April 20, 2020
Twelve years ago today, 26-year-old Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Montegi in Montegi, Japan, making her the first female winner in IndyCar racing history.
Patrick became involved in racing as a young girl and as a teenager moved to England in pursuit of better training opportunities. In 2002, after returning to the United States, she began driving for the Rahal Letterman Racing team, owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 champ Bobby Rahal and late-night talk-show host David Letterman. In 2005, Patrick started competing in IndyCar events, which include the famed Indianapolis 500 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.
On May 29, 2005, Patrick made her Indy 500 debut, becoming just the fourth female driver ever to compete in the celebrated 500-mile race, which was first held in 1911 and today is considered one of auto racing’s premier events. (Driver Janet Guthrie first broke the gender barrier at the Indy 500 in 1977.) During Patrick’s inaugural Indy 500, she led the race for 19 laps, marking the first time a woman ever led a lap in the competition. In the end, the diminutive driver, who stands 5’2″ and tips the scales at 100 pounds, finished the race in fourth place. She later earned Rookie of the Year honors for the Indy Racing League’s 2005 season and finished 12th in the overall standings.