Race car driver Danica Patrick had never been to a girls’ boarding school before and most of the students in Foxcroft School’s Currier Library had never met someone who drives at speeds in upwards of 200 mph for a living. During a 40-minute Q&A, though, the two seemingly disparate parties bonded over boys, Beyoncè and breaking down barriers. Then they went to the Physics Lab to talk science and engineering.
By the time the 33-year-old dynamo left the Middleburg campus hours later, a mutual admiration society had clearly been established.
“I have no doubt that one day I am going to be buying something you designed or built,” Patrick said after a group of engineering students talked about designing and building podiums last spring for a future conference room, and STEM Club members showed her the unassisted aerial vehicle (UAV) they built through the Kashmir World Foundation’s Da Vinci Challenge.
“She is so cool,” said one student. “I like that she talked about the people who had helped her and that it wasn’t just about her,” said another. “She asked us a lot of questions and really listened to us,” added a third.
Indeed, throughout the visit, Patrick seemed as interested in the School and the girls — who gave her a huge “Foxcroft welcome” when she arrived — as they were in her. She asked each of the STEM students what they learned or what they were going to do after Foxcroft. At one point, Patrick peppered Board member Nan Stuart ’71, who was instrumental in arranging the visit, with questions about some of the School’s traditions.
Danica’s visit began in the library, which was packed to the gills with students, faculty, parents and press. After Student Head of School Lexie Williams (Lovettsville, VA) introduced her and Patrick said a few words, seniors Serena Holz (Delaplane, VA) and Natalie Harris (Washington, D.C.) moderated a Q&A comprised of students’ questions. Many of them centered on Patrick’s experiences in a male-dominated career.
“At times it has been a challenge getting people to believe in what I can do and getting what I need to run with the big boys,” Patrick allowed, noting that occasionally men at the track have made wisecracks about her being a woman — and then sharing some good comeback lines with the girls.
“But I have always believed, I was brought up to try to be the best at whatever I am doing — not just the best girl,” she added. “I don’t mind being unique and standing out. . . But I don’t think I’m really different from the other drivers. We all want to win.”
Commitment was a recurrent theme. “There’s never a perfect way to get to the top, there’s no set plan. You just have to figure out what you want to do, what you want to be, and get going,” she said. “I changed my whole life when I was in high school to work harder and get better as a driver. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“There’s not always going to be the perfect scenario but I tell you what — from anything and everything you do that is headed towards your goal, you will learn, absolutely learn. You’ll learn something from the experience and be better for it,” continued the woman who has had plenty of ups and downs on the way to becoming the best female racecar driver in history.
“If you could do anything in your life, what would you do? Answer that question. Think about that tonight. If you could be anything you wanted to be or do anything you wanted to do, what would it be? There’s no dream too big.”
Having covered boys (men) and barrier-breaking during the discussion, Patrick really hit a chord with the girls when she answered a question about her most memorable experience ever.
“Being in a music video with Jay-Z and Dale Earnhardt Jr, and having lunch with Beyoncé,” she said, sharing details of the shoot in Monaco. “That was really cool.”
And so was Patrick!