Women in F1: 'It's too late for me,' says Danica Patrick

    Story highlights

    • Danica Patrick plans to stay in NASCAR
    • American is arguably the most famous woman in motorsport

    (CNN)Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone might have once been keen for U.S. motorsport star Danica Patrick to join the top tier of motorsport, but don't expect her to make that switch anytime soon.

    Patrick, who continues to put the pedal to the metal on NASCAR's ovals for Stewart-Haas Racing, told CNN she has no plans to change careers.
      "I'm getting too old to change careers again and again, and I don't really have a desire to do anything different than what I'm doing right now," said Patrick, who was speaking in a special "Women in F1" edition of CNN's The Circuit.
      "I'm around my friends and family, and I'm racing internationally -- and F1 I don't think would really provide that.
      "I lived in England for a few years and F1 was all I thought about doing, but to be honest when I came back home to the States I thought this is where I want to be.
      "You can never say never about anything -- but at this point in time, I'm happy where I'm at."
      The 33-year-old has had to ignore her fair share of critics in her record-breaking racing career in the U.S.
      Patrick proved her talents by becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008 and the first to grab pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series at the Daytona 500 two seasons ago.
      But seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty said during a live Q&A session as recently as 2014 that Patrick would only win a NASCAR race "if everybody else stayed home."
      He added: "If she had of been a male, no-one would ever have known she'd shown up at a racetrack. This is a female deal."
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      A household name in the U.S., who is as well known for her TV appearances and modeling assignments as for her hard and fast driving on track, Patrick hasn't had an easy time of it navigating a route to the top of her profession.
      "You have to be confident in what you're doing. You have to be sure of it, you have to be assertive and all those things help develop a thick skin," the American said.
      "The higher you climb, the more people you're exposed to and the more judgment you get. I have developed that over time and it's a protection layer.
      "A lot of people say really mean things and I can't say nothing fazes me whatsoever but, more than anything, I feel sorry for them, that they attack in such a negative way on someone that they don't know at all."
      Patrick began karting at the age of 10 -- her younger sister Brooke wanted to give it a go and Patrick didn't want to miss out on the fun.
      After honing her racing skills in Europe, she returned home to ply her trade in IndyCar, where she became the first woman to win a race in the series at the Indy Japan 500 at Motegi.
      Her third-place finish in 2009 at the prestigious Indy 500 -- classed as one leg of motorsport's "Triple Crown" along with F1's Monaco Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24-hour race -- is also the best by a female racer.
      Patrick switched to NASCAR in 2012 and made an immediate impact when she took pole at the Daytona 500, the first by a woman in Sprint Cup history.
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      "I actually never thought about being a girl in racing until I was about 14," she said. "That's when TV shows were wanting to do programs on me, and of course the question came up.
      "My Mom, my Dad never let me use that as some sort of benchmark, like 'You're the best girl out there.' It was really about being the best driver."
      During her U.S. racing career, now into its 11th year, she insists she has never encountered sexism, despite conceding motorsport is a man's world.
      "I don't feel like I have lived in a day and age where I have experienced sexism," Patrick told CNN.
      "I know how to talk to guys because I've been around them since I was 10 years old, so I understand how they think, and I talk that way too.
      "I think back to the days when women weren't allowed in the pits, and I've never had to experience that.
      "Racing is, by all means, very male-driven, it's mostly men, but in this day and age those things are shifting.
      "There are guys and girls crossing over at all kinds of jobs. It's still not 50% girls, 50% guys, but it's more normal."
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