When it comes to winning on the track, performance is what counts. But being given the opportunity is half the battle. “Women weren’t really welcomed in racing very early on,” explains Patrick. “When I raced at Indy in 2005, I think it was only like 30 years earlier that women weren’t even allowed in the pits. That’s crazy to think about, but times change. In my career, I’ve seen women working at all levels of the sport and throughout the auto industry, and I think it’s great if that’s what they’re passionate about.”
According to a recent study by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), hiring managers within the auto care industry cite a lack of available talent as their biggest challenge in 2018. The report also finds the number of female employees in this category has stalled at just 17 percent. With 60,000 new auto technician jobs needing to be filled by 2020, Patrick says women should take the initiative.
“I think you have to find what you’re passionate about,” she notes. “If it’s working as a mechanic, then go for it. Start somewhere, anywhere, but just get started. Know where you want to end up, but don’t be so worried about how you get there.”
Born to race
Says Patrick, “When I first started racing go-karts, I didn’t think about gender at all, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with the fact that my parents didn’t point that out. It wasn’t until a few years in, when I was winning a lot and I started getting media attention because I was a girl, that I really noticed it.
“My dad always told me to be the best driver, so that’s what I focused on. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my career, but I don’t know that I could say any part of what I’ve experienced over the years was specifically because I was a female in a male-dominated sport. Racing is hard. Getting to the level I’ve competed at isn’t easy for anyone, regardless of their gender.”
Pit crew power
Patrick, whose personal business team happens to be all women, believes females should be represented throughout the auto industry. “Know where you want to get to, take calculated risks, capitalize on opportunities and work really hard to reach your goals. Surrounding yourself with confident and understanding people is the best way to keep a positive outlook as you work to achieve your dreams.”
Full speed ahead
As she prepares to leave racing behind, Patrick offers advice to young women hoping for a career in professional auto care.
“Stay true to yourself and what you believe in. I think that’s how I’ve gotten to this point in my career and my life in general. I decided when I was 10 years old that I wanted to be a racecar driver. I dreamed big, believed in myself, worked really hard, took chances and made the most of every opportunity I was given.”