The Danica Patrick 500

It’s no secret that NASCAR used Danica Patrick’s pole win to their advantage, but the real question is, did she live up to expectations?

Feb 24, 2013; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (10) leads lap 90 during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap in the Daytona 500. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Minutes after winning the Daytona 500 pole position on Sunday, February 17th, Patrick’s name was broadcast all over the United States.

According to GoDaddy (via Terry Blount), from the minute she won the pole to February 19th, Danica was featured in 165 newspaper stories, 45 TV and radio shows and 466 websites.

Her celebrity status stretches far beyond the racing community and that was evident this past week when some starting calling the race the Danica 500.

It was announced that in the 24 hours following the end of the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick was mentioned 42.6% more on TV, in print and Internet articles than race winner Jimmie Johnson. When the ratings for the Daytona 500 were finally released, it confirmed what many had already expected, a rise. Up 24% from 2012, the 2013 Daytona 500 was the most watched 500 since 2008. It’s no secret that the rise in viewers was thanks in part to Danica Patrick and the way the networks used her history making pole win in their advertisements.

With NASCAR and Fox Sports exploiting her historic win, the question is, did she live up to the hype? Let’s take a look at some of her statistics from the Daytona 500 week.

~ 1st woman to win the Pole position for a Sprint Cup Series Race

~ 1st woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500

~ 2nd woman to lead laps in a Sprint Cup Series Race

~ Highest finish for a woman in a Sprint Cup Series Race

~ 13th driver to lead laps in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500

She stayed in the top 10 throughout the entire race, only dropping to 11th place once. The only driver in the field to have a better running average than Patrick (5.2) was race winner Jimmie Johnson (5.0).

Thousands of people all over the country tuned in to the Daytona 500 just to watch Danica Patrick. Her iconic name is bringing eyes to our sport who otherwise would have never tuned in. Many people called this year’s Daytona 500 the Danica 500 because of all of the hype and exposure she got but she lived up to the hype. She broke records and exceeded the expectations of even her biggest fans.

The real testament will be this week in Phoenix, where she returns to the track for the second time in the Cup car. Her last time at the track, she was running in the top-15 before being pushed into the wall. It was still her best finish in the Cup Series that season. Can she live up to the hype and expectations put on her this week? We will have to wait and see.