Happy 31st birthday Danica Patrick. The Beloit, Wisc. native, who appeared in the 2008 and 2009 SI Swimsuit issue, is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel and the only woman to win a race in the IndyCar series. She is currently part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series (and occasionally the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) and finished eighth in the Daytona 500 last month. Patrick's first appearance (2008) was a four-page spread taken on Singer Island, Fla., by photographer Ben Watts. "It was a lot of fun, actually," Patrick told USA Today at the time. "I expected it to be nerve-racking. I've posed (for many photos) in clothes, but I'd never posed in a swimming suit. I didn't know if I'd know exactly what to do, but amazingly it all translated over. I was comfortable, and we all had fun. We even were able to relax a little after the second day." On the track, Patrick has struggled lately, finishing 39th in Phoneix a couple weeks ago. Will she win a race anytime soon? SI's Lars Anderson weighs in:
"A good day for Patrick on most tracks in 2013 will be staying on the lead lap (which she was at PIR at the time of her wreck) and finish in the top 20. But she will have a chance to contend for victories on the Superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, where the driving isn't as technical -- you don't really have to brake on the restrictor-plate tracks -- and the mid-race feedback a driver gives his crew chief isn't as vital. Plus, Patrick showed in the Daytona 500 that she's capable of running in the front of aerodynamic draft at these tracks. She was, after all, in third place heading into the final lap of the 500. Do I think Patrick will win this year? I don't. But the next time she'll have a puncher's chance will be at Talladega on May 5."
Whether Anderson's prediction comes true remains to be seen. In the meantime, enjoy these photos of racing's most popular Swimsuit Model.
GALLERY: Danica Patrick’s 2008 SI Swimsuit Photos | 2009 Swimsuit PhotosVIDEO: 2008 Model Profile | 2008 Photo Shoot | 2009 Model Profile