As a NASCAR and IndyCar driver, Danica Patrick challenged the status quo on gender in auto racing. Now a year into retirement, we asked her about what it takes to reach the top level of racing and what she’s learned in her recent success as an entrepreneur.
What would be your advice to young people who are looking to pursue a career in professional auto care?
I would say 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.
The automotive industry has long been male-dominated and you have been instrumental in challenging that status quo. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this regard throughout your career?
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.
Why is it important for women to be represented not only in NASCAR, but throughout the entire auto industry? Women weren’t really welcomed in racing very early on. When I raced at Indy in 2005, I remember that 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.”