DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – Feb 24, 2013: Danica Patrick made history today, by leading the opening laps at the Daytona 500.
Having qualified to start on Pole Position by winning the Sprint Cup Series, and becoming the first woman to do that, Patrick had already chalked one up for the ladies, but this was an extra special moment that puts her in the field of the most elite drivers in the NASCAR series – men or women!
The challenge for Patrick was obviously to win the race out-right, and become the first woman to do that, but although she did remain in a competitive Top 10 all day, she was destined to cross the line in 3rd after a last lap crash scrambled the field.
“I was in the top 10 all day long,” Patrick said. “So I can’t complain about that.”
“I would imagine that anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself that opportunity to win. I think that’s what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that. There was plenty of time while you were cruising along. I was talking to Tony (Gibson, crew chief) and my spotter (Brandon Benesch) on the radio, ‘What do you see people doing? What’s working? What is not?’ I was thinking in the car, ‘How am I going to do this?’ I didn’t know what to do exactly.
“So I feel like maybe that’s just my inexperience? Maybe that’s me not thinking hard enough? I don’t know. Getting creative enough? I’m not sure.”
Patrick’s 8th place finish still sets a good record with the only other woman in a top finish being Janet Guthrie in 6th place of the Volunteer 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 28, 1977.
She also took TWO Green Lap Leads when she passed Michael Waltrip on Lap 90 and once again on Lap 127. These are also first time events for a woman at NASCAR’s Top Division level.
Race winner Jamie Johnson paid tribute to his female rival saying ;
“She made history today — and in fine fashion, too,”
Patrick’s season credentials are certainly something to be proud of; she was the top rookie finisher and she starts the season in seventh in the points standings, her year high standing at the Phoenix International Raceway, the next oval track on her series agenda, was 17th. Her finish here adds nicely to her total score and gives great momentum to her series run.
“I feel like it will give us a good baseline idea of how we need to set the car up. But it also is a new car, so we’ll have to adapt to that.
“Tony (Gibson) and I are still figuring out how we get the most out of me with new tires in a qualifying situation, things like that. We still have a lot of stuff to work on. But it was nice to have that race in Phoenix at the end of last year.”
We congratulate Danica Patrick on a great drive at the Daytona 500 and wish her all the best for the remaining series.
Gallery (with thanx to NASCAR);