When Danica Patrick retired in 2018—as the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing—you would think she would have slowed down, maybe gone on an extended vacation with plenty of beach reading and fruity drinks. But instead of slowing down, Danica hit the accelerator—today you’re more likely to find her doing handstand walks at her gym or running her multiple businesses like a boss!
Danica started racing when she was 10 years old because she wanted to do what her sister was doing. “My sister wanted to race, and I didn’t want to be left out,” she remembers. Danica’s father, who grew up racing motocross, snowmobiles, and midget cars (high-speed dirt track cars), started signing his daughters up for local go-cart races.
Danica took to racing almost immediately. “I was pretty good out of the box,” she says. “Halfway through my first year of racing, I started winning. If the driver ahead of me in the last race of the year hadn’t been blocking me or I would have been more experienced and known what to do, I would have won the championship my first year. I went from not being able to keep up during the parade laps to winning.” She was 10. From there, Danica’s father started entering her in more difficult races at more difficult tracks with more experienced drivers. “It put me in places that were more challenging,” she says. Traveling from coast to coast, racing also gave the Patrick family a chance to spend time together as a family. “It was our quality time of being together, traveling the country,” Danica says.
During Danica’s junior year of high school, she decided to leave school, get her GED, and pursue racing full time. At 16, Danica moved to England, and “it went from ‘I want to be a racecar driver,’ to ‘I have to make this work,’” she says. “It became much more real and much more pressure, but I tend to perform well under pressure so it worked out.”
During her time in Europe, Danica met racing legend Bobby Rahal—who was running a Jaguar Formula One team at the time—through a roommate who worked with him. “I remember one time we went out to lunch at TGI Fridays in England,” Danica recalls with a laugh. “I think we were doing what we could to feel American, enjoying a creature comfort.” After three years in England, at 19, Danica returned to the U.S. at about the same time as Rahal who was running an IndyCar team. “I would see him at the track, and we got to be friends,” Danica says. “One day, I put him on the spot and asked if he had a spot on the team for me, and we were off and running.”
For Danica, racing was “all about winning the Indy 500.” In 2005, her first year in Indy racing, she was named rookie of the year. “I love setting a goal and accomplishing it,” she says. “I’m a goal-oriented person, and I set the goal really high. Looking back now, I realize what a big accomplishment it was. I have more perspective now.”
In 2006, Danica attended a NASCAR race in Arizona. “I decided I wanted to try NASCAR, but I wasn’t sure what the response would be,” she says. “Everyone was so positive and welcoming. I thought, okay, let’s give this a whirl.”
After a season in which she finished 5th in the IndyCar championship—arguably her most successful Indy season—Danica began racing part time in NASCAR while still racing full time in the Indy series. Finally in 2013, Danica was full-time on the NASCAR Cup series. “People probably wondered what I was doing and why I was doing it,” she says.
One can’t help but be impressed as Danica rattles off her impressive list of racing career milestones: racing in her first Indy 500, her history-making IndyCar win in Japan, and taking the pole position at Daytona. “My first Martinsville race is a big one,” she says. “I spun out in the beginning, went two laps down, and came back to finish 11th. I was passing drivers left, right, and center.”
“It was my way of paying homage to the two series that were a huge part of my life,” Danica says. “It was a dramatic way to go.”
But in 2018, after losing her primary sponsor, Danica started to think about leaving the sport she loves. “It took time, but I realized it was time to move on,” she says. To close out her career in dramatic fashion, Danica competed in her final two races at the Indy and Daytona 500s. “It was my way of paying homage to the two series that were a huge part of my life,” Danica says. “It was a dramatic way to go.”
Following her retirement, Danica raced full speed into steering her other business interests. “It was a great thing; I had these other companies I had started, and I was excited to finally have time to focus on them,” she says. Danica had purchased a winery in 2009 and started selling her wines in 2017. “The best reason to start a business is to have a passion for it,” she says. “I enjoy wine, and I love the culture, the connectedness to Earth and farming, and being out in nature.”
Danica named her wine Somnium, which means dream in Latin. “I have a fantastic wine; it’s a passion project for me,” she says. Along with her chief winemaker and a team of farmers, Somnium produces a California Rosé and a Cabernet Sauvignon. “I don’t do it by myself,” Danica says. “And I’d love to continue to learn; I feel like it’s my duty to the project to know my stuff.”
Danica also developed an athleisure line called Warrior for HSN. “The line embraces technology in clothing combined with style and function,” she says. “Athleisure is the most appropriate category for how I live.” After a year on HSN, the line sold out, and currently Danica is looking for a new home for her Warrior line.
In 2018, Danica channeled her love of food, fitness, and health into a book called Pretty Intense. The book outlines a 12-week program of workouts combined with dietary recommendations. Each week features seven, circuit-driven interval workouts and a Paleo-focused diet. Danica says people will see changes in 2 to 4 weeks. “I had done some training and changed my diet and gotten the best results I’d ever had, and I wanted to share that,” she says. Ever the entrepreneur, she also has plans to create an app for the workout program “because that’s the way everything is going.”
And on the rare occasion Danica has a day off, where will you find her? Not one to sit on the couch, Danica loves being in the outdoors, whether it’s going for a run, walking the hills of her winery property, or hiking with her dogs. “I love to take the dogs for a long walk, somewhere beautiful with woods and trees,” she says.
“One of the things I enjoy most is inspiring people.”
“One of the things I enjoy most is inspiring people,” Danica says. “I feel that it is my duty and calling to inspire people to look within themselves and try harder to be better. I think we have to be brave and believe in ourselves. I think so many of our limitations are in our minds about what we thing is possible for ourselves. The power of belief is amazing. Getting into that space of believing is where amazing things happen. And that’s where I’ve always lived.”