Happy Birthday to Racer and Celebrity, Danica Patrick
Today marks Danica Patrick’s 32nd birthday, making today as good as any to exam her career, her rise to celebrity fame, and notoriety both on and off the race track. One cannot separate Danica’s career as a race car driver of mixed talent, from her meteoric rise to celebrity spokesperson, and lightning rod. Danica got her start racing karts, like so many drivers do. She moved to England at the age of 16 to compete in Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall. Despite her current NASCAR record, people forget just how good Danica was as an open wheel driver. While competing in Formula Ford, she took part in the annual Formula Ford Festival, an event that pitted her against some of the best drivers that are still competing to this day. She came in second, the highest finish ever by an American. RELATED: A Noob's Guide to NASCAR
In 2003, Danica came back to the States to compete in the Toyota Atlantic Championship where she finished consistently on the podium. She also achieved one pole position, but she never won a race. By this point, people were taking note of her competitive fire, and talent for top finishes.
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In 2005, Rahal Letterman Racing would give Danica the chance to become the 4th woman in history to compete in the Indy 500. Patrick would both start and finish the race in 4th place– the highest finish for a woman at that storied event. Danica would go on to compete for 6 more years in IndyCar with one win coming 2008 at Motegi. She finished the 2008 IndyCar season in 6th place overall, the highest finish for an American that year.
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By 2010, Danica decided to try for the big stage in America, NASCAR. Though the move is understandable, Danica is a far more effective open wheel racer. Her talents as a driver are arguably being wasted in NASCAR. Sure, it is prime real estate for publicity for her, her team and for the sport itself. Oh, and for Go Daddy. Since Danica has raced in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, her racing record has been less than mediocre. Zero wins, 2 pole positions in both series, 1 top 5 in Nationwide. Her career in Sprint Cup has been filled with bad luck, to be sure, but it’s also been abysmal and fraught with accidents that have been her fault.
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As she hits 32, we see a driver that seemed to have given up her position as The Next Big Thing. She seems happy to be here enjoying the money and fame that were not possible in the early years. Patrick seems to have lost her fighting spirit on the track and has reserved her energy for commercial endeavors or hosting award shows. If you follow her on Twitter, she has well over a million followers. Compare that to the other racing greats like Jimmie Johnson, or Dale Jr, who both edge just over a half a million. Danica, if anything, has achieved fame. However, that personal fighting spirit on the track seems to be gone.
Perhaps if she focused more on racing again, and less on building her personal brand, she would have a better racing career. If that is what she wants.
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Image Sources: Fox Sports, Discovery, Wikipedia