Danica Sue Patrick (born March 25, 1982) is a professional race car driver in the Indy Racing League. She was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, USA, and was raised in Roscoe, Illinois. She was named Rookie of The Year in the 2005 IRL Championship.
Patrick began karting in 1992, and went on to win several national championships in karting. She moved to England at the age of 16 in order to advance her racing career; rather than finishing high school, she earned a GED. Focusing primarily on road racing, Patrick raced in several developmental open-wheel series while in Europe, including Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall. Her biggest achievement was finishing second in England's super-competitive Formula Ford Festival.
In 2002, Patrick inked a multi-year deal to race for the team of Bobby Rahal. After making several starts in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, she moved to the Toyota Atlantic Championship for 2003. Driving for the highly regarded Rahal Letterman team with sponsorship from Argent, Patrick achieved moderate success in the Toyota Atlantic series. She won one pole and was a consistent finisher on the podium (top three); however, she never won a race. In 2004, Patrick finished third in the Championship.
Following the 2004 season, there was much speculation as to where Patrick would race in 2005. Particularly in her early career, she was often quoted as saying her dreams were to race in Formula 1 or the Champ Car series, and that she had little interest for racing in the Indy Racing League. However, during the off-season, she also said that she would race where her sponsors wanted her. Soon, Rahal Letterman Racing officially announced that Patrick would drive in the IRL for 2005.
On May 29, 2005, Patrick became only the fourth woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, following Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, and Sarah Fisher. After posting the fastest practice speed of the month (229.880 MPH on May 15), she made an error at the beginning of her qualifying attempt and failed to capture the pole position.
Patrick became the first female driver to lead the race at Indianapolis when she stayed out one lap longer than her rivals during a set of green-flag pit stops. Patrick overcame two crucial blunders to finish fourth in the race, the same position in which she started. Her car stalled in the pits about halfway through the 500-mile race, dropping her to the middle of the field. Shortly after reclaiming a spot in the top 10, Patrick spun during a caution period, causing a four car accident. The accident caused damage to the nose and front wing of her car. Her pit crew promptly made repairs, and due to the subsequent yellow, was able to rejoin having lost only 1 place. When the leaders pitted for fuel on lap 172, Danica took the lead once more, lost it on lap 184, and then regained it on a restart with 11 laps to go. However, as she had not pitted for fuel, Danica needed one more long yellow in order to reach the finish without having to refuel. On lap 194, eventual 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon passed her as she was forced to slow in order to conserve fuel, and she was quickly passed by both Bryan Herta and her teammate Vitor Meira. Patrick's fourth place was the highest ever finish for a female driver, besting Janet Guthrie's 27-year-old ninth place finish record. Danica led 19 laps overall.
In 2005_in_IRL she finished 12th in the IRL Championship, with 325 points.
On July 2, 2005, Patrick won her first pole position, leading a 1,2,3 sweep by Rahal-Letterman Racing at Kansas Speedway. She became the second woman to accomplish this feat in the IndyCar Series, the first being Sarah Fisher in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway. On August 13, she won her second pole at Kentucky Speedway, although this time, rain prematurely ended qualifying and position was determined by speeds achieved during practice.
Danica is still waiting for her first victory in any form of open-wheel competition. Some have said that her relatively lighter weight gives her an advantage in a competition where engine size and car weight are strictly regulated. Others have claimed most rookie drivers would have faced much tougher racing competition and would never have been sponsored by a top racing team if it were not for the decline in popularity and competitiveness of Indy car racing and the boost to viewership and sponsorship a winning female driver may bring. Whether a winning Danica Patrick will bring increased interest in Indy car racing remains an unknown.
Personal life and media work
Patrick is married to physical therapist Paul Hospenthal, who is sixteen years her senior. They were married in a private ceremony on November 19, 2005 in Scottsdale, Arizona where they currently reside. The two met when Danica had to receive medical attention for an injured hip when she was 20 years old. Patrick also hosts several TV shows on Spike TV. As a result of the attention she got for her participation in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and for her perceived attractiveness, she was asked by Playboy to have her pictures taken to be published in a future edition of its magazine. She declined the offer, but she had posed for FHM, appearing in the April 2003 issue.
She loves to roller blade and believes in a variety of activities to work out. She combines running (3-5 miles) and weight training with what she calls ‘extreme yoga.’ Her 90-minute yoga sessions are conducted in a 100-degree room with a circuit of 26 poses which is repeated twice. .