“I live a really pretty normal life,” Danica Patrick, the NASCAR driver, told “Off The Cuff”. “People usually just ask if I am Danica Patrick. My favorite is when they say, ‘have you ever been told you look like?’ And I'm, like, ‘yeah, I get that all the time.’ And I walk away. And if I'm standing with somebody I'm, like, ‘They just asked the wrong question.’”
In 2005, Patrick became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 race. In 2008, she became the first female driver to win an IndyCar race. She’s the first woman in NASCAR history to win a NASCAR Sprint Series pole – in February she secured the top spot for any race in the sport’s premier circuit.
“For me it was really more about the team than me. So it was good to do. And if anyone's going to be on the pole, I hope it's me. But it's not exactly a difficult lap to make. So more than anything, it's the honor of being able to drive that car,” she said.
She’s made a rocky debut as a Cup regular – she’s currently ranked 30th in the points standings. Last week, her boyfriend, fellow NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. drove his car into the side of hers. The love tap caused her to collide with another vehicle, and ended her race.
Returning home with Stenhouse after the race, she told the Associated Press,“there were a few silent moments, for sure. Or many moments.”
“Ricky and I talk about racing a fair amount, sure,” she told “Off The Cuff”. “But usually I'd say we both probably do what we've always done after a race. You kind of debrief about what happened and you recap what happened. And then you move on from it.”
Patrick finalized her divorce from physical therapist Paul Hospenthal earlier this year, after a seven-year marriage. As for dating a fellow driver, she said, “I don't think it necessarily helps or hurts. I think it's just really about being with somebody that you get along with and enjoy being with.”
Being the top woman auto racing driver in NASCAR has brought her a multitude of media and sponsorship opportunities. She’s appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition twice, played herself on The Simpsons, appeared in a Jay-Z music video and in 23, often racy, commercials for her sponsor Go Daddy, the domain name registrar and Web hosting provider.
“I understand it's who I am, it's pretty obvious. It's kind of much more of the direction that I go with a lot of things, whether it be a photo shoot or something like that. Like, obviously it's feminine, it's girly,” she said, referring to the role gender has played in her career. “So I understand that is what has helped me get to where I am today. It doesn't mean you don't have to go out on the track and perform and do a good job.”
In February 2012, at a media event at Daytona, Patrick was asked whether she hears sexist remarks made in the male-dominated NASCAR world. “I think probably until its 50/50 girls and boys you’re going to hear some of that,” she told the reporters attending the event. Then she challenged them to change the way in which, she claimed, they describe female athletes. “It’s like if there is a pretty girl they don’t know how to describe a pretty girl other than being sexy and it has such a negative connotation to it. … it seems like with female athletes if they are pretty they only know how to describe them in a sexual way,” she said.
As for her own experiences, “I never did experience any sexist behavior,” she told “Off The Cuff”. “People have been pretty cool from the beginning. I didn't grow up in an era where women weren't allowed in the pits or women weren't accepted. I've grown up in an era where people are excited for it.”
Patrick, who began racing go-karts at ten years old, said she has never considered another career.
“What's the best part about being me? I get to do something I love. And I think that that's not always the case with people in their lives. They might not love their job so much. But I got to take something I did for fun when I was a kid and I make it a career. And get paid really well to do it. That's pretty amazing.”
She isn’t immune to the trappings of fame. “There isn't any restaurant or concert or event that you can't find your way into pretty well. And not just, like - a seat. But, usually, taken care of pretty well. So that's a pretty nice perk,” she said.
Watch the “Off The Cuff” interview with Danica Patrick for more on how she spends her money, how she prepares for a race, and when she’ll know it’s time to quit the track.