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ESPN Defining Danica

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Danica, on the other hand, was a natural. "Right away, I noticed she was different," says her father. "She actually understood what was going on right from the start. She could read the tachometer and knew when she messed up a lap. I'd tell her to bring the motor in at a certain temperature, and she could have jumped the carburetor to keep it within those parameters. And she got faster every weekend." She was also intensely charismatic and, most of all, "she had the want," says TJ. "I said to myself way back then, She's probably going to change the world of motorsports."

So began Plan Danica. Within a year, she had hero cards, the flashy racing version of baseball cards, as well as T-shirts featuring her name and picture. Each weekend, family and friends would show up with the shirts and cards, and this marketing, coupled with the fact that she won a lot of races, led to sponsorships from the producers of go-kart engines or wheels, which in turn defrayed the cost of her travel. By the time she was 12, Danica had won a go-karting national championship, and TJ's fun family activity had morphed into a serious business in which the family packed up every Friday and traveled throughout the Midwest and, later, to other parts of the country. "It takes money to race, and from a very early age it was instilled in Danica that you need to keep people happy," says Brooke. "That's something she's always known. This is a passion, but it's also a business."

Another part of Plan Danica: no bad behavior. By allaccounts, she was a good kid, driven to please, her father most of all. "We didn't let her do much," TJ admits. There was no drinking, no drugs, no parties. "We really tried to drum it into her that she couldn't screw up. No sponsor is going to give you a million dollars if you're a bad kid."

Well, one sponsor will give you a million dollars if you're a bad kid. ...

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