ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Simply say the name ‘Danica’ and most people in this country will associate it with Danica Patrick. The Roscoe, Illinois native certainly made a name for herself with her racing career.

But before she led the Indy 500, before she raced in NASCAR, and before she hosted the ESPY’s she was a young woman filled with goals and dreams of making it big. While she was still an unknown to the general public and to nearly all racing fans I interviewed her at her family’s home in Roscoe in 2002. I take you back to that day in my latest installment of ‘Stateline Sports Memories.’

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[2002 STORY]

ROSCOE, Ill. — “I wanted to be like a veterinarian, a singer, you name it. I went through it all, but umm, I found my passion.”

Patrick during her youth saw herself in many careers until still at a young age the racing bug bit her and it stuck for good.

Patrick began racing Go Karts at age ten. In ’96 she was the Grand National Go Kart champion. As she grew into her teens she went to England where she competed in the Formula Ford Festival.

In 2000 Patrick became the first female racer to reach the podium with the top drivers. Her ultimate goal is to race in the Indy 500.

“It’s not far off,” said Patrick. “If the right deal came through and somebody wanted me in the race I would do it. As long as I felt ready.”

Patrick is 20 years old. In the next couple years she could be ready for Indy if she gets a little more seasoning. She’s hoping to land a ride on one of two circuits, the Formula Atlantic which is a feeder program for CART and the new Infinity Pro Series which is a feeder for the Indy Racing League.

“There are plenty of teams out there that are looking for drivers and looking for talent, and as soon as somebody gives me a chance I can prove to them that it’ll be worthwhile,” said Patrick.

Patrick already has several big-name racing contacts, people like Bobby Rahal, Janet Guthrie and Sam Hornish Jr. Racing is all about meeting and knowing the right people. Being a woman racer has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages.

“It’s a little bit easier to get attention and to create the interest with somebody,” said Patrick, ‘But when it comes time for someone to sign a check or to actually put you in their car or sponsor you it’s more difficult than a male because even though you might have the record and the credentials to do the job, still in the back of their mind they haven’t seen a female go out there and do it, and I don’t blame them, but anything good is a bit of a gamble. So somebody has to gamble and take that chance with me…win the lottery!”

NOTE: Patrick went on to become the first female driver ever to lead the Indy 500. She finished fourth as a rookie. Her best finish was third place in 2009. She also became the first woman to win an IndyCar race when she won the Japan race in 2008. After 2011 she moved to NASCAR full time. In 2013 she became the first woman to claim the pole position for the Daytona 500. She had 14 top-ten finishes in NASCAR events but she never won one. Her best finish was fourth place in Las Vegas in 2011. That is the best finish ever by a female racer in NASCAR history.

Patrick concluded her racing career in 2018 after doing the ‘Danica Double.’ She competed in the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. She now hosts a podcast in which she interviews fascinating people from all walks of life, and she has pursued a career in fitness and healthy living.