Behind The Scenes

ESPN the Mag‘s ‘Women In Sports’ issue shows a different side of Danica

ESPN The Magazine’s debut “Women in Sports” issue hits newsstands today with NASCAR’s Danica Patrick gracing the cover and a seven-page cover story, “Defining Danica,” inside.

Danica Patrick graces the cover of the Women In Sports issue of The Mag.

Contributing writer Janet Reitman delivers a deep-dive feature — also published on and espnW — highlighting Patrick’s sex appeal, business savvy and what people really think of her.

Front Row gets the skinny on Danica from Reitman and ESPN The Magazine’s Senior Editor, Jenn Holmes.

Is this the first time Danica has been on the cover of The Mag?
JH: Actually, it’s her second – she was also on the cover in October of 2005. I don’t think this cover could be more perfect — Danica exudes that mixture of confidence, strength and femininity that make her so popular.

How did the conceit for the feature story of Danica come about?
JH: It was like fitting that last piece of a puzzle: Who more perfect to talk about women in sports than a woman who is constantly dominating headlines [in and out of racing]? We thought the multiple facets of her story — competing in a male-dominated sport; succeeding in that world; navigating intense scrutiny; and being able to create a career on her terms — would speak to a lot of issues female athletes face.

What kind of access did Danica provide for The Mag?
JH: She was extremely generous with her time. We included this in the story, but it’s nearly unimaginable how busy drivers are, and Danica is no exception. She was in five different states in one week, and had to fly back to Chicago for our photo shoot and interview.

What were the challenges of developing a story about Danica Patrick that has not yet been told?
JR: I think when you have a story, or subject, that’s been covered a lot, the best way to handle that is to familiarize yourself with the subject only so much as you need to so you don’t sound completely ignorant during the interview, and otherwise just pretend it’s all virgin ground. In this case, it is [or was] to me. Danica is familiar turf, but I didn’t know that much about her and wanted to meet her “fresh,” as it were. So we had a long dinner and talked about a lot of things that had nothing to do with racing, and what came out of it is, I hope, a story that readers haven’t read before.

JH: It’s hard to cover motorsports and not be on Danica overload. I mean, the drivers themselves talk about how much attention she gets. So it was paramount for us to take this conversation beyond the usual back and forth about when she’ll win and whether she’s worth the attention. That’s what we did — we gave her room to breathe and to be herself, outside of the product pitching and team promo and racing machoism. And what we ended up learning is that probably more than anyone, Danica gets it: She’s extremely self aware. And Danica knows how to sell. She’s clearly an intelligent woman who’s figuring out the best way to succeed in her sport. She’ll figure out the winning thing, too.

Any specific anecdotes or experiences that didn’t make the cut?
I wish I’d gotten a bit more in there about Danica’s husband, Paul, and their relationship, which is an interesting one. Paul is the guy you marry when you have a career that is so overwhelming, and you are competing with so many people, that what you want at the end of the day is simply someone who loves and supports you.

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