If you told racing fans a year ago that a petite, beautiful woman would have finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 this year, they might have laughed at you. But that is exactly what happened and made Danica Patrick a household name. So who is the woman behind the car?
Danica Patrick was born in 1982, the same year Dale Earnhardt won the Darlington. Always having a need for speed, she spent five years racing go-carts, finishing up by winning not only the WKA Grand National championship in Yamaha Lite class but also the World Karting Association (WKA) Grand National championship, HPV class in 1997. By 1998, she had started racing in England in the single seater racing championship, Formula Vauxhall. By the end of her second full season in the Formula Vauxhall, she was the highest placing American in an event with a second place finish in the Formula Ford Festival in England.
With that finish under her belt, she returned to the United States in 2001, looking for a top open-wheel ride. In 2002, Team Rahal announced Danica would the driver of the Argent Mortgage Company LLC car, the car of their primary sponsor. She qualified eleventh and finished seventh in her debut at Toronto.
By 2003, Danica, driving the Argent car, turned in a sixth place finish in the Toyota Atlantic Championship. That same year, she overcame a bad start to make a stunning finish in Monterrey, Mexico. A scrum on the first turn caused Danica to make a pit stop to repair a damaged wing. That dropped her to eleventh place, but she quickly regained her position, finishing third overall. 2003 also saw Danica finish in the top five in Cleveland, Denver and Trois Rivieres as well as sixth in the Toyota Atlantic Championship. But her best finish of the season was her second place finish in the Miami season finale.
Danica improve her finish in the Toyota Atlantic Championship from sixth the previous year, to third in 2004. She had an impressive ten top-five finishes in twelve races. 2004 also saw Danica as the only driver in the Toyota Atlantic Championship to complete every lap. Finishing fifth and posting the second fastest lap at Denver in 2003, in 2004, Danica retained her fifth place finish, but won the Argent Fast Lap Award by posting the fastest lap of the race.
As you can see, Danica has earned her way to the top of the racing world. Her strong finish at the Indianapolis 500 should not have been a surprise to race fans watching her rise to fame.