Earning the title of the most successful woman in the history of American Open-Wheel racing is not an easy feat. However, Danica Patrick has acquired it against all odds. Her win at the Indy Japan 300 held in 2008, and third place in the Indianapolis 500 in 2009, are proof of her incredible driving skills.
Racing is a sport that is filled with adrenaline and depends a lot on the driver’s mental strength. Many racers find it difficult to stay calm when things get tough. Parker, however, uses something innate on the racetrack to keep her mind calm and clear. She believes that breathing well is what makes it easy for the mind to maintain control. It's a lesson that comes from the yoga classes she regularly takes.
A Career that Started Early
Patrick started her career in racing in 1992, at the tender age of ten, when she began go-karting at Sugar River Raceway in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Later, at the Winner’s Circle Driver Development Academy, she met John Mecom Jr., a former owner of an Indy 500 team. It was Mecom who made arrangements for Patrick’s stay in the U.K. to race. Her stay in England lasted for three years as she raced in Formula Vauxhall and Formula Ford, and succeeded in securing the second-place in Britain’s Formula Ford Festival. She then returned to the United States to join Rahal Letterman Racing in 2002.
Her practice in yoga off the track has helped Patrick attain tranquility and control whilst behind the wheel. Patrick recalls starting yoga at the age of 19 when she was living in England. Now, when she feels tense while driving, Patrick remembers to always breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This yoga practice emphasizes breathing easily in order to keep one’s heart and mind mellow.
Rubbing Off on the Teammates
While Patrick’s fellow Sprint Cup rookie and partner, Ricky Stenhouse, once took a mild interest in yoga, he does not believe the practice is his cup of tea. Patrick recalls that Stenhouse could not ‘get over’ the Zen talk and after joining her for five minutes of stretching. He got bored and left. Patrick, however, is still hopeful that she will be able to convince Stenhouse to take yoga seriously.
Another teammate of Patrick’s, Tony Stewart, recently suffered a burst fracture in his L1 vertebra, as a result of an accident on a sand rail. Since then, Stewart has started working out more and is maintaining a healthier way of life. Patrick recalls Stewart becoming involved with yoga and Pilates, and hopes the new health routine will help him achieve a full recovery.
Besides calming one down and igniting the body’s natural healing process, yoga has a multitude of other benefits. Something as simple as breathing well has proven to be helpful in building muscle strength, improving flexibility, perfecting one’s posture, and protecting the spine. And as Patrick advocates, it can also make it easy to calm oneself down even while driving a high-speed car on the racetrack.