Survives major crash to win Daytona 500 pole position
Danica Patrick, the hottest driver in the fastest and most popular sport in the world, NASCAR and Indy car racing, survived a crash on the last lap of a race, then went out the next day and made history winning the pole position in the legendary Dayton 500 racing classic Sunday.
In seven short years, Danica Patrick has risen from IndyCar® Rookie of the Year to Superstar. Former team-owner Bobby Rahal has dubbed her the "first real media star in IndyCar since (Mario) Andretti and (A.J.) Foyt."*
Widely credited with bringing new interest and fans to open-wheel racing, Danica's fame has often overshadowed events on the track. Whether she's walking the red carpet or driving the Vegas strip, fans simply can't get enough of her.
Danica has appeared in numerous commercials, a Jay-Z music video, an episode of CSI:NY – she even played herself in an episode of The Simpsons. She's been mentioned in a total of 227 articles in Sports Illustrated, featured on the cover twice, and has appeared in the legendary swimsuit edition. Twice.
After splitting her time between IndyCar and NASCAR® in 2011, Danica will compete full-time in stock car racing starting in 2012 with Go Daddy's sponsorship.
And just in case there's any doubt, she's already having a powerful effect on NASCAR viewers. According to Nielsen Television Research, her 2010 Nationwide Series debut at Daytona resulted in a 35 percent increase in viewership.
Ended the 2011 NASCAR season – her second part-time season – with three top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in
Finished #10th in the 2011 IndyCar Series standings, logging one top-5 and nine top-10 finishes out of 17 starts. Holds the series record for consecutive races running at the finish (50).
During seven seasons in IndyCar, she had 63 top-10 finishes in 115 career starts.
Best finish by a woman in a NASCAR top-circuit race (4th place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – March 5, 2011).
First woman to win a major open-wheel race at
First woman in history to lead laps in the Indy 500 (2005).
* "Danica changed open-wheel racing," Holly Cain, 10/14/11, FoxSports.com
Here are the news highlights of Danica's week in
Danica Patrick made her NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing debut in today's first Gatorade Duel At Daytona. The first 59 laps were uneventful; Lap 60 was horrifying.
"It happened really quick," said Patrick, who was evaluated and released at the
Patrick's No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was bumped off the racetrack on the final lap. Her stock car bee-lined to the infield retaining wall and crashed hard.
An in-car camera aboard her car showed the 29-year-old driver take her hands off the wheel and up to her helmet shield just before impact.
Open wheel racers are taught that so that the sudden impact to the steering column won't snap a wrist.
"I felt like I was having a solid race," she said. "I was up with the front group for a while then felt like I started to slow down.
"We were looking to finish honestly. I felt comfortable. It was just a matter of getting into the right line with the right people. I'm just bummed out. We only had two corners to go."
Ironically, her car owner, Tony Stewart, won the first 150-mile qualifying race over the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time in her NASCAR career, Danica Patrick was the fastest driver in Nationwide Series qualifying Friday.
That also meant she was the fastest female and only the second woman to capture a pole position in the three major touring series in NASCAR's 64-year history.
"I really don't think about it from a girl perspective," she said after turning a 182.741-mph lap for Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300. "I've been taught from a young age to want to be the best driver. My dad's here, so he can attest to the fact that when we'd go out go-karting, and I'd be a half-second quicker than everyone, and he was still ticked off and not happy and we kept working.
"It was about being the best driver and not the best girl."
Patrick, who will make her Sprint Cup debut in Sunday's Daytona 500, is making a full-time move to NASCAR this season. She will race full time in the lower-tier Nationwide Series and making 10 starts on the premier circuit.
In making the transition from the Izod IndyCar Series (where she raced from 2005-11 and became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and win a major-league oval race), Patrick has talked often about wanting to build credibility with her new competitors.
She was hopeful that starting first Saturday would get more drivers enthused about seeking her out for bump-drafting, which is when two cars make contact to increase their speeds.
"Anytime that you show that you have a fast car, it's encouraging for people to want to help you," Patrick said. "You always want to be with the fastest cars possible. We'll see how it works on in the Nationwide race because it seems like there's a lot of bump-drafting. So I think that starts to earn you some respect and credibility because people will want to work with you then. Then my job is to show them that I'm good to work with."
Elliott Sadler, who qualified third, said Patrick already had proved that last July at Daytona when she led 13 laps and placed 10th (tying for her second-best finish behind a fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last March that set a record for a woman in NASCAR's national series).
Want a thrill? Ride with Danica in the following video as she is pushed into the wall this week.