The pain was real. Some 48 hours after being put through Danica Patrick’s fitness test by Danica Patrick herself, it’s the basis for her upcoming book and the sort of thing that will occupy her time when retirement from racing comes, I wasn’t constantly sore. But every time I stood up came a sharp reminder from my legs that Patrick had kicked my butt.
This was the workout: 100 air squats, 100 push-ups (on my knees), 100 butterfly sit-ups and 100 lunges, all timed to see how long it took to complete the set. That’s the benchmark for more than 700 participants in the trial program for Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” book, due out next year.
With Patrick’s driving days possibly nearing an end in the not-too-distant future, what might have seemed like an off-track hobby is being fast-tracked into something far bigger. She launched the clothing line “Warrior by Danica Patrick” on HSN after participating in the design process. And she developed the workouts and meal plans for the book.
Ask Patrick about how much longer she will race, and her reply doesn’t suggest the question is off-target.
“As long as it’s fun and it hasn’t been super fun lately,” she said before the season started. “But every year I start the year, I always have hope that it’s going to be the year that things are going to click. I understand my career hasn’t progressed.
“Maybe it’s regressed? Why is that? Am I worse driver than I was a couple of years ago? Probably not,” she said. “I don’t think anybody gets worse. So it’s really a matter of all the factors around you.”
Patrick turned 35 last month. She has been racing more than half her life, building her brand along the journey and using a marketing strategy that has made her one of the most recognized female athletes in the world despite her limited on-track success. She is ranked 29th through the first seven races of the season.
Patrick drives for one of NASCAR’s top teams, but the sponsorship that was so easy to come by during earlier days remember the GoDaddy TV ads? is now a harder sell. Before the season, Stewart-Haas Racing and primary sponsor Nature’s Bakery became embroiled in a lawsuit over missed payments by the sponsor and what Patrick did or didn’t deliver on behalf of the brand. It was an 11th-hour loss of about $15 million and it shed light on how hard it is to sell even the most marketable of drivers.
Now in her fifth full season in NASCAR’s top series, Patrick has yet to win a race and she only has six top-10 finishes in 161 starts.
Make no mistake: She can drive. She has led laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.
But her lone victory in the IndyCar Series came in 2008 and sticks out as a glaring reminder of how her superstar status outstrips her racing resume.
It’s been a popular thought for some time that Patrick eventually would make the transition to a lifestyle career, maybe becoming some version of a Rachael Ray type. This much is true: Patrick appears capable of doing pretty much anything. She can whip up a five-course gourmet meal, pair wines, paint, and dress for either black tie events or black dirt at the race track.
Is carving out a space in the lucrative health and fitness business where she ultimately wants to be?
“Sure,” she said after a long pause. “If I’m going to do all this and write a cookbook and a fitness program, I’ll take this as far as I can to motivate people to be successful. The program works. I know it works.”
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