Following a truly groundbreaking career as the most successful female professional race car driver ever and one of the most recognizable personalities in the history motorsports, Danica Patrick announced in late 2017 that she would be retiring from full-time racing at the end of the season. After seven years on the IndyCar circuit between 2005 and 2011 and six more as a full-time driver in the top two series in NASCAR, it signaled the end of a relatively short career for such a high-profile driver. Though she showed promise as a fast, young competitor coming out of a moderately successful stint in open-wheel racing, Danica never did live up to her potential in NASCAR. Like, not even close. Her average career finish was a mere 23.8, and she never finished a race higher than sixth.
Despite that, she was successful. Not so much for her driving abilities, but more so her marketability, the fact that she was a woman in a male-dominated sport and because she was very, very attractive. Did she play that to her advantage in a fanbase that was 90 percent men? You bet she did, and there are is plenty of photo evidence to prove it. And though there are countless images of Danica that helped define her individual brand, there are a handful of others that stand out from the crowd.
So here are 15 photos of Danica Patrick we’ll never forget, as she rides off into the sunset of her professional racing career.
Remember when Danica made her first big break on the racing scene? It involved her initial major sponsorship with GoDaddy, the previously unknown internet domain and web-hosting company, and they wasted no time playing the sex-symbol card right off the bat. And really, how can you blame them? Forever and always, some of our earliest memories of Danica when she finally went big time in the sport will be images of those Super Bowl commercials with her in a skintight GoDaddy getup, summoning the camera with those “come-hither” eyes and her flowing dark locks blowing back in the wind.
Hey, sex sells, right? And so became the foundation upon which we regarded the only woman competing against 40 other men in the top series of American stock car racing.
15 Hot Rod
There’s nothing better than a hot babe paired together with a hot car in a picture. Case in point: this timeless shot of Danica showing plenty of skin in one of the many photoshoots she’s posed for over the years.
Though still relatively early in her career in the shot above, Danica already knew how to make love to the camera while channeling her inner sexuality straight through your computer screen and into your craving eyeballs.
Never shy to show off her “assets,” her barely-there black bikini bottom and deep-red top contrast perfectly against the yellow paint of the classic rod, making for a bikini-calendar-esque photo that will surely hang in men’s garages and auto body shops across the country for many years to come.
13 TV Commercial
Screenshots certainly have their applicable value; there’s no two ways about it. But for many celebrities, a screenshot of an embarrassing tweet, an awkward pose or a moment in time that isn’t so bad in motion picture but looks quite compromising in a single frame can lead to endless humiliation and a lifetime of mocking memes.
That’s exactly what happened with this naughty little freeze-frame of Danica in the midst of filming a Super Bowl commercial for her main sponsor, GoDaddy, back in 2014. Without knowing the context of the ad, the first thing that comes to anyone’s dirty mind is that this Danica’s stark naked and making a dirty, dirty skin flick, and this is clearly her satisfied “O face.”
Well, that’s not the case at all, but this untimely shot will live on in perpetual infamy nonetheless.
12 Horsepower And Heels
Speaking of hot rods, Sports Illustrated sure knew the perfect prop for this famous shot of Danica when she posed for a spread in their 2009 Swimsuit Edition.
The heels, the hair, the sultry look she’s shooting the camera and the uber-suggestive lying-down pose on what’s probably a million-dollar vehicle are enough to drive men wild – and we’re not just talking gearheads here.
Also, can we all agree that black is definitely her best color? That strappy little bikini complements her silky-smooth skin and perfectly-toned body like four tires and fuel compliment a perfectly-timed pit stop. Shots like these are the ones that can make you easily forget that she can probably wheel a race car better than 99 percent of the men reading this right now.
11 Tan Lines
Danica Patrick finally got her stubborn little act together back in 2014 and opened herself an Instagram account, much to the delight of men with smartphones across the globe. At right about the same time, she got heavy into yoga, fitness and healthy-eating habits.
She didn’t post too many selfies at first, but once she hit her stride – and probably when she saw the double-taps come avalanching in for her gym and workout posts – she started pouring it on strong with salacious shots like this one.
Now, correct us if we’re wrong here, but there’s something about teeny bikinis and tan lines paired with a toned, flat tummy that can instantly raise a man’s heartbeat. This Instagram snap is definitely one for the all-time record books!
10 Taking It Off For Sports Illustrated
Not that you’ll complain too much, but just for a moment, let’s go right back to another one of Danica’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shots. This one, from the 2008 edition is perhaps her most widely circulated photograph ever.
If you didn’t know it already, you might think Danica was a bona fide swimsuit model who, for some reason, is wearing a blue racing firesuit on a beach.
We’re not quite sure what exactly the point of including her race gear in a sandy beach shot was, but the fact that it doesn’t shield our view of two of her best physical assets and her toned, curvy midsection is a-OK with us. She almost looks like a super-sexy, bikini-clad mermaid with wavy dark hair and a golden-brown tan. And, guys... that’s hot.
When she’s not steaming up camera lenses with yoga poses and bikini shots on the beach, Danica’s prowling the infield at NASCAR venues around the circuit – at least she was when she was still a full-time race car driver.
And in her six-or-so years driving stock cars around the country, she came to develop a signature race-day look. When she wasn’t strapped in behind the wheel of her No. 10 race car, she was sporting a sponsor-covered firesuit, tinted aviator sunglasses and her flowing dark hair down around her shoulders.
Like Richard Petty with his cowboy hat and belt buckles, this look was “The Danica,” and no photo portrayed it better than the one above from the 2017 race season. This is exactly how fans and drivers alike will remember Danica at the track.
Yowza! We knew Danica, probably hit the squat rack from time to time, but who knew she had that kind of rockin’ little booty? Seriously, its ample shapeliness in that cheeky little bikini bottom is more than enough to distract us from the seriously impressive handstand she’s pulling off on what looks like the edge of a swimming pool.
Look, she obviously knew what she was doing when she uploaded this attention-grabbing Instagram post, but you’ve gotta hand it to her. When you’ve worked as hard as she has to sculpt a body like that and can do crazy cirque-like party tricks, well then more power to her. Either way, Lord knows this pic will remain a (male) fan-favorite for as long as the internet is still a thing.
This may or may not be the last Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition photo of Danica on this list, but when you do as good a job as they did capturing the sensual side of her personality, the pics are bound to end up in the never-forget-this-photo category.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Danica could have ended her career as a race car driver and taken up swimsuit modeling at the drop of the hat, and she would have been equally – and if we’re being honest, probably more – successful as she was when she called it quits on racing. In fact, she could go straight to modeling right now and make an entire second career for herself.
There’s something about a beach that makes her look right at home, and when all she’s wearing is a low-cut bikini bottom, that makes it all the better.
6 Boat Bums
There it is again, although this shot leaves ever so slightly more to the imagination than that poolside handstand one a couple entries ago. Clearly, Danica’s proud of her ample backside, and she’s not afraid to show it. Hey, like mama always said: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
But let’s expand our horizons a little bit here and take notice of a few other things: she’s got a pretty, blond-hair friend, they’re on a boat outside a major city, and they’re looking off into the distance in a super-artsy, thoughtful way. All the ingredients of a perfect Instagram pic.
Did we lose you there? Figured as much. Alright, go ahead and stare at the bottom right corner. Either way, we’ll tuck this one away into the Danica photo hall of fame.
5 Shape Magazine Cover
Over the years, Danica made her way onto the cover of more than just a few magazines. Here she is gracing the cover of Shape for their May edition back in 2009.
Now, it’s probably true that airbrush artists had their way, nipping and tucking a few different areas of her already super-toned physique for this cover shot, but good gracious, y’all! Get a load of that rock-hard six-pack she’s got going on! No telling how many sit-ups and crunches she did to sculpt that amazing core, but she puts even professional fitness models to shame with those washboard abs.
Lovely as ever and rockin’ a bikini like only she can, this cover photo deserves to be framed and mounted to supplement her probably-empty trophy room.
4 A Woman Scorned
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Danica Patrick is no exception to the rule. This infamous shot was taken immediately after a race in Daytona back in 2015, in which Danica was running near the front of the field with three laps to go and a rare top-10 finish in sight when Denny Hamlin rammed into the back of her, causing her to spin, crash and ultimately drop out of the race.
Now, while she typically maintained a feisty attitude around the track, never did she have as furious a reaction to a crash as this. Things almost even got physical before race officials stepped in and made the peace. Hamlin might have escaped physical punishment from Danica that day, but if looks could kill, he would have been six feet under in the blink of an eye.
3 Victory Lane
Danica’s one and only win in her 13-year professional racing career came in 2008, when she claimed the checkered flag in the Indy Japan 300 in Montegi, Japan while driving for Andretti Green Racing. She led only the final three laps of the race, but it got her to Victory Lane and instantly into the history books as the only woman ever to win a race on the IndyCar circuit.
Now, that being her lone victory between both IndyCar and NASCAR means that this photo is the only one of its kind that exists. It’s the only trophy she ever won, the only champagne shower she ever got to take and the only time she got to strike that race-winning pose for all the international sports media. Definitely a memorable shot.
2 Beach Bums
What else can we say about Danica’s shapely posterior that we haven’t already said? It’s a masterpiece. A work of art. A stare-inducing thing of beauty that’ll have you heating up beneath the collar.
This sandy beach-bum photo with Danica and two of her lovely pals was a pretty open-and-shut case for a podium finish in the all-time memorable photos of our favorite female race car driver. Against a beautiful backdrop of blue skies and turquoise waters, her petite-yet-shapely curves leave us wishing for less sand and more zoom.
At this point, it seems like she was born to wear either a full-body firesuit or a curve-hugging two-piece bikini, because you almost never see her in regular, casual clothes. But that’s perfectly fine with us.
1 The Announcement
We knew it was coming all along, but it was still a bit of a shock. Danica’s contract with Setwart-Haas Racing was up at the end of 2017, and they opted not to renew her deal. Without a ride for next year and with no prospects in sight as the season wore on, the inevitable was building to crescendo during the final race weekend of the year in November 2017.
Finally, with an emotional, tear-filled press conference on the final Friday of the season, Danica announced her retirement from full-time professional racing. Even though she has plans to run both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in 2018, this picture captured one of the final moments of Danica’s career as an elite-level driver and will live on as a tribute to the greatest career by a female in professional motorsports history.