Opinion: Patrick Makes Her Mark

D.Patrick

Danica Patrick can hold her head high after the performance she turned in during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona. (Photo: Getty Images)

Danica Patrick can hold her head high after the performance she turned in during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona.

Love her or hate her, you have to hand it to Patrick for how she handled things on the racetrack this week.  She may not have followed through on completing the storybook ending that would have been NASCAR’s dream come true, but she certainly didn’t embarrass herself behind the wheel.

Patrick played it safe in her Budweiser Duel, had a car capable of winning Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and ran at the front of the field through most of the Daytona 500.  Although her inexperience cost her a shot at a better finish than the eighth place she brought home, all things considered Patrick’s week in Florida should be considered a success.

“I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself that opportunity to win,” she said about the closing laps of Sunday’s Daytona 500, when she was shuffled back as the checkered flag came near.  “I think that's what I was feeling, uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that.

“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.”

Patrick made history a couple times while in Daytona.  She became the first female driver to win a Sprint Cup Series pole and leading a lap in the Daytona 500.  But Patrick was even more proud of another accomplishment.

“I think a stat I found more interesting is only 13 people - including me, now - have led Indy and Daytona.  I thought that was a much cooler stat for me.  I'm honored but again, these are things that just happen along the way.  I'm on the quest to be the best driver, run up-front, get to Victory Lane.  These things happen and I'm proud, but they're not the ultimate goal.”

Whether or not that ultimate goal comes this year, whether in Sprint Cup or the additional races she’s expected to run in Nationwide, remains to be seen.  Patrick has shown that she’s pretty adept at the restrictor plate thing and has been in contention more than a handful of times at both Daytona and Talladega since she started her NASCAR career.

But she made her mark and NASCAR will undoubtedly benefit.  The exposure-filled week with Patrick in the spotlight is expected to translate into a higher television audience for FOX and it didn’t hurt that she was in the hunt for the win as the laps wound down.

Now starts the grind of the season with Phoenix, Las Vegas, Bristol and Fontana all waiting as the calendar turns to March.  Patrick should take time to savor her Daytona successes.

Fame will be fleeting because come Wednesday, the reality of the 36-race season will kick in.

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