The most accomplished female driver in racing announced she will be leaving the sport after an abbreviated season next year.
Danica Patrick made the announcement Friday during an emotional news conference in which she expressed what the career that brought her international recognition has meant to her, according to CBS.
At this point, she said circumstances and conversations with loved ones led her to the realization that retirement is the right move for her.
“I feel like this is where my life should be headed, and sometimes we just get kind of nudged there,” Patrick said. “Sometimes it’s big nudges and sometimes it’s little.”
As ESPN reported, one of those nudges came earlier this year when she lost her sponsorship with Nature’s Bakery, as well as her spot on the Stewart-Haas Racing team.
Even at that point, she embraced the reality of a future that does not include professional racing.
Patrick said she will miss the interactions with the many girls who see her as an inspiration, but the 35-year-old is looking forward to life without car crashes, travel complications and a persistent lack of NASCAR wins.
Though she has often driven closer to the back of the pack throughout her career, racing has been an important part of Patrick’s entire life and her ability to reach the highest echelons of the sport has made her a role model for many Americans.
Her career has also afforded her the opportunity to capitalize on her business ideas with a line of clothing and other ventures, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Patrick was an IndyCar driver before switching to NASCAR in 2011. She told the Associated Press that she will end her career in the same series it began.
“Nothing that was being presented excited me,” she said of her retirement plans. “Then about three weeks ago, I just blurted out, ‘What about Indy? Let’s end it with the Indy 500.’”
That race, along with NASCAR’s Daytona 500, will be the only races she competes in next season.
As reported by ESPN, her final race with Stewart-Haas was Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and ended when she crashed after 139 laps.
Patrick knows her presence on the track has made her a lightning rod for criticism, but says she is determined not to focus on what others say about her career.
For now, she remains focused on what remains of it.
“There is still racing in my future and still 1,000 miles to go,” she said.