‘Not everyone likes you back, or treats you well.’
When I was a kid, I tried everything: T-ball, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, band, choir, track, tumbling. You name it, I did it. Racing was just one of them. My parents kept my sister and me very active, and it was a great way to be able to discover what I was good at. Let’s face it—normally what we’re good at is also what we love. People ask me all the time, “What’s your favorite track?” and I go, “I don’t know, whatever one I do good at.”
I just got an email from a very old friend who actually helped me get my first major sponsor in America. He said, “You’re just one of my favorites. I always liked talking to you and I’m always so happy for you. I was trying to get another girl into racing and she wasn’t as dedicated as you were, she wasn’t sacrificing what needed to be sacrificed. I’m sure she’s doing fine, but she wasn’t committed enough.” I never felt like I was super-duper dedicated. I was just doing what I wanted to do. So it was easy.
I started racing Indy cars when I was 23 and I’m 35 now. When I first started, people asked about being a role model—“What do you have to tell young girls?” And I was like, “I’m a young girl! I don’t know.” I moved to England when I was 16, in my junior year of high school. I was out of the house, I didn’t have my parents around. You learn in a crash-course style how to protect yourself, how to deal with the real world. It’s not all kittens and rainbows. My parents say when I came home from England, I was cold. But I had learned that you can’t just be super-nice to everybody—not everyone likes you back, or treats you well.
In the world of racing—having a sponsor and managers and people like that around me—I had to learn how to speak confidently. I can remember being told in the very beginning, “Don’t go into a meeting and tell them, ‘I think …’ Say, ‘I know …’ You’ve got to be sure of yourself.” That advice has always stuck with me.
In 2013, Patrick became the first woman to win the pole position at the Daytona 500.