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Latest News and Commentary

Danica Patrick seeks path to the top in 2002

April 1,  2002

Danica Patrick can make her mark this year. All she needs is the right opportunity. The 19-year-old racing driver from Roscoe, Ill., has followed her dreams of being the nation's next female star athlete.

After winning three Grand National go-kart championships before age 16, the petite brunette made the unlikely leap into the highly competitive European racing circuit. And within two years, she had stunned the critical British racing community.

In 2000, the 18-year-old finished second in the world-renowned Formula Ford Festival, an event that has produced Formula One World Champions like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. Patrick had competed against and defeated more experienced drivers with much more financial support.

About Danica

BORN: March 25, 1982
HOMETOWN: Roscoe, Illinois
HEIGHT: 5" 1" Weight: 100
FAMILY: Parents, T.J. and Bev Sister, Brooke
EYES: Brown HAIR: Brown

Now the personable driver returns to her home country with the same determination, seeking a path that can lead her to the top of the racing ladder, Championship Indy cars.

Already in her return to the United States, Danica has tested impressively in a variety of racing machines including the small midget oval cars, the powerful sports cars and the technically advanced Formula Atlantic open-wheelers.

"I've come back to race in the United States after learning a lot about racing in England," said Patrick, who hopes to compete in several racing divisions in 2002. "I would have liked to stay in Europe and compete on the Formula Three series but I didn't have the finances to get a competitive ride. It isn't worth racing over there if you don't have the best machinery. And that takes a lot of money.

I think I have the abilities to compete there though." Patrick also believes she has the abilities to advance in the United States too. Now it's just a matter of the proper opportunity to catapult the attractive teenager into the racing limelight.

"I've had some good test runs over the winter and I think I have proven myself in several different kinds of cars," said Patrick. "I just hope the usual things like me being a woman don't get in the way for me. I've shown I can beat anybody with the proper equipment. I just need the chance." Patrick has been one of the brightest young stars in motorsports since she began racing go-karts at age 10. But now at 19, Danica is ready for that next step, a major auto racing series.

"I have the racing background and experience to move up to the next levels of the sport," said Patrick. "I haven't raced in the United States for the past few years so my face and name haven't been in front of a lot of team owners. But people like Bobby Rahal and the Ford people have kept up with my career and they are helping me get my foot into some doors. Now, I just want to get through those doors and into the driver's seat. I believe I can do the job." If she gets that chance, don't be surprised to see another star female on the track and on the winner's podium.

Ready to step into racing limelight

Danica Patrick is ready to become this country's next woman sports star. But unlike the Williams Sisters in tennis, Lisa Leslie in basketball and Mia Hamm in soccer, the feisty 19-year-old from Illinois wants to make her mark in a male-dominated sport - auto racing.

Patrick, at five-foot-one and 100 pounds, doesn't possess the size that most female athletes would be associated with sports. But one handshake from the personable brunette and no one doubts her strength and determination behind the wheel of a racing machine.

Fighting in a man's sport can be a difficult chore but Patrick knows she must battle all of the stereotypes outside of her racing vehicle.

However, inside the car, Danica believes everything is equal for a man and a woman.

"You get some people with silly opinions," she explains. "But they are just playing mind-games and trying to psych you out. Basically, when you've been in the sport for the length of time I have you learn not to take everything so seriously and just get on with what you have to do as a driver." Following the likes of women drivers like Shirley Muldowney, Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James, Patrick does have an advantage. She started racing well before the most famous female racers.

Jumping into the fast lane of motorsports at age 10, Patrick learned that racing wasn't easy.

"In my first race in go-karts, I was lapped within six laps by the competition," she said. "I knew I would have to concentrate, improve and be determined. But racing is something I wanted to do once I drove that kart for the first time." And that determination and drive hasn't changed.

By age 12, Patrick had won her first Grand National championship in karting and went on to win two more titles and ten regional crowns before making the switch from go-karts to formula cars.

"My family is 110% supportive of what I do," said Patrick, whose parents, T.J. and Bev, also raced prior to Danica's involvement. "They would be crushed as I would if I didn't make it as a racing driver." And Patrick's family decided that the jump from karts to cars also meant a move to England.

"If you want to be the best lawyer, you go to Harvard," said Bev Patrick, Danica's mother. "If you want to be the best driver, you go to England."

"If you want to be the best lawyer, you go to Harvard," said Bev Patrick, Danica's mother. "If you want to be the best driver, you go to England." So after gaining her GED in high school, Danica, at age 16, moved to England to pursue her racing craft. No young American driver had ever produced solid performances in the tough British formula car ranks.

But a young American woman? The odds were stacked against Danica from the start.

However, this little dynamo wasn't about to give up.

"Running my first lap in England was such a thrill," said Patrick. "Because I knew it was a big step and the beginning of my future." After a brief run in the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series in 1998, Patrick came back to compete for a full season in 1999 and placed ninth in the final point standings, a major accomplishment for a young British male driver. But for a young American girl, Danica's performance opened many eyes throughout the European racing community.

And Patrick knew her chances to advance in formula racing were the same as the next young male driver.

"It's nothing different for me than for a guy," she explains. "You need talent, luck, commitment, perseverance and a lot of money."

It sounds like any other young athlete. But Danica immediately proved that she had the talent.

In 2000, she moved from the Formula Vauxhall series to the highly-competitive British Zetek Formula Ford Series, widely-known as one of the toughest racing series in the world.

"I knew if I was going to reach goals like Formula One or CART Champ Cars I needed to race in British Formula Ford," she said. "The series has some of the best wheel-to-wheel racing in the world. I knew I would improve my skills by racing in that series."

Patrick had a steep learning curve in her first Formula Ford races but driving for Andy Welch Racing assisting her training.

"It was a good year and it taught me a lot," she says. "We didn't have the results we wanted but the final race made up for it." In the biggest race of the year, the Formula Ford Festival, Patrick turned in one of the most memorable performances in the event's long history.

Starting ninth and the only woman in the 28-driver lineup on the famed Brands Hatch road course near London, Danica sliced her way to the front of the field and missed victory by just half of a second.

Her second place finish was the highest by a female in the Festival's history and matched the best score ever by an American driver. Only Indy 500 winner and CART champion Danny Sullivan had equaled Patrick's runner-up finish back in 1974.

"A lot of people said it was the surprise result of the event," explained Patrick. "But I almost expected it after making a lot of progress during the year and driving so well over that weekend. I think it was a bit of a relief rather than anything." Now Patrick is seeking another opportunity to show her talent and determination back in her home country in 2001. Her goal is to race in the tough Toyota Atlantic series before moving into Champ Cars.

Patrick recently won the Gorsline Scholarship Award for the top upcoming young driver in road racing in the United States.

"You've got to take every opportunity when it comes along," she admits, "and never turn anything down." So Patrick is back in the U.S. and ready to show her stuff on the track.

"In a sport of speed, driving to win depends on a series of split-second choices," she says. "After racing in Europe, I received a lot of experience that can help me get to the top of the sport. I just need the chance to show my abilities."

A women in the fast lane

Danica Patrick isn't the basic 19-year-old woman.

The Roscoe, Ill., teenager has experienced more in her young life than the average woman would in a lifetime.

The attractive 5-foot-1, 100-pounder battles in a man's world with amazing success and shows the determination to become one of the nation's brightest sports stars.

Patrick is one of the nation's best young auto racers.

She is a woman taking on men in wheel-to-wheel competition at speeds over 170 miles per hour and winning.

This personable lady doesn't back away from the male-dominated racing sport. In fact, she thrives at the competition.

"Racing gives me a sense of accomplishment," says Patrick, who began race go-karts at age 10. "It demands the best from me. When I come off the track, people are surprised. They don't think a girl can do this (racing). I prove them wrong." For Danica, she has proved them wrong on racing facilities around North America and Europe.

At age 12, she captured the Grand National karting championship and added multiple titles at ages 14 and 15. Patrick won three national point championships and ten regional crowns in her six years of karting.

By age 16, Patrick made a dramatic decision to move from karts to cars and also relocate to England.

"If you want to be the best lawyer, you go to Harvard," said Patrick. "If you want to be the best race car driver, you go to England." No young American had been successful as a teenager racing against the likes of the tough British Formula ranks, let alone a woman. But Danica changed all that.

"Being a girl makes no difference and I don't want to be treated any differently although it does give you a little more reason to fight harder when you hear certain comments," Patrick said. "In this sport you can never rule anything out. Most of the guys treat me like one of them which is exactly how it should be.

But I know it must really get to them when they're beaten by a girl." And that has been the case since her first racing season.

So she made the big jump across the Atlantic and entered the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series in 1998. The following year became the top woman competitor with a ninth place finish in the series' final points.

In 2000, Patrick advanced to the most-competitive preliminary racing series in the world, the Zetek Formula Ford Championship in England. She also competed in the European Formula Ford Series and was a test driver for Mygale factory team as part of Haywood Racing.

But this aggressive young woman from the United States made a mark later than season that is still being talked about in British racing circles.

The toughest competition in British road racing, the Formula Ford Festival, had produced some of the legends of Formula One racing over the years with the likes of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Damon Hill.

Patrick was the lone woman in the Formula Ford Festival championship race after some scintillating drives in the preliminary heat races and semi-finals.

Starting ninth in the 28-driver finale, Danica became the first woman to finish on the Festival winner's podium with a sensational runner-up placing on the legendary Brands Hatch road circuit.

She made daring passes and took advantage of others' mistakes to finish just half of a second from winner Anthony Davidson and stunned the international media in attendance.

Patrick's second place matched the best finish ever by an American driver in the European championship, set by former Indy 500 winner and CART champion Danny Sullivan in 1974.

The remarkable finish for Patrick in such an influential event gave Danica worldwide attention including letters and phone calls from Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone, CART interim president and three-time series champion Bobby Rahal and McLaren Racing's Ron Dennis.

In the United States, Patrick was the first recipient of the Kara Hendrick Racing Scholarship Award and participated in the Lyn St. James Driver Development Program in Indianapolis.

In addition, Danica's impressive on and off track performances have created a number of media opportunities, both in motor racing and outside of the sport. Media outlets such as ABC-TV, MTV and Sports Illustrated have followed Patrick's endeavors over the past few years and continue to watch her path towards the top of the auto racing world.

Now, Patrick hopes to return to the United States and compete in the top development series in road racing, Toyota Formula Atlantic, in hopes of advancing to her goal of CART Championship cars or even Formula One.

Career Highlights

2 0 0 1

  • Won Gorsline Scholarship Award for top upcoming road racing driver

  • Top woman open-wheel driver at age 19 with international experience

  • Competed in England in the very-competitive Zetek Formula Ford Championship

  • After three years in England, returns to U.S in search of a top open-wheel ride

  • Has successful test runs in USAC Midget, Formula Atlantic and Sports cars

2 0 0 0

  • Finished 2nd in the Formula Ford Festival in England, highest American finisher ever, tied Danny Sullivan's result in 1974; Top woman finisher in race's history

  • Drove for Haywood Racing in Zetek Formula Ford Championship in England

  • Competed in Formula Ford European Series

  • Lead test driver for Mygale Factory Team, Haywood Racing

1 9 9 9

  • Finished 9th in the Formula Vauxhall Championship in England, her first full season in the UK

  • Top woman in the Formula Vauxhall Championship

1 9 9 8

  • At age 16, competed in the England Formula Vauxhall Winter Series

  • Drove in a limited karting schedule, attended Formula Ford racing school

1 9 9 7

  • Won WKA (World Karting Association) Grand National championship, HPV class

  • Won WKA Grand National championship in Yamaha Lite class

  • Won WKA Summer National championship in Yamaha Lite class

  • Finished 10th in Elf Constructors Championship in Formula A

1 9 9 6

  • Won WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points title, Yamaha Junior

  • Won WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points title, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • Runner-up for WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points title, HPV 100 Junior

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series title, Yamaha Junior

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series title, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • Won WKA Midwest Sprint Series title, Yamaha Junior

  • Won WKA Midwest Sprint Series title, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • Won WKA Midwest Sprint Series title, HPV 100 Junior

  • Won WKA Grand National Championship, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • Won IKF Division 7 event, Willow Springs, Calif., Yamaha Junior

  • 2nd in IKF Grand Nationals, Yamaha Junior

1 9 9 5

  • Won North American Championships, Yamaha Junior

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series, US 820 Junior

  • 2nd Place, WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, Yamaha Junior

  • 2nd Place, WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, Yamaha Restricted Junior

  • 2nd Place, WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, US 820 Junior

  • 2nd Place, WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series, Yamaha Junior

1 9 9 4

  • Won WKA Grand National Championship, Yamaha Sportsman

  • Won WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, Yamaha Sportsman

  • 2nd Place, WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, US 820 Junior

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series, Yamaha Sportsman

  • Won WKA Great Lakes Sprint Series, US 820 Junior

1 9 9 3

  • 2nd Place, WKA Midwest Sprint Series, Yamaha Sportsman

  • 2nd Place, WKA Midwest Sprint Series, US 820 Sportsman

  • 4th Place, WKA Manufacturers Cup National Points, Yamaha Sportsman

  • Won MRP Race Series, US 820 Sportsman

  • 2nd Place, MRP Race Series, Yamaha Sportsman

  • Set two track records in one day in MRP Race, Buchanan, Mich

1 9 9 2

  • At age 10, began racing go-karts at Sugar River Raceway, Broadhead, Wis

  • In her first race, she was lapped in six laps

  • In the 22-race series, finished second in the final points, out of 20 drivers

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