Love her or hate her, it is not secret that Danica Patrick made history yesterday when she captured the Pole position for the Daytona 500.
Her crew, led by Tony Gibson, put together one heck of a car and Patrick did exactly what she knows how to do; she drove the wheels off of it in qualifying. When qualifying ended, the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet was at the top of the charts and history had been made. No woman has ever started P1 in NASCARs highest series.
Patrick’s pole position was a headline story all over the world. People who know little to nothing about racing have heard about Danica Patrick’s history making moment. Flipping through various news channels last night and this morning, she was at least mentioned on every channel. CNN and Fox News mentioned the historic moment multiple times during their news programs. Good Morning America had a story on it this morning and an article posted to their website last night. Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN, who don’t normally discuss racing related news, debated on whether or not she deserved the recognition. Everywhere you look a headline with the words “Danica Patrick” and “History” are there. The multiple local news stations in my town even devoted a story to her in their sports segment, and I live hours away from any track.
So what does this mean for NASCAR? Every time someone mentions Danica Patrick this week, they will also mention the Daytona 500. Every time someone mentions Danica Patrick, NASCAR will be brought into the lives of millions who wouldn’t normally pay attention. Every time there is a story or a segment about Danica Patrick’s history making pole win, someone, somewhere in the nation, will be paying attention. Danica Patrick is bringing new eyes to this sport, just like she did when she almost took the pole, then eventually took the lead, in the 2005 Indianapolis 500.
The amount of hate that surrounds Patrick is mind-blowing. Twitter blew up with congratulations for Patrick and her team after the win, but there were also some very negative comments. What these individuals don’t realize is that, although she may not have proved herself out on the track just yet, she is an essential part of each race weekend. There are eyes that tune in just to see her. She is not only a great driver, but a marketing genius. Just because of her namesake alone, there will be thousands of people tuning in to a NASCAR race for the first time just to see her lead the field to green this Sunday.
Love her or hate her, everyone should be thanking her. She may have a long way to go as a driver in NASCAR, but she is definitely an asset to the sport.