In an effort to be transparent, I am a Danica Patrick fan.
Long story short, at my home in suburban Phoenix I have a Danica mini helmet, bobble head, a piece of sheet metal from her Cup car, and an autographed picture. It’s not a shrine to her, it’s my way of showing that I supported her motorsports career.
“Not many NASCAR drivers create social change but Danica has. I’ll take that over her lack of wins any day of the week.” – DPC
It’s a bit self righteous to quote oneself in the third person for an article but that is simplest way I can convey what Danica meant to motorsports. She was not overly successful in her racing career:
One career win in 116 IndyCar races
Seven top-10 finishes in 61 Xfinity races
Seven top-10 finishes in 191 NASCAR Cup races
I get it, the results were largely pedestrian in NASCAR but were a little better in IndyCar, but she helped pave the way for women to compete in American motorsports.
Janet Guthrie opened the door in the 1970s and Patty Moise kept it going in the 1980s and 1990s in NASCAR. Lyn St. James proved female drivers could compete and excel in IndyCar in the 1990’s, and Danica pushed things further in the 2000s.
She stood on the shoulders of giants and like her predecessors, Danica is paving the way for Hallie Deegan, Gracie Trotter and Toni Breidinger.
Danica is not Jackie Robinson or Marion Motley but for motorsports she is very important, especially NASCAR. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a high percentage of white male drivers and for a long stretch Danica was the only minority. (I consider women a minority due to a lack of social, political or financial power and career opportunities.)
As I mentioned earlier I am a Danica fan, but most importantly I want everyone to have equal opportunities in their endeavors.
She was the only woman in the NASCAR Cup Series for a long time and now we are entering an era where there are greater opportunities for women in motorsports. Danica does not deserve all the credit, she had the aforementioned predecessors, but she did bring about social change in NASCAR.
More from Art of Gears
- 3 Reasons the 2024 Mazda CX-50 Is Among the Best Small SUVs
- The Jeep Renegade Is Discontinued: Here’s a Look at Its Legacy
- 2023 Nissan Armada: A Decent Full Size SUV With 1 Glaring Issue
- Best Minivans: 3 Options for Families With Solid Performance
- Here’s Why the 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E Is So Popular
Even without much success on the track her impact is felt. I covered numerous NASCAR weekends at Phoenix Raceway when she was an active driver and she had a strong fanbase, it’s easy to pick out GoDaddy neon green at a racetrack.
Based on my casual observations most of her fanbase was younger women and they had a driver to look up to and aspire to be. If you’re a kid, why would you follow a sport if there isn’t an athlete you can relate to?
For a generation of women that was Danica.