Magazine article Success

Pushing the Limits: Danica Patrick's Drive to the Top

Magazine article Success

Pushing the Limits: Danica Patrick's Drive to the Top

Article excerpt

DANICA

Patrick thrives on the chase. Driving for Andretti Green Racing, she's always in the hunt, whether it's climbing up in the rankings, reigniting fan interest in IndyCar or amping up her ad campaigns. She is both one of the most recognized and scrutinized female athletes in the United States for doing what she loves: pushing the limits.

Yet as Patrick chases the dream--to win races, the Indy 500, an IRL championship--veteran drivers are roaring along with her like jets on takeoff, going wheel to wheel, 2 inches apart at 220 mph in the heart-thudding world of open-wheel racing. She makes her living being chased. She knows it. She feels the media and marketing pros jockeying for position.

"I play hard. I always have and always will," 27-year-old Patrick says in her 2006 autobiography, Danica: Crossing the Line, written with Laura Morton and published by Fireside. "My competitive spirit never allowed me to lay back and let anyone win. It still doesn't. I hope it never will." As a successful female driver in a predominantly male sport, Patrick has raced with "the media monster" since 2005, her breakout year, when she was named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year after becoming the first woman to lead at The Brickyard. She shattered several IRL records. In 2008, she made it to Victory Lane in Motegi, Japan, becoming the first female IndyCar driver to take the checkered flag. Racing aficionados coined a new phrase for the hyper-drive attention that followed: Danica mania.

Proving the Skeptics Wrong

That kind of attention has occasionally prompted other IndyCar drivers, team owners and beat writers to take shots at Patrick for her performance as a driver and for her drive to the spotlight. That never stops her from going out there and flattening the doubters.

"I'm one of those drivers who feeds off negativity a little bit, so I took all of the skeptics, all of the naysayers in the media and all of the people who didn't believe I could win, and used them as my inspiration to go out there and show them what I'm made of," Patrick says.

That goes for choosing the funny, edgy ad campaigns she's been involved with as well. In 2008, she wore a white bikini for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 2009, it was a white mustache for the "Got Milk" campaign. A TV spot for Boost Mobile has Patrick in the driver's seat as her pit crew runs around in high heels and miniskirts.

While achieving success at a high level is a difficult process, it's worth the chase, says Patrick, 5 feet 2 inches and 100 or so pounds, despite how deceptively tall she appeared on the hood of a Shelby Cobra in Sports Illustrated. With her animated banter and direct eye contact, long dark hair, wicked sunglasses and gripping handshake, she can draw a crowd for autographs so thick the handlers issue wristbands.

"Success doesn't just happen. You have to go out there and make it happen. If you sit around waiting for success, it'll never come. In the end, all you'll be is someone just sitting around waiting," she says.

Bring It On

As a competitor, Patrick has that chip on her shoulder that all champion drivers need to make it, says racing legend Bobby Rahal, team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing, which gave Danica her big break. "She's not fearful or unwilling to face any challenge," he says in Crossing the Line. "She not only wants the challenge, she looks for it. That's what champions do. They go through life with a bring-it-on attitude."

There may be a chip, but after all, she's competing in high speed poker. If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough, racing icon Mario Andretti has said.

Has she made it to Victory Lane?  Check.

Is she in the Indy Racing League  Check.
championship hunt?

On a Sports Illustrated cover?    Check.

In a Super Bowl ad?               Check.

Consider this unnerving challenge: At any given moment in an IndyCar race, the total area of all four tires in contact with the track is about the size of a sheet of notebook paper. …

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