Crash Doesnt Wreck Robinsons Dream

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Shawna Robinson was prepared for the worst. After wrecking and finishing 24th in her 125-mile qualifying race on Thursday, Robinson figured her team would be packing up and going home.

But then Dale Jarrett walked over to Robinson and congratulated her for making the field for the Daytona 500. To say the least, it took her by surprise.

“When we wrecked, it was an extreme disappointment,” the driver of the No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge said. “We were working on the car, and there was a lot going on so time went by very quickly and I did start noticing which cars had fallen out (of the Twin 125), and a lot of them were ones that had qualified behind me. Obviously if they didn’t finish in the Top 14, then that still gave me a chance. But I really didn’t think about it a lot. We were focused on trying to get the car back together and get back out there if at all possible.

“I was doing so many interviews, until Dale came over and said, ‘Congratulations. Heckuva job. You’re in.’ I was like, ‘Am I in? Are you sure?’ I didn’t want to let myself think I was going to be in then not be. I didn’t want to set myself up for that disappointment. I was very much going to walk out of here with my head held high and focused on Las Vegas (in two weeks).”

As it turned out, she doesn’t have to be. Robinson was the last driver to make the 43-car field for the Daytona 500 based on her qualifying time from last Saturday. She’ll start Sunday’s race from the 36th position.

In the process, Robinson becomes the second female driver ever to race in the Daytona 500. Janet Guthrie finished 12th in the 1977 race and 11th in the 1980 event.

The race will be Robinson’s second Winston Cup event of her career. She qualified for the June Michigan race last year and finished 34th.

Robinson said she would much rather have made it into the Daytona 500 by finishing 14th or better in her 125-mile qualifier but isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“It would probably feel a lot different if I had raced my way in,” said Robinson, who is scheduled to drive in 24 of the 36 Winston Cup races this season. “That was the plan; that’s what we set out to do. It didn’t work out that way.

The fact is, being a brand-new race team as this is – we’ve been together for about seven weeks – and the fact that we ran a good enough qualifying time the other day, we’re in the Daytona 500. Whatever it takes. What matters is that we’re in the race.”

And that’s all that matters to Robinson, even if some don’t think she belongs in the field.

“I don’t think about that,” Robinson said. “I’m very focused on what I’m here to do. I’m sure there are those drivers that maybe think I don’t deserve to be out here and there are those that I’ve worked as hard as, probably harder.

“I have blinders on as far as that goes. When I walk through the garage, I’m looking forward. I’m looking at what my job is to be here. I’m very focused on that, and I’m very focused on the race car.”

BAM Racing isn’t getting any factory help from Dodge, but Robinson said that might only be a matter of earning it. Making the field for the Daytona 500 is a huge step in that direction.

The fact that Robinson is now being put in the same breath with Guthrie, Robinson said, is something she is very proud of.

“I highly respected Janet, more so from 1989,” Robinson said. “I was nominated for Sportswoman of the Year in the Women’s Sports Foundation. At that event, Steffi Graf won the category that I was in, which I was thrilled to be in that category. That’s the first time I really ever met Janet.

“When I was little and growing up in the Midwest, I really looked up to drivers like A.J. Foyt and the sprint car drivers of those days, like Steve Kinser. It was the Midwest, so I was more in tune to that type of racing. But when I started racing in 1983, my goals were to get into stock-car racing, so I highly respected her (Guthrie). I think she did an amazing thing, especially in the timeframe she had to do it. It’s some good footprints to follow.”

And if Robinson could fare as well in her first Daytona 500 as Guthrie did in her two appearances, Robinson will feel very fortunate.

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