Just because Danica Patrick is hanging up her NASCAR helmet, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the career of the most recognizable female face in motorsports.
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During a teary press conference in November, Patrick announced she plans to finish her career in 2018 with a bang: competing in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.
However, at age 35, she she’ll be anything but inactive. The business-savvy race driver has spent years building up an extensive brand that will keep her more than busy off the speedways.
“Retirement was something that at first seemed really scary, but the more I thought about it, the more I was like, ‘No, not really,'” Patrick said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” in a recent interview.
“I feel like this is where my life should be headed, and sometimes we just get kind of nudged there,” she said at the November news conference. “Sometimes it’s big nudges and sometimes it’s little.”
Patrick said she was initially anxious when considering retirement, but the closer it gets, the more excited she becomes about investing her time into other ventures.
An entrepreneur in her own right, Patrick has spent years building a brand up around her image, which encompasses fitness, health and wine. In 2009, Patrick purchased a Napa Valley winery she named Somnium — Latin for dream. In June, she started a line of activewear called “Warrior” and published her first book.
Patrick told CNBC that leaving NASCAR in the rearview mirror will allow her more time to devote to those projects. She expressed interest in more writing and even teased a cooking show. While she seemed ecstatic about her last major races in 2018, she is also looking forward to a new page as an entrepreneur.
“I made these businesses, but now I’m going to be able to get into them much deeper,” she said.
Patrick has been racing full time for about 15 years, and she’s got the legacy to prove it. At 26, Patrick became the first (and only) female driver to win an Indy Series at the Indy Japan 300 in 2008.
In 2013, she became the first woman to win a pole position at the Daytona 500. To top it off, a nine-year, high profile sponsorship agreement with GoDaddy brought her face and name into homes all across America.
Now, when her racing career reaches the final checkered flag, Patrick will have a lot more time on her hands.
“My primary job is going to be a huge reduction in time,” Patrick said, adding that racing and sponsorship obligations glued her to the race track nearly 40 weekends each year.
With retirement on the horizon, “taking that out of the equation is going to free up a lot of time,” she added.
–The Associated Press contributed to this article.