Danica Patrick on Hosting the ESPYs and Breaking Barriers as a Female Athlete

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Danica Patrick at the 2017 ESPY Awards

"I think that it's important for everyone — men and women — to respect boundaries, respect human beings and to take care of each other in a positive way," the former racing driver says.

Danica Patrick hasn't missed an ESPY Awards ceremony since 2005. So it makes sense that the retired racing veteran seems to be pretty well-prepped to take the stage as host at Microsoft Theater on July 18.

Considered to be the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing, Patrick is no stranger to being one of few females in the male-dominated sports arena. At the 2018 ESPY Awards, Patrick will break barriers in sports once again, as she becomes the first female to host the ceremony.

Each year, the ESPYs recognizes some of the best athletes of the year, in addition to honoring memorable moments, inspiring stories and courageous acts.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Patrick about the upcoming show, her favorite ESPY memories and her own journey as a female in the sports industry.

What can audiences expect from you as a host at the ESPYs?

Well, I sure hope that they can find me funny. That's a goal. Obviously the point of the show is to take people on an inspiring rollercoaster ride of sports, call out some people, make a few jokes, as well as talk about some important issues. Hopefully we'll make people laugh and make people cry within a couple of hours, and we'll have done our job.

How have you been preparing to take the stage?

We've done some pre-records. There was a writers retreat where you all get together and you come up with concepts for live pieces, as well as pre-records and monologues. Some jokes are thrown around. So we've done that, and then, you know, a lot of working out, which I already do anyway.

As a veteran in the sports arena, you've been an attendee at the ESPYs for many years now. Do you have any favorite memories?

Yeah, I've been there every year since 2005, so this will be my 14th ESPYs. There's been a lot of really cool people that I've met along the way, and it's inspiring. That's the one thing about the ESPYs that I always come away with, is that I always feel so inspired. And I feel so small even though I'm there as an athlete and I got a great seat and I'm presenting an award — it's like, "Man, there are some people doing seriously amazing things. I need to do those things!"

Do you have favorite host from past years?  

Well, I really liked Drake. I think he was probably one of my favorites. He was very funny and so much more of an actor and presenter than I thought he would be. I know he can sing and I know he's got a good personality but at the ESPYs, that really gets the show through because you've got 20 minutes of onstage time by yourself.

As a prominent female in a male-dominated field, is there anything you wish you would have known going into this career?

No, I don't. I think that's all they think, like the joys and the journey. I mean that's the point, but if you have the playbook on how everything is gonna go, then it doesn't make for many memorable experiences. I prefer to go for life, not blind, but just living it and just enjoying it and learning from it. That's part of the process.

At the ESPYs, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is being awarded to the Larry Nassar sexual assault survivors. How significant do you think it is for those women to be recognized in sports on a national stage like this?

Well, obviously it was a huge issue. I think that it's important for everyone — men and women — to respect boundaries, respect human beings and to take care of each other in a positive way. I think it's a good reminder that there are limits.

Do you have any advice for young female athletes who may be watching the show at home tonight?

I'd say that you need to be yourself, number one. And be confident because when you're confident in yourself, and also your gut feelings on things, that's a pretty good indicator to how people should treat you and what you deserve. If you don't respect yourself and have confidence, your insecurities will show through in other ways.  

As a female athlete, have you noticed any significant changes in the world of sports over the years?  

I mean, it's gonna be tough to reach a day in sports where it's just as many females as males, but it's definitely male dominated still. At least in racing, there's more women doing it and being given opportunities. They have a chance to show themselves and it seems like there's more than ever.

The 2018 ESPY Awards airs live Wednesday night on ABC starting at 8 p.m.

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