Motorsports: Danica voted most popular driver in Nationwide series

• Former Roscoe, Ill., resident also announces divorce from husband of seven years

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Many things have changed for Danica Patrick since she left Roscoe, Ill., in 1998 to pursue her career as a professional race car driver. During her rookie year (2005) in the IndyCar Series, she challenged for the win at the Indianapolis 500. She became the first woman to ever lead laps in that race. She ended up finishing fourth in her inaugural start at the famed Brickyard. She was named the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and was also the 2005 IndyCar Series season Rookie of the Year.

In April 2008, she made history by becoming the first woman to ever win an IndyCar Series race. She took the checkered flag at the Indy Japan 300. She finished third in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, her personal best and the highest finish by a woman in the history of the event.

She just finished her first full season in NASCAR. She ran the full Nationwide Series schedule, and competed in 10 Sprint Cup Series races. She finished 10th in the Nationwide points. That is the highest finish ever by a woman in any of NASCAR’s three national series.

Last week, she was voted the most popular driver in the Nationwide series by the fans. When you combine the success she’s had behind the wheel of a race car with her exposure gained by appearing on the covers of magazines and in a variety of television commercials, she may arguably be the most recognized female athlete in the world.

All of those accomplishments and accolades took a back seat to the news she made this week. She personally posted the news on her Facebook page. “I am sad to inform my fans that after seven years, Paul and I have decided to amicably end our marriage. This isn’t easy for either of us, but mutually it has come to this. He has been an important person and friend in my life and that’s how we will remain moving forward.”

Paul Hospenthal is a physical therapist who met Patrick while treating her for a non-racing injury. The two were married in 2005, and he is 17 years older than the 30-year-old driver.

The newly divorced Patrick is expected to compete on a full-time basis in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The season gets started in February with the Daytona 500.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!