Dancia Patrick made history at Daytona International Speedway during Speedweeks 2013. After becoming the first female to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup series pole, Patrick led several laps under green flag conditions during the Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to do so.
“You know, honestly when I say that I wanted to lead at some point, it was just because I was disappointed I didn't do it off the bat like I thought I should have,” Patrick said. “So it didn't really have to do with being a girl and leading…I think a stat that I found more interesting is only 13 people, including me now, have led Indy and Daytona. I thought that was a much cooler stat for me.”
Sunday, Patrick also accomplished another feat; Patrick showed she has the talent to be called a NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver. In her former races, Patrick had usually struggled. In 11 Sprint Cup series starts in 2012, Patrick’s best finish was 17 and she crashed out of two of those races. She never led a lap under green and was never a real threat for a win.
That all changed Sunday.
After starting first, Patrick never dropped out of the top five during the first part of the race, holding her own among the top runners. After dropping outside the top five during the latter half of the race, Patrick raced her way back to the front and was running third when the white flag fell.
“I would imagine that pretty much anyone would kick themselves and say what could I have, should I have done to give myself that opportunity to win,” Patrick said. “I think that's what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that. There was plenty of time while you were cruising along. I was talking to Tony and my spotter on the radio, What do you see people doing, what's working, what is not. I was thinking in the car, How am I going to do this? I didn't know what to do exactly.”
She was shuffled back but still came home eighth yet another milestone as she became the highest finishing female to ever race in the Daytona 500.
“I'm on the quest to be the best driver, run up front, get to Victory Lane,” Patrick said. “These things happen and I'm proud, but they're not the ultimate goal.”
With her run Sunday, the rest of the season for Patrick is bright. A season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series where Patrick showed Sunday she belongs.
“She's going to make a lot of history all year long,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “It's going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress. I think she's done her best work in the Cup car myself. I think for whatever reason she seems to get a lot more out of that car. Every time I've seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She's got a great level head. She's a racer. She knows what's coming. She's smart about her decisions.”
“I enjoy racing with her,” he added. (I) Look forward to more all year long. It's just going to be a lot of fun having her in the series.”