Danica Patrick is a professional racing driver and a pioneer for women in motorsports. She became the first woman ever to win an IndyCar race in 2008.
To Sixteen-Year-Old Danica Sue Patrick,
You’ve said good-bye to Mom, Dad, and your sister Brooke. It’s just you alone with your thoughts now as this plane crosses the Atlantic to take you to England.
This is what you wanted to do and needed to do to further your racing career. And you’re really excited about it, as any sixteen-year-old would be about a great adventure.
I don’t want to dampen the mood, but frankly, you should be scared as hell.
Think about it. You’ve left everything you’ve ever known—your family and friends in Roscoe, Illinois, and Hononegah High School—all to chase a dream that may or may not come true.
I’m not going to lie to you—the next couple of years are going to be tough. You’re going to face challenges that will make you wonder if it’s all worth it. A lot of people aren’t ready for a girl to be a successful driver, especially in Europe.
You’ll call home wondering if it’s time to quit and come back to the States. But you’ll press on, hoping that things will get better once again.
When you do eventually come home, you’re tougher than you ever thought you could be. And you’ll land a job driving for an Indy 500 winner named Bobby Rahal and another guy named David Letterman (he’s on TV late at night). They’ll bring you through the ranks in the States before giving you what you’ve always dreamed about: a full-time IndyCar ride and a chance at winning the Indianapolis 500.
Those lonely feelings you had in England a few years ago? They will be replaced by the roar of three hundred thousand people on Memorial Day weekend when you become the first woman ever to lead the Indianapolis 500. You’ll finish fourth in the race and your life will never be the same again.
You’ll land on the cover of Sports Illustrated and do all the talk shows. It’s going to be a bit overwhelming but get used to it. And get used to making history.
Just a few years after that magical day at Indianapolis, you’ll make history on foreign soil; not in England, mind you, but in Japan. You’ll become the first woman to ever win an IndyCar race! You’ll cry tears of joy in victory lane, and then enjoy a party-like atmosphere on the plane ride across the Pacific—a little bit different than the uncertainty you’re currently feeling as you cross the Atlantic.
Believe it or not, you’ll become a one-name person—when the name Danica is mentioned, people will know exactly who it is. Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? Well, the story gets a little stranger.
You’ll begin to think about NASCAR. Yes, NASCAR! You’ll compete in both IndyCar and NASCAR for a bit before going full-time into stock cars. That is something that I’m sure you’re thinking, No Way! That’s never going to happen!
Once again, you’ll make a bit of a splash. You’ll win the pole position for the Daytona 500 and lead some laps before finishing eighth. But you’ll be really excited to know that you are one of only thirteen drivers to lead both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. You’re on a list that includes names like Foyt, Unser, and Andretti!
Throughout all this, however, you’ll stay true to yourself and what you believe. Some people will hate you, despise you, even. You’ll use them as motivation to become better.
You’ll also gain millions of fans, especially little girls, which will blow you away. You’ll wonder how they even know who you are! Make sure you take time for them. Kids are so impressionable, so make sure you take the time to look them in the eye, talk to them, sign an autograph, and pose for a picture. It will mean the world to them.
And as you navigate the tough racing world and all that comes with it, just remember what your dad always told you: “Have fun.”
It’s so simple but so true.