Danica Patrick, role model and racing pioneer, hosts The 2018 ESPYS

The 2018 ESPYS – Danica takes the wheel
Danica Patrick hosts The 2018 ESPYS Wednesday, July 18, on ABC.

Some people are born to be a role model, others have it thrust upon them.

Danica Patrick, recently retired NASCAR and IndyCar driver and host of this week’s ESPY Awards, considers herself in the latter category. Early in her career, she hadn’t the foggiest notion of how to be a role model for young women, being in her teens herself. But as time went on, she looked within and came up with a few answers.

“The nucleus of it,” the 36-year-old Wisconsin native explains,  “is that you’ve got to be yourself. I think that I didn’t really have to answer the question. There was nothing about being a role model that I had to figure out. Being a role model is being yourself and being honest. So it’s about finding something that you really, really love to do and chase it and work really, really hard. And so all I had to do was tell the story about how I got to where I was. But being a role model I think is an extremely honoring role and I don’t take it for granted.”

Wednesday, July 18, on ABC, Patrick hosts The 2018 ESPYS live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, ESPN’s annual recognition of the past year’s major sports achievements, unforgettable moments and top performers and performances. She’ll be joined by a laundry list of celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment, which at this writing had not yet been announced.

Danica Patrick hosts The 2018 ESPYS Wednesday, July 18, on ABC.

Patrick is fresh off a career that saw her achieve a number of firsts for women in motorsports, among them the first to win a major-league open-wheel race, the first to lead laps and score a top-five finish at the Indianapolis 500, the first to win a NASCAR Cup Series pole, and most top-10 finishes in a Cup Series season. She also owns all-time Cup Series marks for starts, laps led and top-10 finishes by a female driver.

Looking back on it, Patrick is proud of everything she has achieved in racing but she doesn’t use that as a yardstick of her success. For that, she looks to those closest to her.

“It’s more important to get the answers from the other people like my family or my friends,” she says. “But they tell me they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s just like you’re in high school.’ So to be that same person, to go through all the transitions that I’ve done and have all the exposure and lights on me that (to be told) you still are the same person, I think that that’s important and everything else is fake. That’s the stuff that lasts forever.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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