Race car driver Danica Patrick to be first female host of ESPYS

Danica Patrick will become the first woman to host the ESPYS, breaking another barrier when she takes the microphone for ESPN's 26th annual awards show July 18 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

"My first ESPYS was 2005, and I have been a fan, coming back every year since," Patrick said. "It is the biggest night of the year for sports. Every year, I leave feeling so inspired! I am excited to be able to help celebrate, laugh and cry about the past year in sports with everyone. It's going to be a great night and one full of more than a few surprises."

Patrick, a pioneer in auto racing, is retiring from the sport after making her final Indianapolis 500 appearance Sunday.

Patrick, 36, was the first female driver to lead laps and score a top-five finish at the Indianapolis 500 in 2005. She was the first woman to win a major league open-wheel race in a North American series. She is the only woman to win a NASCAR Cup Series pole; she set the fastest time in qualifying for the Daytona 500 in 2013 and then finished in eighth place, the highest finishing position ever for a woman.

Patrick has a special connection to the ESPYS. She said she was first introduced to her current boyfriend, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, at the event.

"We met at the ESPYS back in 2012. We remember meeting each other, it was quick," Patrick said Tuesday on SiriusXM Radio. "I got his email address. ... It wasn't until, obviously, recently that we actually had phone numbers. We referred to each other as Chicago and Green Bay. It was very cute."

Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hosted last year's awards. Samuel L. Jackson has hosted four times, the last one in 2009.

The ESPYS will present the 2018 Arthur Ashe Courage Award to female athletes who came forward with stories of sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar.