The 30-year-old will race from the pole position at Sunday's Daytona 500, making her the first woman to start the race at the head of the pack in the 54-year history of NASCAR's signature race. She clinched the top position in a qualifying race Thursday with a time of more than 196 miles per hour.
Patrick, who gained fame for racing with the boys and her racy Go Daddy ads, talked to PARADE about the upcoming racing season, being a role model to young women, and more.
On her goals for the 2013 NASCAR season.
“I feel like we need to start the year off and see where we're at and see where we fall into place, and then we start to create expectation levels, whether it be top 20s or top 18s or whatever it may be. Every year is new and different and every now and again you get a team that pops up there and runs really well that you might not have expected, and I hope I'm one of them. But we'll be ready to be patient and learn, and I couldn't have asked for a better group to do it with my crew chief Tony Gibson and the Go Daddy Chevrolet team.”
On what goes through her mind right before a race begins.
“I just try to stay relaxed and focus on what I’ve got to do. I don’t have a lot of superstitions or pre-race rituals. I just try to think about how the race will unfold, especially in the first few laps.”
On how professional racing has changed since her career began.
“A lot has changed, but nothing’s changed more than the sponsorship situation. With the economy the way it’s been the last few years, the funding is harder and harder to come by for every team and driver. I’m extremely fortunate that Go Daddy has supported me for several years and has stood behind me even as I transitioned from IndyCar to NASCAR. Not everyone is as fortunate.