February 25th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Female driver fires up NASCAR series

Ground-breaking woman driver Danica Patrick is making the full-time switch to NASCAR from the IndyCar circuit this year.
Ground-breaking woman driver Danica Patrick is making the full-time switch to NASCAR from the IndyCar circuit this year.

I landed in Daytona Beach, Florida to cover my first Daytona 500, and in a matter of a few hours I witnessed sports history.

Danica Patrick was the fastest car on the track Friday. She won the pole. And for that she gets to start Saturday's season-opening Nationwide Series race as the lead car. It's the first time since Shawna Robinson in 1994 that a female driver has been the top qualifier in a NASCAR event.

Coming into this "Great American Race" she was obviously the biggest story going. On the plane, in the airport and even in my cab Danica was mentioned by someone. The first female driver to win an event on the IndyCar circuit, she raced here for the first time last year, finishing 14th and 10th in the two races, but has now made the full-time switch to NASCAR.

Most of the folks I've talked to in my short time here like her, they want her to do well. But of course when you're as big of a celebrity as she is, the naysayers are not far away.

But in just 24 hours she gave those doubters something to chew on.

She ran her car well in duels on Thursday but crashed into the wall on the final lap. It shook her up pretty bad, but a helpful husband who happens to be an occupational therapist rubbed most of the pain and nearly all the fear away.

In one Friday afternoon she proved why she is the most improved driver in NASCAR in the last two years. Not my words, fellow driver Elliott Sadler said it in the media room minutes before Danica sat in front of us to talk about her history-making run.

In two short days we've seen Danica Patrick go from the lowest of lows in racing to a short-lived high! The biggest story going is just that - going!

Time for some racing, watch out boys!

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Filed under:  Motorsport
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Sherry Keith

    Glad for Danica Patrick... waiting for this day for a long time, but why no press or TV coverage about the other girl driver..Florida 's own #70 Long... she will be making a record at the 500 tomorrow, the youngest female race car driver in a national series. the coverage on her is non existant! Why this ?

    February 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  2. Rellison Fahrquar

    Why is this your first NASCAR that you are covering? And also, although I think Danica is great, a great driver and gorgeous too, isn't it a little old to be making the point that women can drive? The "woman driver" jokes that I used to hear when I was a kid are long gone.
    Women can do anything that men can do. If they want to, of course. Boxing, driving trucks, pumping gas, being a soldier, etc. it's old news.

    February 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  3. Bob

    y opinion is that she is a media darling, at least in part due to her appearance, which is pleasant! I have yet to see the consistent talent that makes her a RACER! She gets the amount of "press" that she gets more for her appearance than for her driving skill or her winning ways! Time will tell, NASCAR has throttled the aggression of their drivers to such a degree that it could be mild enough for a "less tough" driver. I don't believe that she would have been able to make it in the "rubbin' is racin'" era!

    February 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  4. Allen

    Congrats to Danica, I wish her as much luck in the race !

    February 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  5. SpeedQueen

    Love Danica, wish her safe victory; she is our modern goddess Nike of speed and victory.

    February 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  6. Henk

    Nascar? Are you serious. Of course woman can compete with driving circles around some track. Can woman compete in Formula 1: Not a chance. Can woman compete with male tennis or boxing: Not a chance. But with something as laughableas Nascar an 80+ year old could still win i can gauranthee it. Pedal to the mettal + Some healthy Common sense + Practise makes perfect. Finally add some good luck and you will be able to win an event. With Formula 1 you even see someone as legendary as Micheal Schumacher who is a bit older then most of his competitors is no longer able to finish at the top.Same for cycling or other extremely intense sports. Nascar should count as a sport as much as sleeping does.

    February 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  7. bill

    Henk

    Get a life

    February 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Reply
  8. Paul

    Why do women want to do everything men do? Do they wanna be men that much or do they simply admire us too much?

    February 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  9. donah

    In a way I do agree...Women can be as good as men... with less bulk But there are limits.... No I donot compare women with men... that would be stupid. F1 compared to NASCAR is stupid by itself as is football compared to flying an F-18.... So what´s the point of arguing... as long as we reach our best.. it´s okay with me... Good luck Danica.... Donah..//

    February 25, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  10. impulse60

    One win in her entire career, over three years ago. This lady gets too much attention for being...eye candy...not for her racing abilities. Her 15 minutes was up a long time ago, but the media keeps fueling the fire.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  11. Poopfacejohnson-of the long island johson's

    Really, cause she's female and over-corrected right into the wall?

    I do find it interesting that her own teammate bumped her though- hell, he could have tried that before getting into the car.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
  12. Ron

    Can woman drive just as good as men? Yes. Women can drive – and for those dont believe – get over it, its 2012. However, the question is – Can Danica drive? Well, yes – if alone on the track. She does not do well in traffic, never has, probably never will. She is great, if in her own "lane".

    February 26, 2012 at 1:23 am | Reply
  13. alehandro

    I think what people don't realize about Danica is that she's a competitor. Yes, she's got the looks, and yes to a certain extent she's the Anna Kournikova of racing in that she gets far more attention than her achievements warrant because she's attractive. But that's not her fault and who can blame her for exploiting the opportunities she gets. On the flip side when you see her interviewed it's clear that she's in it to win it as much as any male driver and it's that attitude that should set the standard for the public's opinion of her. Don't hate her because she's beautiful.

    February 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  14. alumette

    I am a liberal woman who will root for women anytime. I flew planes when few women did but guess what ? It is nice to have these testosterone hormones when competing in NASCAR. I see it as an old boy sport. The reality that Danika is doing well there proves me wrong. The spirit can evidently win over these damn hormones ! Go girl !

    February 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  15. BiggieSmalls

    I find it so funny that everyone is just now "questioning" the abilities of women in motorsports. NHRA has had women regularly competing and winning for over 40 years and are more than welcomed by us competitors! I've competed in the upper levels of drag racing for just about 30 years and I can tell you, there is NO difference! Actually in the NHRA Pro Stock class speed record is currently held by Erica Enders, a girl barely in her 30's. These cars are VERY hard to DRIVE and the class is super competitive. The national speed record? Yup, try 213 mph which she set nearly 1 year ago is. That's right, ZERO to 213 mph in about 6.5 seconds. All with her whipping a 5 speed and steering at the same time! Imagine that all you sofa racers!! Yes, this is you impulse60, Henk or anyone else who is clueless...This kind of horsepower makes a car go everyway BUT straight! You can tout your crap that NASCAR, drag racing, or other forms of racing is easy because it isn't F1 or whatever....But know this zippy, NO racecar in ANY form of motorsport is "easy" to drive. If you do think that, you're obviously on the spectator's side of the fence and are too scared to strap into one to find out how "easy" it really is!

    February 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  16. Mike Helmuth

    My daughter at the age of three has always wanted to race and she works as hard as any other racer on the track. Yes she does get the attention of being "that girl" but when she straps on her helmet she is just like the rest of them. A driver who wants to win.
    Go Molly!

    March 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  17. phatboi

    She needs to stop crying (literally tears streaming down her face) so much. Racing is an aggressive sport and no one is going to "let" you pass them in traffic, you have to look for an opportunity and take that next position towards the lead.

    I watched her ball on network TV (in tears) after a race last year because "no one would let me pass them". Boo hoo. No one "lets" anyone pass them. That's the whole idea!

    She'll never be taken seriously until she starts acting more mature and drives as aggressively as the sport demands you to. Til then she's just a woman driving in nascar, which is kind of a big deal, but she's not a serious competitor. She's just driving in circles behind the rest of the drivers.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:43 am | Reply
  18. MrCrabs

    Let's see...she started kart racing 20 years ago at age 10. At age 16 she moved to England and raced for 3 years in Formula Ford, Formula Vauxhall and earned a second-place in Britain's Formula Ford Festival. Since then has worked her way up the sport. There are plenty of male drivers that no one remembers who never attained as much in 20 years. They did not give her anything. She can go another 20 years and get better (like many of her male counter-parts). Which one of you couch potatoes can claim any thing remotely like that? I bet she beat a lot of little boys at age 10. She can do it at age 30.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  19. Arkangel

    A woman in any business should be given due credit exactly like a man would be. Any discrimination, positive or negative, based on gender or anything else for that matter should be unacceptable. That said, let's face it that motorsports is a male-dominated world -as is the world in general, realistically speaking- and women have yet to go a long way before being taken as serious contenders in this field. There are a few brilliant moments here and there, as BiggieSmalls has probably correctly mentioned (I couldn’t care less about drag racing) but surely men have a few records of their own to brag about and not just in sports. So I won’t be dragged into that debate. And yes, I still remain sceptical of women's driving capabilities. By the way, this male-dominance is exactly the reason MrCrabs, that there are plenty of male drivers that no one remembers but equally mediocre achievements of female drivers are blown out of proportion. Too bad pal, you started off being illogical and ended up giving away your immaturity.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:00 am | Reply
  20. Shawn

    We have several Local women who are standout drivers in their respective sports. Brianne Corn was named an SCCA driver of the year last year. She won the OPEN class in 4wd Time Attack class at the Pikes Peak Hill climb. She then went on to win the SCCA Solo B-Modified class at SCCA Solo nationals. There is no reason whatsoever that a woman that decides that she enjoys racing cars and puts the time in to do well can't do as well as a man on equal equipment.

    March 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  21. Tyler

    Get A Life Henk

    March 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  22. Denice Rian

    Patrick started in kart racing and later raced Formula Ford in England before returning to the United States and moving up to IndyCars. She was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series season. She holds the IRL record for most consecutive races running at the finish: as of October 2, 2011, she had completed 50 consecutive in the running (besting the record by 18).;'

    April 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Reply

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