Danica Patrick is a girly-girl, but that doesn’t stop her from kicking butt on the racetrack at 200 miles an hour. The IndyCar driver, whose racing career started with go-karts when she was a child, has parlayed a successful career in auto racing into a multifaceted business résumé, one that includes swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated, Tissot watch ambassador and GoDaddy.com spokeswoman.
“There are two pretty different sides to me,” Patrick says while getting ready for a recent Glamour magazine event at Barnard College.“I love to get clothes from stylists and get my hair and makeup done. I really enjoy both parts and I’m lucky to be able to drive race cars and still get made up. It’s a win-win.”
Patrick was in New York a few days after her sixth-place finish at the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix race, where she managed to battle her way up from 23rd place. It won’t be long, however, before she moves beyond the IndyCar circuit and races NASCAR full-time. For the past two years, she’s been racing in about a dozen NASCAR events as well as the Indy series. But after seven years focusing on Indy, she’s ready for a change.
“It’s like starting over again,” she says, excited about the challenges of racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series full time in 2012.
Patrick has had success in a sport where few women venture, but she says the men she races against never say anything about her photo shoots or swimsuit glam shots. “I don’t know, maybe they feel awkward.”
She also speculates that other women don’t gravitate toward race car driving because they aren’t exposed to it at a young age, as she was.
“They grow up playing basketball, baseball and football in gym class, but if they want to do something beyond that, it’s hard,” she says. “They need to buy a go-kart and find a track — that’s something that tends to be in your family.”
Her father raced snowmobiles, midgets and motocross, she says, so racing is in her blood.
But so is fashion. Though Patrick is intent on racing for at least the next several years, fashion design could be in her future. Right now, she has deals with Tissot for watches and William Rast for sunglasses, but has decided against an apparel sponsor. She says fashion firms have approached her about lending her name to apparel, but the timing hasn’t been right.
“I would like to either do a joint line with a designer, or —my favorite idea — do my own line,” she says. “But that’s down the road. I would have to give it the right amount of effort, choose the materials, the cuts, that’s what will make it a success.”
So for now, she’ll stick with other designer’s wares. When she’s not in the public eye, she leans toward jeans, T-shirts and ballet flats or flip-flops, or BCBG dresses. For more formal occasions, she prefers outfits with “unique lines and odd angles.” Most recently, she’s gravitated toward Alexander McQueen and Gucci.
“I like a unique look,” she says.