Indy Racing League driver Danica Patrick has been in the NASCAR spotlight this season as she competes in select Nationwide Series events for team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., including the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 15 during Bank of America 500 Week.

Race fans around the world have seen Patrick's name in news headlines and noticed her face on magazine covers, but many fans don't really know who Patrick is and how she got into racing.

Born in Beloit, Wis., Patrick grew up in Roscoe, Ill., where she tried many things before finding her calling as a race car driver.

"Racing wasn't the first thing I tried," Patrick said. "I played volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, band, singing, you name it, I tried it. So my parents were really open-minded about letting me try things and that was a really great thing. It helped me be able to find something that I love to do."

Patrick began racing go-karts at age 10 and she won several World Karting Association regional and national championships over a seven-year period. While the Dollar General 300 will be Patrick's first appearance on the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, she enjoyed racing karts here during the very early stages of her career.

"I remember going down the back straightaway where Turns 3 and 4 are on the main track and pretending I was racing cars out there on the track,"

Patrick said. "I took a ride there in a two-seat race car with the Petty Driving Experience where you pay money and get to ride in the passenger's seat. I also remember walking the track one time and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, the banking is so steep you can barely walk on it.' So I have a lot of memories from Charlotte. That includes everything from visiting a slot car track where we would hang out as kids to the (North Carolina) red clay."

Patrick joined Andretti-Green Racing in 2007 and on April 20, 2008, she became the first female to win a major closed-course automobile race when she topped the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi, a 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan. Her best finish in the IRL point standings came in 2009 when she ended up fifth.

Success in NASCAR is Patrick's next goal. With time and experience, she hopes better results will come just as they did in the open-wheel cars.

"Danica is doing an awesome job for our team," said JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt. "There's quite a bit more she must learn and experience in stock cars. The more she races in NASCAR, the better she will become."

"All I know I'm exploring something I've wanted to explore and experience and getting to know the people in NASCAR and the cars used in NASCAR," Patrick explained. "It's one step at a time for me and hopefully it can be something that I can compete with the top drivers one day and we'll just have to see where it goes. It's definitely a learning process at this time, but I'm having fun doing it."

Tickets for all October races at Charlotte Motor Speedway can be purchased online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). The Bank of America Fan 4 Pack includes tickets, hot dogs and Coca-Cola drinks starting at just $39.75 per person or fans can get four nights of great racing with the Bank of America 500 Week Super Ticket for just $99.

For daily updates on October race activities, connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway by following on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or become a Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway