Danica Patrick, a name that was unknown only weeks ago, was emblazoned on the front page of every newspaper on Monday. Her success at the Indianapolis 500 galvanized her name into our hearts and minds as she led the biggest race in the world with only a few laps to go. It was the classic underdog story with this tiny 100 pound woman racing against the men of the Indy Racing League. But to Danica it wasn’t a gender thing at all. She is a fierce competitor and she saw the race as any other driver would. She wanted to win.
Two rookie mistakes almost put her out of contention. She stalled the car on a mid race pit stop, putting her at the back of the pack. Her determination to overcome failure led her through the pack back up to 8th place. She pitted on a caution and restarted the race. Tragedy struck twice as she hit another car with her front wing on the restart. She limped back into the pits missing half of her front wing. The pit crew quickly replaced the front wing, but the lengthy pit stop put her a lap down. She was mad now. Mad at herself for a sloppy restart.
Determination overcame her rookie failures. She was still in the race and she still wanted to win. Being a lap down was just something to overcome. As the race wound down, there was a late caution. Her team decided that she should stay out when everyone else pitted. In mere seconds she went from a lap down to leading the race. Would her fuel and tires last to the end? Over 300,000 fans and the rest of the world wondered that as the race continued.
Everyone was on their feet or glued to their TV sets. Could this woman win the most prestigious race in the world? As the race restarted she pulled out to a comfortable lead. She had done something that no other woman had ever done… she was leading the Indy 500! The laps ticked off one by one and she was still leading. The realization struck… she might win the race. The crowd was chanting, Danica, Danica! She looked forward and raced with steely eyed determination.
With only a few laps to go her car started to surge. She was running out of fuel. She had to lean the car out, saving all the fuel that she could. One by one the men who had been stalking her, passed her for the lead. She ended up fourth and coasted to the line as her fuel ran out on the last corner. Danica finished the race in a higher position than any woman before her.
Determination ruled the day. Her response to her rookie failures put her in the lead. As John Maxwell would say, she “Failed Forward”. What an inspiration and a true story of overcoming failure. With determination like that, she will be in the winners circle soon!