Danica Mania Goes Full Throttle At Daytona

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Danica Patrick mania has been going full throttle since the IndyCar Series star arrived at the Daytona International Speedway this week. Her first appearance took place on media day, and her session drew an overflow crowd of reporters.

Media day annually attracts some 300 television, radio, internet and print journalists for the all-day event, held in a big top behind the grandstands. Patrick was among the 50 drivers from the three NASCAR national series to appear at the fast-moving series of interviews and photo shoots.

Since the media didn’t know how Patrick would react to the army of reporters covering Speedweeks, they were eager to see how she would conduct herself. If grades were assigned, she would have earned an A. She came across as congenial, articulate and humble, and handled the endless activities with ease.

Seeing the media turnout, Patrick said it seemed larger than similar activities that happen around the Indianapolis 500. “I am flattered that I am in a position that people are still interested in me,” Patrick said. “I have been blessed that a number of journalists have written some very nice things about me, and I am lucky to be in this position.”

Asked why she is at Daytona, the petite driver responded without hesitation, “I am here because I want to race in NASCAR, and even though the opportunity has come up many times, this time I thought the racing looks like real fun.”

Patrick said another incentive for her interest in NASCAR has to do with emphasis on oval tracks. “I really like oval racing, but we are getting less and less of it in IndyCar,” she said. “IndyCar has been very challenging in the last year or so because everyone is so identical, particularly on the road courses. It is exciting to pass and overtake others.”

From the media session, she made her way to the garage area to begin practice for ARCA garages to practice and qualify for the Lucas Oil Mist 200. For the race, she will drive the Chevrolet fielded by Bill Gerhart, and she effortlessly qualified the car in the 12th starting spot.

Comparing Indy car racing to stock cars, she stated, “In an IndyCar you might get only get within two car lengths of another car, but in these cars, I have to close within a half-car length gap. You feel a little bit claustrophobic turning into a corner, and someone said that’s why the accidents are big as everyone is nose to tail.”

Patrick admitted she faces a steep learning curve, but is ready for the challenge. “I just have to learn, and if I am part of an accident, I will learn from it,” she stated.

Regarding her goal for the debut race, she wants to do more just finish it. “A lot of these guys have done it for a long time,” she said. “I can’t put a number on my goal for the race, as I never do. The idea is for me to improve my position and make as few mistakes as possible.”

Patrick is known to be outspoken and occasionally confrontational when crossed by others. She says displaying emotion is important to her, and she sees it as an integral part of sports. “Isn’t that why we watch sports?” she inquired. “We want to see someone get excited and to see someone get mad.”

But she also confessed her emotions are under control these days. “Even though I have never been afraid to be honest, I have become a little more gracious in the last year or two,” she said. “I will always be emotional and have somewhat of a temper. When the racing is going well, it rules your life.”

Regardless of the outcome, Patrick has arrived with gusto, and the fans and fellow drivers have rolled out the red carpet for her. Throughout the off-season, her transition to stock cars has made headlines for NASCAR and the IndyCar Series and based on her determination, she intends to succeed.

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