After riding "topless" for most of her career in open-cockpit cars, Danica Patrick is moving full-time to the Sprint Cup in 2013. Here's a look back at her Top 12 career moments thus far. Competing in Montegi, Japan, Patrick tracked down Helio Castroneves and beat him to the checkered flag in a race that was determined by fuel mileage. In doing so, she became the first female driver to win a major closed-course race.
2 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Leading the Indianapolis 500
This is the race that began ''Danica Mania'' as she became the first female to lead the Indianapolis 500. Patrick had to pit out of sequence during the race, which enabled her to take the lead later on, sending the huge throng of spectators into a roar of approval. The soon-to-be Rookie of the Year held the lead until being passed by eventual winner Dan Wheldon with seven laps to go.
3 of 12Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Winning Daytona 500 pole
With an average of 196.434 mph, Danica won the pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit.
4 of 12Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Joining NASCAR Full Time
Ending months of speculation, Danica Patrick announced on Thursday Aug. 25 that she would join NASCAR full time in 2012. She will run a full Nationwide schedule with JR Motosports, for whom she has already driven 20 Nationwide races, and a part-time Sprint Cup schedule with Stewart-Haas Racing.
5 of 12Fred Vuich/SI, Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Finishing Third in the Indy 500
Patrick's third-place finish was overshadowed by Helio Castroneves' winning his third Indianapolis 500 just six weeks after being acquitted in a federal income tax evasion trial. Still, it was a milestone moment: the highest any female driver has ever finished in the world's biggest race.
6 of 12 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images, Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Best Finish by a Woman in NASCAR
In the 16th race of her NASCAR career, Patrick finished fourth in the Nationwide stop at Las Vegas, the highest ever by a woman in a national NASCAR race. The previous best was in 1949, a fifth by Sara Christian in Pittsburgh.
7 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Pit Lane Anger at Indy
In addition to being fast on the race track, Patrick is also feisty. She proved that after she got knocked out of the way leaving pit lane by Ryan Briscoe's car late in the 2008 Indy 500. When Patrick returned to the pit area to end her race, she climbed out of her car, took off the gloves and stalked down pit lane in an attempt to confront Briscoe to the cheers of the huge crowd at Indy. Charles Burns, the head of security, interceded and got Patrick to head to Gasoline Alley instead.
8 of 12Darrell Ingham/Getty Images
The Catfight in Ohio
During a practice session for a race in Mid-Ohio, Patrick and fellow driver Milka Duno got into a spat after Patrick accused the Venezuelan of not allowing faster cars to pass her. When Patrick walked into her rival's pit to complain, Duno refused to listen and twice tossed a towel in Patrick's face. (Video link below.)
9 of 12Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Joining the Big Boys
Team owner Bobby Rahal actually announced two days before the Indianapolis 500 that Patrick would join his team for the 2005 Indy 500, which came as a surprise to Patrick, who was competing in the Formula Atlantic Series. The addition of Patrick was the latest in a line of female drivers in the Indy Racing League, which also included Sarah Fisher and Lyn St. James.
10 of 12Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images
After near-misses at Motegi and the Indianapolis 500 in her rookie season, Patrick scored her first pole at Kansas to lead a 1-2-3 sweep by Rahal Letterman Racing.
11 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
The Sports Illustrated Cover
Patrick joined a long list of sports icons to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated , when she was featured in the summer of '05.
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First Woman to Lead a Lap at Daytona International
Patrick kicked off her second limited season in Nationwide with a bang, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in a NASCAR event at Daytona. She did so on Lap 30 of the 300-mile Nationwide race that preceded the Daytona 500. She went on to finish 14th, at the time her best finish in NASCAR.
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