Danica Patrick cites positivity, perseverance for success in male-dominated racing industry


Whether you’re sitting in a classroom in Berea or driving around a racetrack at 200-plus miles per hour, former NASCAR and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick assured students there are more similarities than they would think.

Patrick was the latest of a long list of accomplished actors, athletes and other celebrities to visit the campus as part of BW’s Voices of Inspiration.

The Voices of Inspiration aims to bring students a unique perspective outside of the perspective their everyday professors can provide for them.

This semester, the voices are coming from very unique sources, said Hospitality and Sport Management Dept. Chair, Dr. Charles Campisi.

From the first black female astronaut, to the first woman to win an IndyCar race, as well as the first author to reveal his writing process in real time, the voices are coming from people who were the firsts.

“I think what BW is trying to do with the Voices of Inspiration this year, is to bring people in who have broken barriers,” Campisi said. “Just to show people what is possible, especially the students. I think we’ve been conditioned to what we see is what is possible but there’s a lot of things that we haven’t seen that is possible.”

Patrick was interviewed by University President Bob Helmer on Sept. 28 in front of hundreds of students, faculty and even some of Patrick’s biggest fans.

The topics ranged from staying grounded metaphorically and literally, as well as what it’s like to own a winery, what type of class Patrick would teach at BW, and what it is like being around superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers all the time.

The conversation also included bits of information that encouraged students to pursue their dreams, and that anything can be achieved.

However, the main portion of the interview was spent on a deeper conversation about how Patrick managed to succeed in such a male dominated industry.

“The main thing I have done all of my life is to put myself in different scenarios that I might not be prepared for,” Patrick said. “You don’t grow from being over qualified for a position or grow from staying in your comfort zone. You are forced to grow when you are under-qualified or uncomfortable.”

Patrick’s rose to prominence in IndyCar racing, where the top 30 racers right now are all men. She also competed in the NASCAR Monster Energy Series, which currently does not have a full-time female driver.

One of her main points was that if she can make it, anyone can make it but her main proponent was her positive attitude.

“I couldn’t deal with negative people,” Patrick said. “We had to be positive that this was going to work, and that we’d get a win. If we weren’t then it’s almost like why am I climbing in the car if I don’t think it will happen.”

The effects of bringing Patrick into town was seen all around campus. During the week building up to the event checkered flags would pop up around campus, and Campisi ran a giveaway where students could win a free, autographed copy of Patrick’s book, and the opportunity to meet the former driver.

Campisi said the giveaway generated a lot of buzz and was successful at getting students into the crowd.

“It helped in spreading the word and generating some interest,” Campisi said. “The exposure to our followers and then the followers of everyone who liked or favorited and shared our posts provided a multiplier effect. Also, the chance to win VIP passes and an autographed book from Danica was something people were eager to try to win.”