Danica Patrick, one of the world’s most recognised female racing drivers, has done more than enjoy an awe-inspiring career on the track.
The former racer turned spokesperson got her first taste of competing behind the wheel when she began karting at the age of ten and she has since become the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing.
At the peak of her racing career, Patrick supposedly earned more than $10 million per year when combining her salary, winnings and endorsements. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the driver is worth $80 million in total.
Because of her historic achievements, Patrick has inspired women and girls across the world and has helped pave the way for females in motorsport today.
After discovering her love for driving, Patrick dropped out of high school to pursue her career in racing. She competed in the UK’s Formula Vauxhall and Formula Ford before returning to the States to join the Toyota Atlantic Series, where she became the first woman to win pole position in the series.
Fast forward to 2005 and Patrick joined the IndyCar Series, where she won Rookie of the Year after winning three poles – a record equalling amount for a male or female rookie driver.
Her record career high of a third place finish at the Indianapolis 500 remains the best ever performance by a woman in the race.
Patrick made the switch to NASCAR in 2010 where she continued to make history in a male dominated sport.
In 2013, Patrick became the first woman to win a Cup Series pole position. Two years later, she broke Janet Guthrie’s record for the most top ten finishes by a woman in the Sprint Cup Series.
After retiring in 2018, the W Series – the world’s biggest all women single-seater championship – was founded. The inaugural season of the championship took place in 2019, which saw some of the world’s best female drivers take part in a six-race tournament across Europe.
Marta García, who has competed in both the 2019 and 2021 instalments of the series, spoke to GiveMeSport Women about her career in single-seater racing.
The Spaniard admitted alongside Formula 1 icon Fernando Alonso, she grew up idolising Patrick.
“As time passed, when I was 13-14, I looked towards Danica Patrick. She was another reference [of mine] because she was a girl and there weren’t many girls racing.
“She was great – she was getting poles and she was showing what she could do.”
Patrick’s influence on this new generation of female drivers shows how rare it was to see a woman make a name for herself in motorsport.
Now, the likes of W Series academy riser Abbi Pulling has the likes of Jamie Chadwick, Beitske Visser, and her mentor Alice Powell to look up to as she continues to make waves in the championship.
As for Chadwick, Powell, and others, the dream of a Formula 1 call up has never felt closer. The last woman to feature on an F1 grid was Lella Lombardi back in 1976.
Drivers like Patrick and those who were inspired by her career have helped pull women’s motorsport out of the dark and into this new spotlight. The next step is surely the return of women on the world’s biggest stage.