Danica Patrick takes a chance with EPIX documentaryNASCAR drivers Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. talk following their qualifying laps for the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
Danica Patrick grabs headlines in the world of racing even when she doesn’t win. She’s appeared on so many magazine covers — from two editions of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue to TV Guide — she’s one of the most recognizable faces in sports. Toss in starring in more Super Bowl commercials that any other celebrity — 14 — and it’s understandable why the Illinois native has been repeatedly approached to be the subject of a documentary.
Patrick declined offers over the past 15 years until she was approached by broadcaster Hannah Storm with the idea of putting together a film that would document the sports superstar’s life and career. Storm was convincing enough that the documentary “Danica” will debut Nov. 8 on EPIX.
The reason Patrick was so hesitant to do a documentary was that she was the subject of one such film examination when she was 19 years old. Having a camera crew follow her and doing constant interviews for the film ended up being exhausting.
“Since then, my agent would call and he would say, ‘We have this opportunity. Be open-minded.’ I would ask if it was a documentary and he would say, ‘Well, yes.’ I would tell him that I just wasn’t interested in doing a documentary,” Patrick says. “I’m not in the business of exposing myself. I’m not a reality star, I’m a racecar driver. If I was going to do a documentary we needed to agree on — and everyone needed to understand — what the point of it would be.”
The pitch for the EPIX project started the same. But the factor that changed her mind was Storm would direct the film. Patrick has known Storm for years, and through all that time the pair had built the kind of trust that finally convinced Patrick to agree to the project.
The point of the film is to show Patrick as she’s never been seen before. It looks at her as a competitor eagerly preparing for her next race, a woman contemplating when she wants to start a family and a new business mogul making her way through very different projects from a career making left turns on a race track.
Along with all her business practices, which includes a clothing line, Patrick has written a healthy living book that includes 50 recipes she created and photographed. Storm’s approach was to remind the public the race track is only a part of Patrick’s story. Her life away from the track could always become even more important depending on how long she stays behind the wheel.
“She is historic in her profession, and she is a role model and an inspiration in that way. I think you are going to see so many sides of her that people don’t know, but overall, I would say, incredibly relatable,” Storm says. “Any working woman out there who is grappling with the idea of when to have children for instance, that’s something we touch upon or how to find that balance in your life, how to tap into what really makes you happy. Something that we don’t take time to do.
“So those are the kinds of universal themes that you are going to see and probably as Danica said, she’s soft, but she’s also just she’s so relatable, but she’s so giving.”
The reason Patrick is so linked to racing is she has been behind a wheel since she was a child competing in go-karts. After racing at various levels in different racecars, Patrick attracted national attention in May 2005, when she stunned the world by leading 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first Indianapolis 500. That made her the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race.
Three years later, in April 2008, Patrick became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series with her victory in the IndyCar Series Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan.
All the success on the track has put Patrick in an exclusive group, but she’s cautious of those who think that makes her all that different.
“I know I live a unique life. I’m not naive. But I also am living in it every day. I’m a regular human being that fights all the same things that everyone in the room does, different problems, different fears, but all the same,” Patrick says. “I truly believe everyone reaches the same level of fear, of insecurity. It’s just about varying degrees of things. So I guess that if I were to point one thing out as being something that I feel like people will be surprised about is how soft I can get.
“In my heart, that’s probably the core of me. So all of the things around the house the dogs, my woman cave, all of those things are ways to nurture that, to develop that, because there is a lot of me that is very driven, very competitive, very serious, but there is the core of me is actually incredibly soft, I feel, and so I hope that comes across in the film.”
It took years for Patrick to finally agree to be the subject of another documentary. Now that it’s done, she hopes those who watch will be inspired. The fact she has found success in such a male-dominated world has already made Patrick an inspiration to many.
“I think that’s the power of what sports can do,” Patrick says. “It is a little daunting. What I have realized over the years — especially with racing — is that when something is not going well you wonder what is the point. But when a person comes up to you or a Make-a-Wish child wants to meet you, that’s the point.
“They don’t give a crap of you have had a bad day or week or month. They are looking at what you have done in your life. That’s what keeps me going. Things I have done have put me in this place to inspire people and I am greatly humbled by that. When things aren’t going well in my day job I remind myself that doesn’t mean I’m not doing overall good.”
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