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What’s Next for Danica Patrick After Winning the Daytona 500 Pole?

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Danica Patrick isn’t going to win the Daytona 500. She already admitted that her chances of winning NASCAR’s largest and greatest race is slim to none.

Speculation around the garage is that her dramatic weight differential compared to other drivers is the reason that she won the pole for the Great American race. However, winning the pole is one thing, but winning the race, that’s a completely different challenge. No pole winner has won the Daytona 500 from the pole since Dale Jarrett did so in 2000 and he was coming off a championship season with one of the best engine programs that has ever existed in the sport thanks to Doug Yates.

Patrick has abruptly become the “first lady” of NASCAR as she’s now proven that she can contend with the big boys, at least on qualifying day. After what she did on Sunday afternoon, she automatically became a fan favorite. Over the past three years, Patrick’s been heavily criticized for attempting to break into an all male sport. Now they can’t say too much about that. Winning the pole for the Daytona 500 gives a driver a great amount of prestige and locks them into the record books for the rest of their career.

Other drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage such as Michael Waltrip, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and several others each spoke to media outlets about Patrick winning the pole and were each enthusiastic about it. Things ended up just the way they could have. No drivers were mad that she won the pole, but some questioned the weight differential which may create a new rule for future races when other female drivers such as Johanna Long and Jennifer Jo Cobb move up through the NASCAR ranks which they will likely do within the next few years.

Now Patrick has plenty to prove. She’s been handling the immense pressure of being the Daytona 500 pole sitter rather well, but it’s safe to say that she hasn’t been in the sport long enough to appreciate this the way others would. In order to win this illusive race that’s been the make-or-break for several careers such as Waltrip and even her car owner, Tony Stewart. Stewart’s been chasing the checkered flag since 1999 and hasn’t been able to win it. He’s been close, but no cigar. Maybe with the help of Patrick, Stewart can bring his self-owned, Stewart-Haas Racing car into victory lane for the first time.

Patrick has plenty of time to prepare for the Daytona 500. Her team will likely show her plenty of videos from past races and Tony Gibson will make sure she’s prepared to run the biggest race of her racing career to this date. Yeah, even bigger than the Indianapolis 500. She’s already brought attention to NASCAR across the globe for this momentous occasion and will continue to do so for the next week including the Budweiser Duel 150′s on Thursday, the DRIVE FOR COPD 300 on Saturday where she’s driving for Turner-Scott Motorsports and of course, the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.