Friday, December 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Danica at a key career moment after life changes

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick displays the flag after winning the pole during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patrick became the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

By
From page B2 | February 19, 2013 |

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For so long, Danica Patrick was just a pretty girl in a fast car surrounded by a crack marketing staff who parlayed a few golden moments on the track into worldwide fame.

Her sexy Super Bowl ads and the revealing magazine shoots quickly outnumbered her actual career accomplishments. They still do, and she routinely takes Twitter broadsides from a fan base that has resented her since she first dabbled in NASCAR three years ago. Her fiercely competitive nature and desire to keep her personal life private created the perception she is cold, standoffish,

Patrick has never flinched, and she’s not flinching now on the doorstep of the biggest moment of her NASCAR career. She learned long ago to not care what people think about her, to tune out the critics and plug away at her race craft and at building the Danica empire.

All of that should help her in the pressure cooker of Daytona this week. After all, she’s used to the spotlight more than almost any driver in history.

She already has a major accomplishment to tuck in her belt: She is the first woman in history to win the pole at NASCAR’s top level. That it came at the Daytona 500, “The Great American Race,” is somehow fitting because it is Patrick. The face of auto racing to many casual fans is now going to be the face of NASCAR every day this week leading into Sunday’s season-opener.

It comes during a rebirth for the 30-year-old Patrick.

Something shifted last season, when she realized a happy ending wasn’t going to come in her seemingly picture-perfect life. All the effort and energy dedicated to maintaining Danicamania wasn’t making her happy.

So she made significant life changes, splitting from her 47-year-old husband after seven years of marriage. In January came confirmation of what everyone in NASCAR already assumed — she was dating fellow Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a cowboy-hat wearing Mississippi native who takes her to Professional Bull Riding and gave her her own blinged-out cowgirl belt buckle.

Patrick came into the season with a new man, a new outlook on life and a determination to be happy on and off the track. Where that takes her is anyone’s guess because Patrick, so certain all those years she was a race car driver and had no interest in having children, is suddenly murky on motherhood.

“I don’t know. I always used to say no. Now, I don’t know. I’m in a whole new situation now,” she told The Associated Press. “I do know I wouldn’t compromise my career. I would not stop racing for that. If I did want to stop racing for that, then I would lose my passion for racing and it would be that point in time when I would want to stop racing.”

Seemingly icy all those years, Patrick is suddenly an open book. She’s done a total 180 and is putting herself out there much like a head-over-heels-in-love schoolgirl.

“People tell me I’ve changed. Maybe. I’m happy,” she said. “You get kind of giddy about it, almost. Ricky and I like talking about each other. But life is just simpler now. I feel like I don’t have to think as much. There was always an element of me that felt like I had to do the right thing all the time. Now I feel like I want to be me. I want to be relaxed, less calculated. My return on investment was not right, and I am done overthinking things.”

If it seems as though Patrick has an opportunity at a fresh start, she is adamant that is not how she views this period of change.

“I think everything you do lasts. It is who you are and where you’ve been and I wouldn’t be here today if not for all the things I’ve done up until this point,” she said. “But there are definitely some starting overs that are clear and obvious. I think I’m just doing what it takes to be happy and feeling at peace with what you do and who you are.

“I always tell everyone, kids or adults, to just be yourself and be honest and I felt like I wasn’t doing that myself.”

Patrick may sound like she’s suddenly found herself, but there’s still a ton she hasn’t figured out. She doesn’t know how long she wants to race, but says she could see herself in NASCAR another 10 years.

“I always thought I’d race for 10 years, but then I did seven in IndyCar and now I’ve done two in NASCAR,” she said. “So I am closing in on that 10 years of professional racing thing, but I am starting over and I have to start that 10-year clock over. I really don’t know. I don’t know if there’s any way to pinpoint when you are going to lose passion for it or not be competitive.”

That is certainly not now, not when Patrick is entering her first full season racing in the elite Cup Series. She drives for three-time champion Tony Stewart with sponsorship from longtime partner GoDaddy, and Stewart last year hand-picked 10 of the toughest tracks in NASCAR for Patrick to run in preparation for the move to the top series.

To say she struggled would be an understatement.

Patrick’s average start was 36th, her average finish 28th and she crashed out of two of her 10 races. Fans howled she was undeserving of her ride and didn’t warrant any media attention, then they voted her the Most Popular Driver in the second-tier Nationwide Series, where she finished 10th in points with four top-10 finishes.

That’s the irony of Patrick, who was polarizing to fans in her seven seasons of IndyCar racing. She was the first woman to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500, and her third-place finish in that race in 2009 was the highest for a woman. She’s also the only woman to win an IndyCar race, which she did in Japan in 2008.

Those three highlights were about it for Patrick, who never finished higher than fifth in the standings and had just seven podium finishes in 115 career starts. But she was IndyCar’s biggest star and the spotlight rarely reached any other drivers, which wasn’t lost on her fellow competitors.

Patrick makes no apologies for the attention she receives, and is taking a no-regrets attitude about much of her life. She’s left behind IndyCar, maybe for good — she’s sitting out the Indianapolis 500 for a second straight year — and she walked away from an unhappy marriage. She doesn’t always like the things the Danica marketing machine wants her to do, but she’s a businesswoman who learned a long time ago from Bobby Rahal to prepare for a life after racing.

If there’s anything she would do over, Patrick isn’t saying.

“I say that I learned an incredible amount in my 20s about everything, and about myself came at the end,” she said. “I learned a lot about people, relationships, business, employees. I enjoyed it all, and I learned a lot.

“But I think it took me all the way until the last year how happy it makes me to be able to be myself, and how much I like myself. And you know, you take it or leave it. That’s it. This is me, people can take it or leave it.”

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings play role in civic life

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Sondheim’s ‘Woods’ holiday showcase for Missouri Street Theatre

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Frankye Kelly ready to spread holiday cheer

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Celebrate the magic of Christmas

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2, 2 Comments

 
 
Safe streets task force work nets 3

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 5 Comments

Santas have busy week at schools

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Solano College approves officers, meeting schedule

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

Longtime Suisun harbor master to retire

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
 
 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Next steps on Cuba: Normalizing could take awhile

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Sony film took aim at North Korea’s biggest taboo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

 
Timeline of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Spy’s parents search for son after Cuba-US deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Hope and some fear in Cuba amid thaw with US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

California’s top utility regulator defends record

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
‘Pretty horrible’ scene; car slams into crowd

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Police: Drunk man shot while entering wrong house

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
Local emergencies in Northern California counties after rain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Tsarnaev appears in court for 1st time since 2013

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
President signs legislation ending Nazi benefit checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

2 states challenge Colorado marijuana legalization

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

 
‘Prison Houdini’ set to make his 1st legal escape

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Feds sue NYC over Rikers Island jail violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Russian sailors leaving France without warship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Putin: West wants to defang, declaw Russian bear

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

Suspected Islamic extremists kidnap 185 in Nigeria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

 
European court rules obesity can be a disability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

News of the day strikes a chord

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 10 Comments

 
 
Another look at school bonds

By George Guynn Jr. | From Page: A11, 5 Comments

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 19, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: D8

 
Should I use Child Protective Services threat to get back rent?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: D8

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Dec. 19-25, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Sweet ‘Night at the Museum’ bids farewell to Robin Williams

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Craig Ferguson to end 10 years as host of ‘Late Late Show’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Eric Idle brings ‘Not the Messiah’ to Carnegie Hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

.

Sports

Warriors beat Thunder 114-109 after Durant injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
A’s acquire lefty De La Rosa from Arizona for cash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Raiders defense depleted by injuries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

49ers’ Harbaugh mum on reported offer from Michigan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
49ers’ Aldon Smith hopes to build off tough year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

A’s trade All-Star catcher Derek Norris to Padres

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Rodriguez boys open Les Curry Tournament with victory

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
39 bowl games and a reason to watch every one

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Column: Thaw in US-Cuba relations warms up MLB

By Jim Litke | From Page: B8

 
Rivera: Newton ‘probably’ will start vs. Browns

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Bears bench QB Jay Cutler for Clausen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
‘Hands Up’ players to attend Ferguson Christmas party

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

 
.

Business

Roomiest Subaru Legacy debuts for 2015

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Ford expands drivers air bag recall nationwide

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Constantly changing online prices stump shoppers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Dow industrials have their best day in three years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Lisa Dee McHughes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Travis Curt Price

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jennie Ponce Reyes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics