Danica Patrick rebuilding pouty, pampered image

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

It's very likely that not even Danica Patrick would have believed that she would grow up to be the most famous female race car driver the world has ever seen.

On the day that she slipped into a go-kart at age 10, all she wanted to do was beat her older sister. Now she's beating some of the best drivers on the planet.

Out of her driver's suit she has become one of the most photographed beauties in all of celebrityland.

At 27-year-old, the native of Roscoe, Ill., is at the top of her game both on and off the track. Yet she still has goals to win the Indianapolis 500 and emerge victorious at the Rexall Edmonton Indy as well. Oh, yeah, and there's that NASCAR thing that everyone in racing, it seems, wants her to try out.

The world, indeed, is Danica Patrick's oyster.

Just a year ago Patrick was on the receiving end of some critical reviews -- even after she won her first and so far only Indy Racing League event in Japan. There were suggestions that she was pouty, pampered and too quick to blame others for her mistakes.

Most of that, however, came as a result of jealousy. But even she admits that some it was deserved.

"My personality is definitely a passionate personality," she told Sun Media's Terry Jones at last year's Rexall Edmonton Indy. "I'm very focused and very into what I'm doing. There are drivers out there that are more calm and there are drivers out there that are more excited and that goes right across the board.

"I think it's just inside you. Either you are passionate and wear your heart on your sleeve or you're not or you're in between. It's not a learned thing, it's a genetic thing."

Those comments came not long after Patrick was involved in a so-called cat fight with Milka Duno, one which was the lead item on ESPN's Sportscentre.

At the Edmonton race, her own Andretti-Green teammate, Marco Andretti, bumped her from behind and she spun out with a flat tire, finishing 18th. She wouldn't talk with the media afterward.

But this season, Patrick has been hard at work rebuilding her image.

"I've learned from the past. Look, the emotional Danica is still there, but there's a time and a place," she said in an interview just prior to this year's Indy 500.

"The time and place is not every weekend. So it's just easier. I think I always felt in the past like I had to prove to people that I cared and that I wasn't happy being fifth or 12th or something by being mad.

"It just doesn't really pay off, and it turns people off. It's a lot easier and a lot more fun to be relaxed.

"It's all bunnies and rainbows around here now."

Patrick laughed at that last line, mostly because she is one of the most competitive athletes in sport and there's going to come a time, probably sooner than later, when her temper gets her in trouble again.

But for now as she gets ready for the Edmonton race, she's enjoying her best season ever at Andretti Green Racing with four top-five finishes in six races, highlighted by a third place at the Indy 500.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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