- Ice In Their Veins…
- The truly great are risk-takers. They don’t fear making a mistake.
She suffered her first real crash in 1994 at the age of 12, two years after she began go-kart racing competitively. Some said she was just lucky she hadn’t been in a crash before. Others thought that meant she wasn’t being aggressive enough.
She was coming around the final turn of the national event in Charlotte, N.C. Relentless and gunning toward the finish line, she moved to pass the leading driver on the inside – the same driver who had bumped her off the course and from first place to third, the lap before.
Danica Patrick didn’t win that race. Neither did her competitor that day… future three-time IndyCar title winner Sam Hornish Jr. But as she hit the gas pedal, tagged his bumper and soared up and over Sam before crashing on top of him, Danica made one thing very clear. For her, backing down was never an option.
“I was going to get (the victory) or crash trying,” Patrick said.
Though her father would later remind her that she wasn’t invincible, Danica has been a fearless competitor ever since. Her need for speed and desire to win took her from kart racing as a girl to Rookie of the Year in her first season as an IndyCar driver.
After placing 3rd in this weekends Indy 500, behind only Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon-she is truly proving she has what it takes.
Pushing the limits doesn’t come without risks – especially at speeds exceeding 220 mph – but for Danica, it’s all in a day’s work. Without risks, there are no rewards. It was a lesson Danica would have to learn again as a rookie.
Racing in her first Indianapolis 500, Patrick became the first woman to ever lead the prestigious race. Afraid, however, that she wouldn’t have enough fuel to finish the race, let alone win, she pulled off the throttle and settled for fourth.
“Not going for the victory in ’05 is the single greatest regret of my life,” Patrick said. “I promise you I won’t ever do that again. What’s the point of putting yourself through a tiresome, grueling, four-hour race if you’re not on the track to taste victory?”
Since then, amidst controversy and criticism and in a male-dominated field, Danica has spent most of her career testing the boundaries of her sport – with plenty of crashes, accidents and mistakes along the way. And in doing so, the 5-foot-2, 100-pound fireball has been called everything from reckless to unworthy by her critics.
“Male or female, there is no substitute for talent,” Bobby Rahal, the first team owner to take a chance on Danica, said. “She not only wants the challenge, she looks for it. That’s what champions do. They are not afraid and they don’t shy from difficult times.”
In her third season as part of the Indy Racing League, Patrick was successful, but winless. She finally broke through on April 20, 2007 in Motegi, Japan, where Danica became the first female driver in history to win an IndyCar race.
“Danica’s win makes me think it’s even more possible than ever that I can make it at the elite level,” said Brea Lopez, a successful 19-year-old racer who hopes to one day compete in NASCAR. “It gives us hope. She’s setting the bar high and breaking down the doors.”
Tips from the Great Ones
Danica Patrick lives her life on the edge. She’s not reckless, she’s not overly aggressive… and she’s certainly not fearful. The key to her success is that she continues to take risks in spite of her failures. She continues to push the envelope.
Danica’s road to victory wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. But thanks to her and the chances she’s taken along the way, the road to greatness may be a little less bumpy for aspiring female racers like Brea Lopez.
I had the chance to speak with Danica Patrick the first time she was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2005. She told me the only thing that would cost her a shot at victory was fear. Fear and failure often walk hand-in-hand. Without fear, you know no limits. But failure is not something to avoid. If you let it, failure can be a great teacher. Mistakes can be accounted for and learned from.
The key is once you’ve realized that you’ve made a mistake…move on! Don’t dwell! Fail fast and move on.
Risks are everywhere in life, and you won’t get far without taking them. You may win, you may lose, or even crash, but if you want be the best at what you do, you’ve got to go for it. If you ease off the throttle, others will leave you in the dust on their way to the checkered flag of your profession.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” NBA legend Michael Jordan, who was known for his late-game heroics in addition to six national titles, once said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games – 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”