I got a chance to speak with Danica Patrick a few weeks ago. She was calling around to media outlets in advance of the Grand Prix and we chatted for 10 or 15 minutes about how her final season of INDYCAR was going ("It’s been an up and down year") and if she had any special items on her to-do list while in Baltimore ("I want to eat crab cakes"). But what she really wanted to talk about was her advocacy for COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The illness—the fourth leading cause of death in this country—includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the disease which claimed her grandmother's life at the age of 61.
"I remember seeing my grandma, especially at the end when she was in a wheelchair and she was on oxygen 24-hours a day, and the machine makes that sucking noise," she said via telephone. "It’s just sad to see somebody in such a fragile state, so reliant on something, so helpless. There’s no cure for the disease. That should be a wake up call. Anytime you see a loved one in a position where they’re helpless it’s really painful," she added.
Becoming an celebrity ambassador for DRIVE4COPD, was, "the perfect situation to turn a negative into a positive." She encourages everyone to go to www.drive4copd.com and take the five-question health screener to assess their risk for the disease, which has root causes that run the spectrum from smoking to pollution to genetics.
Patrick is "pretty sure" her grandmother's COPD was related to her longtime smoking habit, which she eventually quit. "But unfortunately the damage had been done."
Patrick said she was excited to race in Baltimore, though she couldn't remember if it was her first time here or not.
"Yeah I’m pretty sure I’ve been to Baltimore because where else would I have eaten crab cakes," she reasoned. (Psst, Danica, they sell crab cakes other places, too. They're just not as good!)
I recommended Faidley's to her, a suggestion her publicist later told me she took to heart. The race will also have special significance to her because Baltimore is the hometown of her racing sponsor Godaddy.com's founder Bob Parsons, who we profiled here. And after her announcement last week that she will race the NASCAR rather than INDYCAR circuit next season, it seems like it might be her only chance to speed down our city streets. Of course, maybe she'll come back for the crab cakes.