Danica Patrick makes history at Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA (BDCi) – Danica Patrick didn’t get the finish at the Daytona 500 that she was hoping for, but at least she finished the race and made history in the process.
After becoming the first woman to win a pole in the Sprint Cup Series, Patrick was competitive throughout Sunday’s race and appeared destined to finish third before the field was scrambled on a last-lap wreck. She finished eighth while Jimmie Johnson won Daytona for the second time.
“I was in the top 10 all day long,” Patrick said. “So I can’t complain about that.”
“I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself the 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.”
Still, Patrick’s eighth-place finish is the best for a woman in the Daytona 500. She barely missed the record of sixth place set by Janet Guthrie in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 28, 1977. She also became the first female to lead a green-flag lap in NASCAR’s to division on Sunday, when she passed Michael Waltrip during the restart on Lap 90.
Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish Sunday. When the race was on the line, she was schooled by Dale Earnhardt Jr. who made his last move and blocked any chance she had.
“Dale did a nice job and showed what happens when you plan it out, you drop back and get that momentum. You are able to go to the front,” Patrick said. “I think he taught me something. I’m sure I’ll watch the race and there will be other scenarios I see that can teach me, too.”
Her only mistakes were on pit road, where she got beat on the race back to the track and on the final lap, when she was running third but got smoked by the veterans and finished eighth. That’s going to stick with Patrick for some time.