enabled them to pay an annual racing budget that hit six digits for several years.

"Once you get into it, how do you tell your kid it's time to stop?" asks Patrick's mom. "You sell a lot of glass."

Before going to England, Patrick earned a GED, which her mother wistfully refers to as a "Good Enough Degree."

And her mom says the one odd thing about having a daughter who thrives in the precision-ruled world of motor sports is that "her punctuality has always been an issue." When she owned the Java Hut coffee shop in Roscoe, she says Patrick was perennially late, and "I had to fire her."

Patrick might have been late then, but she appears to be right on time for Indy.

Born: March 25, 1982,
Source: Tom Weir, See www.danica for more

For Patrick, focus stays on racing

Danica Patrick sat perched atop a metal stool on a small stage Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. It may have been the best exposure the track's annual Indy Racing League event ever has received.

"You're not going to shoot my feet, are you?'' she asked the six TV crews and a mixed bag of 15 or so newspaper reporters and other hangers-on.

There's importance in the packaging of Danica Patrick. The sponsor-emblazoned blue racing suit is central. She didn't want her yellow-and-white-striped flip-flops and red-polished toenails to distract from the image.

For now, just being the hottest property in cross-gender sports is enough to draw a media crowd and media hype and sell just about anything from antifreeze to an auto race -- in this case, the Chicagoland Indy 300 on Sept. 11.

"The fact it stepped outside the sports world so much and went into the Hollywood-style media was something that I didn't expect, something that is definitely different and foreign for me,'' said Patrick, who jumped into the public consciousness when she qualified fourth for the Indianapolis 500, then led the race before finishing fourth.

"I don't always know how to answer the question, 'Do you want to be in movies and things one day?' I don't know how to answer that because I am so focused on what I am doing.''

That's the completeness of being the raven-haired star of racing. Patrick seems to grasp the phenomena of being more than herself.

"You have to keep it all in perspective and you have to understand,'' she said. "I very much feel it is a kind of story, and people are following it, they are interested and excited.''

She took time from a commercial photo shoot to do the news conference at Chicagoland Speedway.

"What is important is the racing,'' Patrick said. "As long as nothing sacrifices that area, the more attention the better -- good attention.''

And it felt right, something true stars have, the ability to make hype honest.

"I have never been a fake me,'' she said. "I have always been honest and will always continue to be.''

And, honestly, how is her world?

"Right now I am having the best of both worlds,'' she said, "in that I am being able to do fun and exciting things like go to the ESPYs, go to a [movie] premiere, meet really exciting people, great athletes and get great seats at restaurants and stuff like that.

"But I am not hounded. People are not chasing me or following me. I am very lucky. I have the glamorous side without the hurt.''

Then the allotted 15 minutes were up, and handlers hustled her out a side door.
Source: Dale Bowmen, July 20, 2005

Speedway gearing up for Patrick Her presence has helped ticket sales for IRL race

Danica Patrick is the centerpiece of Kentucky Speedway's advertising campaign.

In the games men play, winning sales pitches can sometimes revolve around fast women.

Fast-driving women, that is.

The anticipated presence of the new diva of auto racing, Danica Patrick, at Kentucky Speedway next month has the track's marketing department operating in high gear.

Patrick is among the Indy Racing League drivers who are expected to race in the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway Sunday, Aug. 14. She just happens to be the most famous IRL driver following her ground-breaking performance in the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Recognizing a potential sales bonanza, Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Cassis ordered an overhaul of the Speedway's normal promotional activity leading up to the annual IRL race.

"There's no doubt that Danica is a huge draw," Cassis said. "It's our job to make sure people realize that she's going to be here."

"It's all about exposure, and a hook like that is a promoter's dream," added Cassis.

Instead of two or three area billboards, Kentucky Speedway has 15 spread throughout the region, and they all read, "Catch her if you can," with a large headshot of Patrick flanked by smaller headshots of IRL drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon, who won the Indy 500.

Last year's IRL race at Kentucky Speedway drew an event-record 61,885 fans, or about 8,000 short of a track sellout. Cassis said ticket sales are ahead of that pace by 10,000 tickets.

"We've got something big here in August, and I think we can sell it out," Cassis said. "That's why we're investing more money into this event. Driver awareness levels are up. It won't be long until she wins, and I hope it's at Kentucky."

In May, Patrick became the first female to lead the prestigious Indy 500 before finishing fourth, also a pinnacle for a female driver. Since then, she has become the IRL's most identifiable driver with fans, a quality found more often in the NASCAR world than Indy racing, which has struggled to promote its drivers until Patrick's surge.

"I mean, if anything, it's about the amount of attention that's been coming lately," Patrick said. "Everybody has to understand that it's good for the sport, no matter how it comes and who it comes through, as long as the attention is on Indy Racing, then everybody kind of wins."

Patrick's appearance at Kentucky Speedway will coincide will an on-site broadcast of ESPN "SportsCenter," which will set up live that Sunday at the track for a 6 p.m. show.
Source: By Dustin Dow, Enquirer staff writer E-mail

Danica Patrick on Record Rookie Pace

Danica Patrick knows she still has a lot to learn to be a championship-contending driver in the IRL IndyCar® Series. But eight races into her rookie season, she says she is deserving of high marks.

“I'd have to give myself a pretty darn good grade,” the 23-year-old from Roscoe, Ill., said. “I think I've adapted well to the situations. I feel comfortable in traffic more and more all the time. The only times I feel uncomfortable is when the car is off. That's normal. Everybody's going to feel like that.”

Despite driving in two oval race prior to joining the IndyCar series, Patrick has reason to feel confident about her results in the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Honda-powered Panoz.

Her two fourth-place finishes and four top-10 finishes have eclipsed the results of several rookies who went o­n to win Bombardier Rookie of the Year, including reigning rookie titlist Kosuke Matsuura. She’s also led the most lap of any rookie since Tomas Scheckter in 2002.

Patrick’s season is o­n par with the season of another former top rookie, current IndyCar Series point leader Dan Wheldon, who followed up his 2003 Rookie of the Year campaign with a breakout season in 2004. Wheldon claimed the first of his seven wins to date in his 19th start.

At Kansas Speedway, Patrick became the fourth IndyCar Series rookie to win a pole position when she won the Marlboro Pole Award for the Argent Mortgage Indy 300. It was the first pole position for a rookie since Vitor Meira won the pole at Texas Motor Speedway in October 2002.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who serves as a driver coach and pace car driver for the IRL, said Patrick has all the tools needed to be a winning race car driver.

"She has excellent hand-eye coordination. She proved that at Indy when she saved the car a couple times in dangerous situations,” Rutherford told reporters earlier this year. “She has that look in her eyes. That's the thing that jumps out at you. It's that little extra spark; that passion for racing that you look for in a winner."

Winning, though, has proven to be tough for rookies in the IndyCar Series, especially lately. Just three true rookies have won in their maiden season in the series, and two of the wins, Buzz Calkins’ win at Walt Disney World in 1996 and Jim Guthrie’s win at Phoenix in 1997, were claimed during the series’ infancy. The last rookie to win a race was Scheckter at Michigan Speedway in July 2002.

That doesn’t mean that young drivers can’t succeed early o­n. Sam Hornish Jr. and Tony Stewart claimed victories in their ninth and 10th starts, respectively, after slow starts to their careers. Patrick is confident she can emulate those results.

“We've worked well as a team. We've almost had pole at two races, I think, then finally got o­ne. I think that's great. I think that my driving is becoming much more precise and much more calculated. I feel like I'm maturing pretty well as a driver.

“I think when the car is right, I can do a pretty good job,” Patrick said. “I think I'm doing a good job. I think if I wasn't, people would be telling me.”

Danica Mania: The Aftermath

Like a lot of people, we were on the couch Sunday, cheering on Danica Patrick — and, perhaps even more so, David Letterman — at the Indianapolis 500. A friend of ours was asking us the other day, perplexed, whether or not we found Danica Patrick physically attractive; we said that he was wrong to even ask such a question, that it was offensive, and that yes, we thought so. (He said he couldn’t decide.)

Anyway, Danica won Rookie of the Year honors at the Indy Car Awards last night — they have such things, apparently — alongside Paul Hospenthal, her (much taller) fiancee. Our “marriage expert” friends at have the intimate details of their relationship, including their wedding date (November 19; it doesn’t mention where they’re registered).
Source: By Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, June 25, 2005;

Danica Races To The Altar

Hey wait, a wedding, and we weren’t invited? It seems that elfin Indy driver Danica Patrick went and got married over the weekend, right under our noses, and we’re just now hearing about it. And the staffers at Star call themselves journalists …

Details are beginning to leak, though (probably through Robert Novak), including the name of the groom — Paul Hospenthal — his age (40) and his profession (physical therapist). In fact, the two reportedly met while Hospenthal was treating her for a hip injury suffered during a yoga class. We suspect that to be true because it’s too stupid to make up.

We had always hoped that Patrick would hook up with someone proportionally opposite, such as Shawn Bradley, or Randy Johnson. We’re just kind of weird that way.

'Danica Factor' Drives Marketing

Indy Racing League driver Dan Wheldon showed up at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago wearing a T-shirt with the words "I actually won the Indy 500" across the chest.

Wheldon's face will indeed be engraved on the Borg-Warner Trophy, alongside the other Indianapolis 500 champions. But the face of IndyCar racing this season is that of Danica Patrick, the 23-year-old rookie who drove open-wheel racing back into the conscience of American sports fans with her historic performance at Indianapolis last month.

"I don't think [other drivers] want to admit that her draw is helping them, but it's the truth," said Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and co-owner of Patrick's Honda-powered Panoz. "Everyone from sponsors to teams to the IRL is benefiting from her. She's having the 'Tiger' effect on TV ratings."

Rahal and other racing executives say Patrick's talent on the track and marketability off it is helping the IRL attract a broader audience, much the way Tiger Woods did for golf in the late 1990s, and could help open-wheel racing compete with NASCAR's enormous popularity. They call it the Danica factor.

"There's no question Danica has captured the imagination of fans in the U.S. and beyond," said Ken Ungar, the IRL's senior vice president of business affairs. "Young women are looking at her as a role model. There's certainly a buzz."

The 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, which was televised on ABC, earned the race's highest rating since 1996, posting a national household rating of 6.5 -- up 59 percent from the previous year, according to Neilsen's Media Research. The rating peaked at 8.6 when Patrick dueled with Wheldon for the lead in the closing laps, outdrawing the NASCAR Nextel race held the same day for the first time in four years.

At Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, ESPN saw its ratings jump 150 percent (the 1.0 cable rating was the largest for an IndyCar race on the network), despite Patrick's struggles. She finished 13th, the last car on the lead lap, in front of an estimated crowd of about 102,000, which was nearly 8,000 more than the previous year.

While the IRL's numbers at Texas improved, they also underscored just how far the open-wheel circuit must go to gain ground on NASCAR, whose popularity has soared over the past decade while open-wheel racing's fortunes have sped in the opposite direction. The IRL's rating at Texas was a fraction of what the NASCAR event draws on network television at the same track, and the number of spectators was roughly half what the stock cars draw there.

"I don't think any one driver, whether they are red, green or brown, is going to be the cure-all for an entire sport," said Paul Swangard of Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

What's more, the breakneck speed of Patrick's ascent has some drivers, racing officials and marketing experts worried. What if she doesn't live up to the hype? What if she becomes the auto racing equivalent of Anna Kournikova, the Russian tennis player who attracts far more headlines for her looks and private life than for her accomplishments on the court. In six races, Patrick has had mixed results, posting two fourth-place finishes and four finishes of 12th or worse.

"Danica has wonderful short-term upside from a marketing standpoint," Swangard said. "But for Danica's sake, for the IRL's sake, it's prudent to be conservative, particularly if she becomes the Anna Kournikova of racing. That's the type of label that she would find hard to shake."

Patrick can put those concerns to rest by taking the checkered flag in Richmond, where she'll start the SunTrust Indy Challenge from the last row.

Heading into Saturday night's race, expectations surrounding Patrick are growing. Fans have lined up several rows deep outside her team's garage area, hoping to snap a picture or get an autograph. Patrick's Rahal Letterman Racing team merchandise, consisting primarily of T-shirts and hats, sold out at the past two races.

"It hasn't been like NASCAR, but Danica's merchandise is outselling the rest of the field combined," Rahal said. "And by a large margin."

Patrick's popularity has prompted her sponsors to extend their contracts with her, Rahal said, and it also has attracted more sponsorship opportunities, particularly from companies that manufacture products geared toward women. "I guess the sponsors figure they need to get in while they still can," Rahal said.

The media haven't been able to get enough of her, either. Since her fourth place at Indianapolis -- the best finish for a woman -- she has been on nearly every network morning show and featured in national newspapers and magazines. During the week of the Indianapolis 500, she was in the top five keywords searched on search engines MSN, Yahoo and Google.

Richmond race officials are hoping to cash in on Patrick's popularity. One of the race's promotional slogans is "Get Ready DC, Danica is coming to Richmond." Posters in Richmond read, "Be there for Danica's First Race at Richmond International Raceway. . . . You saw her lead the Indy 500, now see her race in Richmond."

"We've tweaked our advertising to let people know, yes, Danica will be racing here," said Keith Green, Richmond International Raceway's director of public relations.

"We are several thousand tickets ahead and expect a much bigger walk-up -- possibly double -- what we normally have," Green said in an e-mail. The race has also attracted more requests for media credentials.

"I don't let it get to me," said Patrick, who is 5 feet 2 and weighs 100 pounds. "It doesn't make me feel like I have to do something. The only thing I hope in the process of all this . . . is that I want-- I hope -- that IndyCar Racing stays in the headlines. I hope it isn't only dependent on me. I hope people won't stray away because I have some okay race.

"I'm not going to win every single race, so I just wish that everyone else gets the same recognition or at least some of the recognition for doing great things."

Try telling that to Wheldon. Patrick appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated after the biggest win of his career. In the post-race news conference following Wheldon's Indianapolis win, he was asked by a reporter about "spoiling Danica's party."

Wheldon was annoyed. And he was still stinging weeks later. Patrick's teammates couldn't resist, either. Buddy Rice's T-shirt read, "Danica's teammate" and Vitor Meira's said, "Danica's other teammate."

Patrick's rise hasn't been without her detractors or controversy.

Patrick hasn't been able to get through an interview session without being asked about the racy photos that appeared in FHM Magazine two years ago. She posed in a leather bikini, leaning on a 1957 Chevy.

Bernie Ecclestone, the 74-year-old Formula One boss, told reporters in Indianapolis last week that women "should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

To Patrick's surprise, she said, he called her last Saturday and repeated his comments.

"I can't believe that he would say it to me over the phone, not directly to my face, but directly to me. I was a bit confused," Patrick said on the IRL's weekly teleconference Tuesday. "But some of the conversation was positive and complimentary, so I really don't know what to think about it."

"I think it's been a bit much for some people," Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. said of Patrick's popularity. "But she brings attention to the sport, so overall it's a positive."

Patrick joins 'Race Divas' lineup Friday, November 25, 2005

IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick is one of three women drivers who have signed to become Hostess "Race Divas" under a new sponsorship agreement with the snack cake brand.

Through the sponsorship program, which debuts in 2006, Patrick will be featured in a range of promotional activities, including special limited edition packaging and displays for Hostess Twinkies, Cup Cakes and Donettes.

"Having grown up with Twinkies and Cup Cakes, I am thrilled to have Hostess as a sponsor and to be part of the Hostess Race Divas program," Patrick said. "It's an exciting opportunity to bring together America's favorite brand of snack cakes with the country's favorite spectator sport."

The promotion will also feature NASCAR Elite Series driver Leilani Munter and NHRA drag racer Melanie Troxel.

"Interest in women in professional racing continues to grow, with Danica, Leilani and Melanie serving as excellent ambassadors for the sport," said Kevin Kaul, Hostess marketing manager. "We are pleased to sponsor these outstanding drivers as they pursue their dreams and inspire an even more diverse fan base, and, at the same time, leverage the opportunity to connect the iconic Hostess brand with the enthusiasm surrounding racing and women's increasing prominence in the sport."

Danica Upset With Rule Change

An Indy Racing League rule change has Danica Patrick feeling as if she'll be penalized for being petite - which the popular driver said wouldn't happen in other sports. 

Starting this season, the minimum weight for IRL cars will include the driver, and Patrick is the series' lightest at 100 pounds according to the 2007 media guide (which lists other female drivers Milka Duno and Sarah Fisher at 120 pounds apiece; Ed Carpenter is the heaviest at 165).

"If someone's going to take the hit it's going to be me," Patrick said Thursday. "It's disappointing the league decided to do that. In so many other sports, athletes don't get penalized for being too strong, or too tall or too fast.

"(It's) just your God-given stature is being penalized. What am I going to do, though? It's not my decision. That's the people higher up (who) made their bed, and they've got to lay in it."

 Patrick said she asked IRL officials about the reason for the change but said "they didn't really have one.

"I just follow the rules," she said. "Maybe I'll get more specific reasons somewhere down the line --"

IRL spokesman John Griffin said the rule was intended to reduce the difference between the lightest and heaviest drivers, which is a gap that can range from 75 to 100 pounds. 

"We want to make absolutely clear this is not a Danica rule," Griffin said. "You look at guys like Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti, and they're light guys."

Griffin wouldn't disclose the cars' minimum weight but said drivers are broken into three weight classifications. The heaviest would have weight reduced from its car while the lightest would have a maximum 35 pounds of ballast added.

"It's something that had been looked at and was in the back of our minds every year," Griffin said.

Patrick admits to having had a slight speed edge from weighing less in a sport where lighter means faster. An Associated Press story in 2005 reported rival teams estimated Patrick might gain nearly 1 mph because of her weight, and Sprint Cup driver Robby Gordon said he wouldn't race Patrick in the IRL until the series equalized weights as NASCAR's premier circuit does. (Of course Robbie can't get anywhere close to keeping up with her and I believe he was needing publicity since he has a big problem getting sponsorship. Keep eating those burgers big guy. - Editor)

Patrick hopes to put the issue behind her by winning the season-opening Gainsco 300 at Homestead Miami Speedway on Saturday.

"Let's just do that," she said with a laugh, "and then I'll say, 'Why didn't you guys do this years ago?' "
Source: Nate Ryan,

Editor's note again: If basically women

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