People in the News: Danica Patrick | Level 8 | By Little Fox

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[Series Introduction]

Young newscasters Ben and Olivia introduce well-known people from around the world. These “people in the news” have accomplished extraordinary things in science, sports, music, business, politics, and more!


OLIVIA: Hello, Little Fox readers, and thanks for tuning in to another edition of People in the News. I hope you've got your seat belts on because . . . Vroom! We're going to be traveling at very high speeds today!

BEN: That's right, Olivia! Today's person in the news is the most famous female race car driver in the world—an American named Danica Patrick. She's the first woman ever to win a major IndyCar championship, and she's set some other pretty amazing records for female drivers. In fact, lots of fans think she's changed the sport of race car driving forever.
Danica was born on March 25, 1982, and grew up mostly in the state of Illinois, about 160 kilometers from Chicago. In their spare time, Danica's parents enjoyed being around fast vehicles like snowmobiles, motorcycles, and cars. In fact, they even met at a race—a snowmobile event where Danica's mother was working as a mechanic.
Danica got her own start in racing when she was around ten years old. Her sister, Brooke, wanted to try go-kart racing, so the whole family went along to the track. Brooke didn't enjoy the sport much, but Danica loved it—even though she crashed into a wall while driving forty kilometers per hour! Despite the crash she knew how to read the go-kart's tachometer right away, and she had sharp instincts when it came to correcting her mistakes. Her parents instantly sensed that their daughter had a special gift for driving.
Danica spent the next five years racing in go-kart competitions, traveling around the country to participate in important races. She was just 12 when she won her first national go-karting championship, and soon she realized that she wanted to be a race car driver one day.

OLIVIA: So when did Danica start racing cars instead of go-karts?

BEN: Well, when she was 16, Danica decided to start racing Formula cars—those are race cars with open wheels outside the car's main body and a single seat for the driver. Danica knew this would be difficult, especially since it meant leaving high school and moving to England, where many drivers launch their careers.
After obtaining a high school equivalency diploma in the United States, she made the move across the Atlantic, living in a small town about seventy kilometers from London. Danica was doing something very exciting—driving over 320 kilometers per hour in a series of challenging races—but she later described this as the loneliest time in her life. As the only girl on the team, she was ignored and teased by her male teammates. Many of the others around the track—coaches, mechanics, even the owner of her racing team—also dismissed her as a lightweight girl who wasn't strong or tough enough to last in the sport. But gradually the difficult situation taught Danica something very valuable for her career: how to stay unemotional and calm during competition.
In 2000 Danica moved up to the next level in Formula racing, and entered the Formula Ford Festival, an important event in motorsports. She won second place there, the best-ever finish for an American, male or female. Gradually Danica began to attract sponsors—people who could support her career with money, equipment, and other resources. In 2002 she moved back to the United States and began racing IndyCars, the American version of open-wheeled race cars.
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[Little Fox Introduction]

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