- Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Gordon passed Danica Patrick on the second turn of the first lap to ruin her hopes of leading the first lap of the 2013 NASCAR season. It wasn’t her fault that Gordon clearly had a great car as he led each of the first 28 laps of the Daytona 500. Yet, Patrick was determined to make the most of her day, though, she knew the likelihood of ending up in Victory Lane was slim to none.
The Daytona 500 was Patrick’s 11th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with Stewart-Haas Racing and it sure didn’t seem like it. Patrick was able to maneuver her way through traffic throughout the day as she fought hard to finish where she did. After the wreck that occurred on the final lap, Patrick was able to hold off Michael McDowell by just a few inches for the eighth position. It was Patrick’s best Sprint Cup Series result to date and probably her best showing in NASCAR competition since she entered the series.
Her driver rating was sensational at 113.4 which was only behind race winner, Jimmie Johnson. Though she wasn’t as impressive as she originally thought she would be after becoming the first woman to win a pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, let alone the Daytona 500, Patrick still showed that she has the skill set to run strong on the Super Speedways which could be a make or break for her career.
Patrick was capable of leading twice for a total of five laps. It doesn’t seem like much, but it was a milestone in her career. Leading the Daytona 500 isn’t just given to a person because they have the proper funding such as Patrick has. However, the true test will come in the following weeks when she has to face several short and intermediate tracks which will determine how she’ll fair in her rookie season against her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
After the race had concluded, Patrick was rather modest about her run. She recognized that she broke several barriers during the Daytona 500, but she felt as if she had a shot at winning the race towards the final stages. Just imagine what that would have been like.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.