Danica Patrick decided to end her 14-year record-breaking career as a professional racing driver at the age of 36 in May 2018. But she was planning for her retirement from the beginning.
Patrick recalled that her first boss, Bobby Rahal, former driver and racing team owner, told her that she needed to set up a financial foundation so her quality of life wouldn’t have to change when she was done racing. As time went on, she said that stayed in the back of her mind and kept her open to business opportunities that came along.
In conversation with ESPN senior writer Mina Kimes at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on Tuesday, Patrick discussed her next moves off the track and into the business world.
Now that her first career as a driver is over, she has the time to focus on what she calls her three passion projects. She is the author of a health and wellness book called Pretty Intense, owner of a vineyard called Somnium, and owner of an athleisure clothing line called Warrior.
It wasn’t easy for the driver-turned-entrepreneur to make the choice to leave racing to pursue these projects, though. When her longtime sponsor GoDaddy decided to pull its support in 2015, she had to face the idea that her racing days might be behind her. She said that experience made her realize she needed to let go of—not quit—the sport in order to make room for something new in her life.
Patrick said that the fear of never racing again and losing something she loves made her procrastinate a bit, but that ultimately, she knew it was the right move.
“New is exciting, but it’s the leaving things behind that’s the fear-based part,” she said. “I came to realize maybe racing wasn’t my true passion anymore.”
Her motivation to leave racing and lean into her new business ventures came from imagining that what lies ahead is better than anything she had as a driver. She said the hardest part after deciding to leave the sport was deciding what to do next. The new people, partners, businesses, and platforms could get overwhelming, which is why Patrick said she chose to do only what she loved.