“Danica Sue, this is for you!” Those were the words said to Danica Patrick by Darrell Waltrip when the cars took to the track for “The Great American Race.”
Just a few months ago in Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR’s lone female full-time driver announced her retirement from the track. Amid tears, 35-year-old Danica Patrick said she was done, but she still had two more races left: the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.
It was dubbed the “Danica Double” which comprised of two of the biggest races in motorsports.
More importantly, they were the two races that made Danica Patrick into a household name.
So the Story BeginsDanica Patrick stepped into the IndyCar Series as a fairly unknown racer in 2005. However, that didn’t last long.
By and large, Patrick’s showing in the 2005 Indy 500 kicked off what became known as “Danica Mania.” Suddenly, the accolades and “firsts” for a woman in motorsports began piling up.
Patrick ran the full schedule in the IndyCar Series from 2005-2011. Sadly, her final race was the season finale in ’11, a race laden with tragedy after Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car pileup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
During her time in open-wheels, she ran 115 races, won one race (Twin Ring Motegi in 2008), seven podiums, three poles, and ranked a career high fifth in the points standings in 2009.
From IndyCar to NASCARMeanwhile, Patrick got her first taste of stock cars in 2010 as she competed in the ARCA Series’ season opener at Daytona with JR Motorsports where she finished sixth. In addition, she ran two part-time seasons, from 2010-2011, in the then-called Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports while also running the full IndyCar schedule.
In 2012, Patrick attempted to do what many others had tried, and most had failed, to do before her, make the permanent jump from open-wheel to stock cars.
Patrick ran the full 2012 season with JR Motorsports and a limited Cup engagement with Stewart-Haas Racing. That season, she posted four top-10s and one pole to score a 10th place points standings result.
From 2013 to ’17, Patrick moved to the Cup season full-time with SHR. She kicked off her rookie efforts with the coveted pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500. In that race, she ran near the front, led five laps, and finished eighth.
Arguably, Patrick’s Cup career was largely uneventful. While she made major strides for women in motorsports, her statistics didn’t live up to the hype that many in the media put on her.
As it were, in five full-time seasons with SHR, Patrick posted seven top-10’s, zero top-five finishes, and her only pole came at the 2013 Daytona 500. Furthermore, her highest finish in the standings was 24th in 2015 and 2016 in 191 starts.
That said, Patrick broke many records during her time on track, including a sterling sixth place finish in the 2014 Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. To this date, this result by Patrick remains the best finish for a female racer in Cup racing.
The Legacy of Danica PatrickWhile her on-track performance may not have been anything to brag about, Patrick’s appeal on and off track brought many newcomers to NASCAR. As a matter of fact, many of her fans are young children.
For this reason, it was never a surprise to see throngs of young kids surrounding her car on pit road before a race and sporting her colors at the track. Her involvement in motorsports has inspired countless young kids, boys and girls, to step in to a racecar.
Patrick’s fans, namely called the DanicaPack, are strong in numbers. Sure, it never mattered where she finished at the end of the race. Ultimately, they stood by her no matter what.
One thing that has always stuck out about Patrick’s time at the race track is everything she did to insure her youngest fans were taken care of. As it were, Danica Patrick’s time in a stock car may be over, but I think we will be seeing the her influence in this sport for years to come.
As Danica Patrick stepped out of the car for the final time, many of her biggest fans took to social media to share their memories of their driver in green.
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