What You Don't Know About Danica Patrick

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They say good things come in small packages; apparently, fast things can as well. Superstar Danica Patrick, coming in at 5'2", has broken barriers and records both on and off the race track for decades. The professional car racer began her career of burning rubber as a kid and took it all the way to the fastest tracks in the world.

Patrick's long list of accomplishments and accolades includes becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race, as well as becoming the first woman ever to win the pole position in a NASCAR race. Time and time again, she left sexist skepticism in the dust, proving that she was the best of the best in a male-dominated industry. And throughout her career, she did not let off the gas. Per ESPN, she said in 2013, "I've been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don't stop doing that."

Soon after she first made a splash on the race track, she became a crossover star, a public figure whose fame transcended her racing record. But the persona you see on screens is not the whole story. Buckle your seatbelt, because we are about to get into what you may not know about Danica Patrick.

Danica Patrick started with go-karts

Go-kart racing became a thing in the 1950s when boys would build them in the garage with their dads and then race them down the driveway. Today, the open-wheel, four-wheeled vehicles have their own circuit and for many, like Danica Patrick, it has become somewhat of a stepping stone to professional car racing.

According to ESPN, Danica and her younger sister, Brooke Patrick, both took an interest and with the help of their father, began racing the karts together. Brooke would eventually find her calling in physical therapy, while Danica knew she was where she belonged and quickly began snatching up first and second place prizes. She won not one, not two, but three World Karting Association Grand National Championships in a row, as per HotCars.

In 2018, Danica revisited her roots during an interview with Megyn Kelly on "Today." After talking, the two squared off in a go-kart race around the studio. At the starting line, Kelly asked the former kart champion if she had any advice for her. Danica replied, "I mean, I would say the um... no, I don't want you to beat me." Believe it or not, Kelly got the jump on Danica and though there was one time when the pro racer had the lead, Kelly took the win.

She fired her parents

From day one of Danica Patrick's racing career, it had been a family affair. Patrick told Megyn Kelly on "Today" that go-karting started out as an activity the family could do together since her father worked a lot. "It was our weekend activity," the karting champ said. And once it became obvious this was her path, both parents were onboard, supporting her pursuit with both their time and their money.

Patrick's mom and dad allowed her to drop out of school at 16 and head to Europe to pursue her racing career. While it all eventually worked out, Patrick told Graham Bensinger that she now acknowledges what a risk it was. What's more, she remembered how tough it could be to be apart from her family at that age. "My mom cried, from what I understand, pretty regularly," she shared. 

After that history of support, it must have been a painful experience to fire her father and mother, who had been with her every step of the way. At one point, both parents were traveling with her, managing her, and ultimately living what became more business than family. However, as she recalled to Bensinger, things took a turn after she got married. "I was in a relationship where I was kind of forced to choose and push my parents out," she said. Thankfully, once that relationship ended, she was able to repair things with her mom and dad.  "I called my parents and everything was 100% normal right away," she said. "It's wonderful."

She has a book and podcast on fitness and diet

Racing around a track at 200+ miles per hour is probably pretty intense. You could also use those words to describe Danica Patrick, who retired from racing in 2018 but apparently never slowed down. In fact, she was already jumping into other endeavors even before her retirement. In 2017, Patrick published her second book; the first one was more of a memoir and focused on racing. "Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan that will absolutely Change Your Life" not only describes the content of her book but also her podcast of the same name, which came along two years later. With the addition of her guests who come from all walks of life but will include many celebrities and athletes you recognize.

According to the "Pretty Intense" website, Patrick's goal is to help others attain their dreams. "We can learn together with intense discussions with my guests about life, inspiring ideas and ultimately realize our true best self," the host said. And in terms of those guest interviews, Patrick says it's all about being in the moment, just like she had to do in racing. She shared on "BUILD Series," "That presence, that very much listening and paying attention to exactly what's going on, which is sort of being in tune to the car, that's really similar." But that's where the similarities stop and as Patrick pointed out with a chuckle, the podcast is far less dangerous.

She's done some voiceover work

Though she has not made the pivot from sports star to silver screen superstar a la John Cena or LeBron James, that is not to say Danica Patrick has not dabbled in the world of acting. In 2010, she played a race car driver in "CSI: NY" and in 2019 she appeared in the film "Charlie's Angels" as a driving instructor. In between those roles is mostly voice-over work. In 2012, Sega came out with a new Sonic the Hedgehog game called "Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed." And who better to face off with Sonic in a race but Danica Patrick? Needless to say, she was thrilled by the idea. As she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, "When they said I could be a character that you could play in the game, I think that's like being a kid and playing games and being able then to be in them one day was just something really neat, and something I want to be a part of."

Patrick also voiced the character, Rally, in the animated series "Blaze and the Monster Machines," as well as Danni Sue in "Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures." Of course Rally was a car and Danni Sue was a race car driver, so clearly Patrick is staying true to her sport even when she's away from the track.

She enjoyed modeling

Danica Patrick didn't just race cars at dangerously fast speeds — she looked good doing it, too. And despite breaking down barriers for women, fighting her way to the top of a male-dominated sport, and finally getting to the point where she was treated like "one of the guys," she has no problem with focusing on her beauty as well. She was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model in 2008 and 2009. The shoots produced car-themed photos — with Patrick both in and on top of the cars — as well as ones on the beach, including some shots sans bikini top, though she was still covered.

In 2015, when she was interviewed on SI NOW, she said of her experience, "I loved it completely, like, I wish I was a swimsuit model because it was really fun." But fun isn't the only thing about it that attracted her. In a behind-the-scenes look of one of her shoots, Patrick said, "I'm just so flattered because it's just such a unique and prestigious piece to be a part of." If those weren't enough reasons to get behind modeling, Patrick said in a 2021 interview with "NASCAR on Fox," in regards to embracing her femininity, "I'm trying to avoid the saying 'sex sells,' but, um, you know I think you have to use all of your attributes." Still, she wanted her message clear when she elaborated that it still has to be backed by ability.

Her last day racing IndyCar ended in tragedy

Every race car driver knows the harsh reality of the dangers of the sport. Thankfully for Danica Patrick, she survived 27 years of racing. That said, she did have her share of crashes as well as concussions, which ESPN reports to be about a dozen. In a 2017 interview with Rich Eisen, she estimated, "I would think I've had a handful of big ones."

Sadly, fellow racer Dan Wheldon wasn't so lucky. Wheldon died in a 15-car pile-up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October 2011. Patrick herself narrowly missed the crash. Before she learned of Wheldon's fate, she told ABC in a post-race interview, "The first thing I said was 'wow,' and then I said, 'I hope everyone's okay.'" She went on to describe the chaotic scene and her own emotions, which were already high given it was her last day of IndyCar before moving on to focus solely on stock car racing.

Less than a month later, Patrick paid tribute to Wheldon by driving the memorial car at a NASCAR race in Texas. She also wore a helmet in his honor, which would be auctioned off after the race. About having the "lionheart" on her hood, she said, "It feels comforting in a way." Patrick also pledged to donate her winnings for that race to the Dan Wheldon foundation.

Her Super Bowl ad run broke records

She's fast, beautiful, and a powerhouse in a male-dominated sport. What more could advertisers ask for when they're looking for someone to represent their brand? Danica Patrick seemingly wasted no time becoming the "it girl" spokesperson for companies like GoDaddy, Pepsi, Coke, Nationwide Insurance, and Boost Mobile.

As far as TV ads go, it doesn't get much bigger than a Super Bowl spot. And Patrick didn't just land a Super Bowl ad or two. She became a fixture of the NFL championship game commercial break. As per AutoRacing1.com, when she popped up in her tenth Super Bowl ad in 2012, she set the record for the most Super Bowl ad appearances ever. What's more, she was in two different ads that year: one with The Pussycat Dolls and one with Jillian Michaels.

In 2014, Patrick appeared in a full body suit to appear as muscular as the bodybuilders she was running down the street with for the GoDaddy spot that year. The following year came a controversial ad in which a lost puppy is and then sold on the internet, with Patrick driving it away. After some backlash online, GoDaddy decided not to run the commercial. Patrick told The Guardian that she and the GoDaddy team were surprised it didn't land with audiences, adding, "I was definitely disappointed I wasn't in the Super Bowl for a commercial." And that left a hole in her Super Bowl run.

She's had some tough breakups

When you live life in the fast lane and you're a celebrity, the spotlight can make breakups all the more painful to deal with. And Danica Patrick is no stranger to painful public breakups, starting with her husband of eight years, physical therapist Paul Hospenthal. The couple met in 2002 when Patrick went to his PT office. They were married by 2005 — when Patrick was 23 years old — and divorced in 2013. According to Us Weekly, Patrick reportedly started dating NASCAR Racer Ricky Stenhouse Jr., as soon as her divorced was announced. After five years of dating, the couple went their separate ways.

One of the more high-profile splits Patrick experienced was with NFL player Aaron Rodgers. Patrick met Rodgers back in 2012 at the ESPY Awards but did not begin dating until 2018. According to Us Weekly, Patrick attempted to help Rodgers navigate his rocky relationship with his family, but the two ended up splitting in 2020. The "Pretty Intense" podcast host opened up to Bear Gryllis in 2012 when she appeared on "Running Wild," telling the adventurer that she learned a lot about herself. "As broken open I was on the sad end, I have felt so much joy in so many more instances and so many unlikely places than I ever had," she said. In 2021, Patrick connected with Freshly co-founder Carter Comstock, but their relationship was over by the next year. 

She improved her health by removing breast implants

In May 2022, Danica Patrick posted a throwback photo of herself on Instagram and wrote, "I wish I could of told this 32 year old girl that boobs won't make you more perfect or have it all or be more feminine." She shared the picture, which features her in a bikini before she got breast implants, just one week after having her implants removed. Behind the scenes, Patrick struggled with health issues for some time, and she suspected her implants were the cause. 

Regarding getting the implants in the first place, she told "Good Morning America," "I did it because I wanted to be more perfect." In 2018, she started noticing health issues and began a search for answers that lasted years. Dr. Shaun Parson, the surgeon who performed her explant procedure, appeared on the morning show alongside her to explain the ways in which the body can have a negative reaction to implants. "Your body's fighting something, Just like if it had an infection," he said. 

After one week post-surgery, Patrick said she'd already noticed positive changes in her health. Part of this transition Patrick attributes to age and experience, giving her the confidence to take action for herself and deal with what comes next, as the surgery was just the first step. "There's going to be physical changes on the inside and outside that I am happy to share. I'm going to want to share with people," she said.

She has her own vineyard and wine label

Clearly, when Danica Patrick puts her mind to something, she goes pedal to the metal — and her turn in the wine-making industry is no exception. According to the Somnium Wine website, following a trip to Napa, she decided to purchase a property with a vineyard of her very own in 2009. The race car driver also has her very own French wine called Danica Rosé.

Just before she retired, Patrick chatted with "NASCAR on Fox" about her vineyard and her foray into the wine industry. "The vines are happy because they have a beautiful view," she said. Lest anyone think she bought a vineyard and just figured she'd wing it, Patrick teamed up with a professional winemaker who played an integral role in helping her figure out what to plant. 

How do the wines at Somnium rate among the aficionados? The Napa Wine Project said of their Cabernet Sauvignon, "Shows an elegant ripeness on the bouquet with mostly darker fruit, black fig, blackberry and wet stone. ... Drinks beautifully in its youth." And if you're wondering what the name Somnium means, Patrick shares on her website, "I named my vineyard Somnium, which means 'dream' in Latin, because I thought owning my own winery was something that would just be a dream, but it became a reality."

Her net worth

There's a reason Danica Patrick has both a book and a podcast called "Pretty Intense." It's pretty much her mantra. Whether she's tearing up a racetrack, sipping wine from her vineyard, or donning a bikini in a photo shoot, Patrick doesn't hold back. And that has resulted in win after win and not just for Patrick herself. Her impressive finish at Daytona in 2013 spiked ratings for the race, up 24% from the previous year. That same year, she made it on Forbes' top 100 powerful celebrities list.

Suffice to say, Patrick has dominated the race track and beyond, and her immense success has been good to her bank account: According to Celebrity Net Worth, she's worth a whopping $80 million.

After she retired, the global icon didn't sit back and relax, instead diving into the NBC broadcast of the Indy 500 as an analyst in 2019 and 2020. And in 2020 she launched her own athleisure clothing line called Warrior by Danica Patrick. Currently, her Instagram is filled with adventurous pics of her traveling, catching a 50-pound halibut, and living her best pretty intense life. It's clear that even if she's not behind the wheel, Danica Patrick has no plans to slow down.