Photo Credit: Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
By: Katie Copple – Follow on Twitter @Katie_Copple
History has been made and NASCAR has been brought into the national limelight as Danica Patrick clinches the Pole position for the
55th running of the Daytona 500. As Daytona Speedweeks kicked off with NASCAR Media Day on Valentine’s Day, it was no secret that Danica was going to be in most of the headlines as the 2013 season kicked off.
NASCAR Media Day started with Danica Patrick. A full forty five minutes before she was slated to speak, journalists of all mediums were lined up around her GoDaddy director’s chair. The first dozen or so questions that were thrown her way had nothing to do with racing, but her personal life instead. A good portion of the interviews she did on Media Day had to do with her new beau, fellow Rookie of the Year Contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Patrick and Stenhouse announced a few weeks ago that they were in fact dating but that it wouldn’t affect their Sprint Cup season.
When you are dating a fellow driver, especially one who is constantly in the media, the attention is also going to turn to you. That is one thing Patrick said that Stenhouse will have to get used to. After being asked about what he thought of all the attention, she replied,
“A little while back he was talking about not wanting people to look at him or stare at him and I was like, ‘You better get used to that, because
there’s going to be a lot of people looking at you.’ He said, ‘No they’re not, they’re going to be looking at you.’ And I said, ‘No they’re not, they’re going to be looking at you as well.’ ”
Stenhouse may be the 2-time reigning Nationwide Series Champion, but he definitely doesn’t get the attention his new girlfriend does.
Patrick and Stenhouse weren’t the only ones asked about their personal lives. Fellow Sprint Cup drivers were also asked about the Rookie’s relationships. Most said that they didn’t think it would affect them on the track at all and that the publicity was good for the sport. Others disagreed. Reigning Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski thinks that the bigger story is going to come when they break up. No matter what way you look at it, the fact that Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr are in a romantic relationship is going to be the talk of the track for many weeks to come.
It was also announced during NASCAR Media Day that Danica Patrick would be running in the No. 34 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports in
the Nationwide opener, the COPD 300. GoDaddy will sponsor COPD Ambassador Patrick as she hits the track this Saturday. In 2012, she became only the second woman to win the pole in NASCAR’s second tier. Can she start from the pole again this year in the COPD 300? We have to wait until Saturday to find out.
Daytona 500 practice started on Saturday and it was no surprise to see Patrick at the top of the board for most of the first session. Back in January, during Daytona Winter Testing, it was obvious that Patrick had a fast car. Crew Chief Tony Gibson and his crew definitely know how to put together speedway monster. She held the top spot in first practice Saturday until the bitter end where Joey Logano and Austin Dillon bumped her to third. A few hours later, Patrick took one mock qualifying run in second practice and ended at the top of the charts; the only car over 196mph. Drivers and Owners across the board said that Patrick was going to be the one to beat for the Daytona 500 Pole. Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick even went as far as calling her magical.
Pole Day was one for the history books. Going out early, all eyes were on Danica Patrick and her No. 20 GoDaddy.com team. It was make it or break it this year for the 500. The GoDaddy team had to qualify towards the top in order to guarantee Patrick a spot in the race. Well, she
definitely won’t have to worry about not making it in. Danica Patrick will be starting from the pole position in the 2013 Daytona 500.
Patrick is the first woman to start from the pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The highest qualifying position for a female prior was 9th by Janet Guthrie in 1977. Patrick’s only real competition seemed to be Jeff Gordon who starts beside her. She was .142mph faster than Gordon. At the Pole Award Ceremony, Gordon asked Patrick if she would be willing to take a picture with a fan of hers, Gordon’s 5 year old daughter Ella. Patrick happily obliged.
The media has, to say the least, gone crazy since Patrick took the pole position. In her press conference after the ceremony, Patrick turned the credit away from her and towards her Crew Chief Tony Gibson and his team.
“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls 90 percent on Tony and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast,” Patrick said, “and maybe 10 percent on me.”
Gibson knows that working with a rookie is going to have its challenges, but he isn’t just working with any rookie. All eyes will be on him and his
No. 10 team this season. He knows that she isn’t going to take the NASCAR world by storm right away; it’s going to take time.
“I told her, ‘We know there’s going to be low points, but the key to success for us is to enjoy the highs and pat each other on the back and enjoy it. When we hit our lows, pick each other up and get to the next one,” Gibson said. “Right now we’re enjoying this and it’s real big for me. I’ve accomplished a lot of things, but this ranks up there in the top two or three.”
One thing is for sure, Danica Patrick isn’t just doing this for herself, she is doing this for little girls out there who might just be watching.
“It’s … nice to hear families talk about the fact that a little girl might say, ‘But, mommy, daddy, that’s a girl out there,’” Patrick said. “Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn’t by any means not allow you to follow your dreams. I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I’m doing.”
It’s no secret that Danica Patrick is taking racing to a new level, but she is also opening up doors for young women and little girls everywhere.