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Danica Defines Daytona

~ 1st woman to win the Pole position for a Sprint Cup Series Race

~ 1st woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500

~ 2nd woman to lead laps in a Sprint Cup Series Race

~ Highest finish for a woman in a Sprint Cup Series Race at Daytona

~ 13th driver to lead laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500

Those are all of the records that Danica Patrick either broke or bettered this past week at the Daytona 500. Those records don’t even include the ones she already holds in the Nationwide Series and the IndyCar Series.

Danica Patrick is a trailblazer in the racing industry and is an inspiration to young girls and even boys, everywhere. Crew Chief Tony Gibson talked on Friday about handing out more lug-nuts to little girls this week then he ever has before. The window looking into her garage stall was covered in so many messages and well wishes for Patrick that even she had to snap a picture of all of the hoopla with her iPhone. The pressure was on for Patrick but she didn’t care. In fact, she flourished in it.

In her first Indy 500 in 2005, Danica Patrick was the favorite to win the pole position. She missed it just slightly when she bobbled coming out of a turn but still qualified in the top 5. She went on later to lead 19 laps and finished fourth. This season, in the Daytona 500, she was the favorite to win the pole and did just that. She ran in the top 10 for all 500 miles, falling no lower than 11th. At lap 90, she took the lead from Michael Waltrip on a restart and led two laps, becoming the first woman to lead laps in the famed race. She was also the first woman to lead laps under green. Patrick led a total of five laps during the scheduled 200 and became the 13th driver to lead in both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500, joining drivers like AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Tony Stewart and more.Danica-Patrick-pacecar-shot-Daytona-500-2013-nascar

The hype that surrounded Danica this past week after winning the pole position was unbelievable. According to GoDaddy (via Terry Blount), from the minute she won the pole to February 19th, Danica was featured in 165 newspaper stories, 45 TV and radio shows and 466 websites. Her celebrity status stretches far beyond the racing community and that was evident this past week when some starting calling the race the Danica 500. It was announced today that in the 24 hours following the end of the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick was mentioned 42.6% more on TV, in print and Internet articles than race winner Jimmie Johnson. When the ratings for the Daytona 500 were finally released, it confirmed what many had already expected, a rise. Up 24% from 2012, the 2013 Daytona 500 was the most watched 500 since 2008. It’s no secret that the rise in viewers was thanks in part to Danica Patrick and the way the networks used her history making pole win in their advertisements.

During her multiple news conferences and interviews after capturing the pole, there was always one thing that Danica never wavered from; the kids. She hopes that when kids see her out on the track, they ask their parents about her. She hopes that she can help start the conversation that helps kids realize that they can do anything they set their mind to, even if they are different. And that doesn’t just apply to young children either, anyone can follow her example.

“You can only lead by example and I don’t necessarily want my example to step outside the box and be a girl in a guy’s world. That’s not what I am trying to say,” Patrick said. “But if you have a talent for something, do not be afraid to follow through with it and not feel different. Do not feel like you are less qualified or less competent to be able to do the job because you are different. Ignore that and let it be about what your potential is.”

Danica Patrick is definitely taking the NASCAR world by storm, and we are only on week two. After the race, those drivers that raced in the top 10 were asked if they raced Danica any differently.  “It was a car on the track,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I didn’t think of it as Danica. It was just another car that was fast.” He wasn’t the only one who thought that. Second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr said that she is just another racer but that “she will be making history all year long. “ (

Her parents, TJ and Bev Patrick, couldn’t be more proud of their little girl. Watching the race with her husband and Danica’s younger sister Brooke, Bev was nervous saying, “I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest,” but Brooke never had any doubts that her sister couldn’t handle the pressure. “With Danica, she does better when the pressure is on,” Brooke said. “I think it just shows the kind of driver she is; there’s a reason she keeps breaking these records.”

So as we move on to Phoenix this weekend, all eyes will be on Danica Patrick as she takes on the track for the second time in the Cup car. Will she have a finish like she did in Daytona? No, probably not. But one thing is for certain, for every Danica critic, there is a Danica fan and for every doubter, a believer but for Danica’s family, none of their daughter’s or sister’s success came as a surprise because they knew she could do it all along.

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Katie is a Junior Mass Communications major at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. She is the eldest of two children and loves country music. Katie discovered the world of NASCAR as a freshman and hasn't looked back since. NASCAR is her passion. She dreams of one day being on the track as a reporter, interviewing drivers and their teams. Katie enjoys writing NASCAR articles and always keeps up to date on her favorite drivers and teams. You can follow her on Twitter


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