Danica Patrick made history yesterday, securing the top spot in the upcoming Daytona 500 and becoming the first woman in NASCAR history to earn the top position in a major race. The AP called it “the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.”
In yesterday’s qualifying session, she drove the 2.5-mile Florida “superspeedway” at a pace just under 200 miles per hour. Only one other driver, Jeff Gordon, even came close. He joked afterwards, “I can say I was the fastest guy today.”
A fellow driver, Tony Stewart, gushed rather adorably to the AP about her achievement:
It’s not like it’s been 15 or 20 years she’s been trying to do this. It’s her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She’s made history in the sport. That’s stuff that we’re proud of being a part of with her. It’s something she should have a huge amount of pride in.
It’s never been done. There’s only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn’t matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first.
Patrick has been a household name for several years now, but her career hasn’t quiiiite caught up with her name recognition. She’s traded on her looks in a long-running sexy (and offensive) ad campaign for GoDaddy. She has posed the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It’s hard to blame her for this; she’s gorgeous, and she has to make a living in a traditionally male world. No one has doubted she’s a solid driver, but is she great? Yesterday’s result goes a long way to proving that.
The race itself is still to come, and Patrick knows it. “We have a lot more history to make and we’re eager to do it,” she said yesterday. She’ll be first in line, in the best position, when it all goes down next Sunday. Do they still say, “Gentlemen, start your engines”?