Danica Patrick on Why She Never Loved Racing and Her Post-Track Career - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Danica Patrick on Why She Never Loved Racing and Her Post-Track Career

Danica Patrick on Why She Never Loved Racing and Her Post-Track Career

By Joshua Eferighe


Because not everyone is in love with what they do.

By Joshua Eferighe

Danica Patrick is not only a former professional racing driver, she’s the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing. In a recent interview, she sat down with OZY CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson on The Carlos Watson Show to tell him a bit of her journey. You can find some of the best cuts from the conversation below, and the full interview can be found on the show’s podcast feed.


Carlos Watson: OK. And you grew up where? You grew up in Wisconsin or am I remembering that correctly?

Danica Patrick: It’s close. Yeah. I was born in Wisconsin and I grew up just across the border. So where I grew up was actually a little over a mile from the border of Wisconsin. So the reason why I was born in Wisconsin was obviously because it was so close. So I was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, but grew up in South Beloit, Illinois. And so I lived there until I was 16. And then I lived all over. Then I lived in England. I live in Ohio. Now my family all lives in Indiana.

CW: Wait, what was England? Did I miss that? What were you doing in England?

DP: I was racing.

CW: But living there?

DP: Yeah. I lived there for three years. I moved there my junior year of high school, and I was there from 16 to 19 years old.

I grew up in the Chicago area because, obviously being on the border of Wisconsin, and I would describe Chicago after being pent up all winter and the cold, blistering winds that come off Lake Michigan, very similar. I think one time someone said that Chicago is kind of like functioning alcoholics all summer. That’s not far off.

Path to Greatness

CW: How you got into racing. I’m always curious about people who take paths that neither their mom or their dad, because neither of your parents were in racing. Right? You were the first one in the family to take that seriously and do it.

DP: At the level that I was at, for sure. It wasn’t like I came from the Andretti’s, or the Earnhardt, or Unser — famous last names with a deep lineage. But my dad did race. So he knew about racing. So when he was young, he raced … the first thing he raised was a motocross, dirt bikes. Then he raced snowmobiles.

So he would race on these ice flat tracks and then he raced what’s called midgets, which is really just a car with these big tires and big dirt tracks and oval dirt tracks. And they’d go slide sideways around the track. So he did race a bunch of things growing up. In fact, my mom and dad met on a blind date at a race. This girl named Sue, who my mom was really good friends with, Sue set my mom and dad up on a blind date. And that is why my middle name is Sue.

But Did She Love It?

CW: Now, what happened to you when you were in the car that whole long time? Would you get energy zapped when you were driving around the track?

DP: No. My skin was on fire sometimes from the sunlight coming in and hitting my legs. There were times in a stock car, because it’s so hot inside of the car, the oil and water pipes run right underneath the seat. And so, since those are sort of around 250 degrees, it gets super, super hot inside the car. And so it’s always at least like 30 degrees hotter than ambient, for sure. So on those days where it was like 80 degrees, 90 degrees, I mean, inside the car is 130-plus. When the sun would come in on top of all that heat inside the car and hit my legs, I literally feel like my legs were melting.

CW: Wait, how much weight do people lose, then, driving? I mean, people must sweat like crazy.

DP: As a girl would say, never enough. …

One thing that I had afterwards that I don’t get nearly as much now, and I know it’s a compounding dehydration issue, is migraines. So I thought that I was maybe getting them from carbon monoxide exposure. So I had tested myself right before the race and right after the race. It was a really, really good test and it was not that. I feel like it had gone up from basically zero to 3 percent and they said, “Oh, that’s totally fine.” They’re like, “Smokers are at 10, normally.” I’m like OK. It wasn’t that. It was just a dehydration issue. So for me, if I had one alcoholic drink after the race, I could pretty much guarantee I’d have a two-day migraine.

CW: Wow. Wow. And were you unusual in that or…

DP: Oh, it’s a bummer.

CW: But is that true with other drivers as well, or were you unusual?

DP: No. No. I think everybody’s different. I don’t know if it was also just, I mean, I’m not a big person. I was even trying to identify at the end, did it have to do with my drink mixture that I was having? Is it because I had cleaned my diet out so much of anything artificial that some of these energy drinks and certain things that are for hydration have a lot of fake sugars and other sort of ingredients. And so then I thought, man, maybe it’s that. So I went to just strict water at the end. Anyway, I think everybody faces different issues, but for me, I didn’t have migraines after every race, but I knew how to make sure as best as I could that I didn’t.

CW: Wait. Now, did you like racing? I had a conversation with Andre Agassi a few years ago where he said that he actually never really liked tennis, and I was surprised to hear that. I’ve even heard that from a few NFL players where they said, I was good at it, but I didn’t really love it. Did you like racing? Was it kind of like Kobe, where I felt like Kobe loved basketball?

DP: No. I’m like the other people you’ve talked to, and it’s tough. It’s a sad thing because I think that there are truly people, I know lots of people that really, really love racing. When they’re done, they keep doing other things and they jump in other cars and they go watch it, and I don’t. And so I think it’s tough because sports are one of these things where there’s so much emotion in it, even as a fan. That’s actually what I’m talking about. And so you think to yourself, I’m so invested as a fan, and you think how can that athlete or that driver not love it like I love it, and they’re doing it.

It kind of feels like you’re cheating the system a little bit because you’re like, man, I was really successful. I made a good living and I’m embarrassed to say that I never really loved it, but now, let’s backtrack. I loved racing enough, of course, but what I loved were aspects of racing. And so you can meet somebody in a totally different profession. Let’s say they sell lights. Let’s say they sell lights. Do they really love lights? Probably not. But do they really love to sell? Do they love to travel? Do they love to make deals? Do they love to negotiate? Do they love social skills? There’s a whole bunch of things that you could love about the job that’s not the job.

CW: Right. What do you think you would have loved? I obviously have at least one guess given how much I can tell you love cooking and love food, but what would’ve made you smile? What would have been right for you if it hadn’t been racing?

DP: The only thing that I ever thought about doing that I would have done other than racing is … I love helping people with their issues and coming up with solutions for problems. I can, to a fault, be a little analytical and a little quick to try and problem-solve with emotions and dynamics and relationships and stuff. I always thought I could have been a therapist or a counselor of some kind. Maybe something like that would have been interesting to me.

Racing for Your Ears

CW: How are you liking this podcast? Is it fun? Is it something that you’re enjoying or something you think you’ll do for a short time?

DP: I love it. In fact, I don’t know how you get before you do an interview, but I did one earlier today, and this week I’ve had a few, and I tend to do them in clumps instead of one a week. That’s a lot of pressure to make sure you get it done. So I like to have them booked out and done. I’m not necessarily nervous as much as I can feel attention and I need to prepare.

I have over time kind of identified my process to identifying the questions I want to ask and the direction I want to go with it. Although I’m finding, and you probably get this too, you can only be you. The conversation ends up taking its direction, a pretty normal direction every time anyway, just because you’re the common denominator.

I truly love whenever I get done, I am elevated. I am high from it because I’ve learned this in the last handful of years of my life is that the things that add energy to my being, even if they require a lot of effort or a lot of time or energy or thought, those things are really in sync with my being. And the things that drain me, even if they’re short and sweet, even if something takes an hour or 15 minutes or whatever it is, they presumably should be less strenuous, but somehow something energetically zaps you. I’ve learned to identify what I should and shouldn’t be doing by that.

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