Sunday February 24, 2013 will be a day in which NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick will remember for the rest of their lives. Jimmie Johnson was starting his 400th career Sprint Cup race while Patrick was the first woman to hold the pole starting position (1st) and lead the race in the 55th running of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500. At the end of the day the taste ended up being a little bit sweeter for Johnson than Patrick.
“Drivers and Danica start your engines” was the phrase that rang out through the Daytona International Speedway shortly after one in the afternoon. Actor James Franco, who was the grand marshal of the 55th running of the Daytona 500, said those words. Retired Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis fresh off his Super Bowl XLVII Championship was the honorary starter and was in charge of waving the green flag to start the race. “The one rule is don’t drop the flag.” Lewis said earlier in the day. Nerves were present but Lewis was able to keep his composure.
Media attention was highly present throughout the week leading up to the 55th running of the Daytona 500 as for the first time in NASCAR history a female was on the pole position (1st) leading the field of forty-three drivers. That woman was Danica Patrick who was racing full time (36 races) for the first time in NASCAR’s highest level, the Sprint Cup Series. There are many people who know Patrick for her promotional work she has done with the company Go Daddy, but she was determined to make it known that she isn’t just another pretty face and that she can hang with the “veterans” of the sport such as Jimmie Johnson. Danica showed that she could hang with the other drivers by earning the top starting position for the Daytona 500 during qualifying a week before with a top speed of 196.333 miles per hour. She showed fierce competitiveness throughout the race and became the first woman in history to lead laps in the 500 when she passed Michael Waltrip on a restart during Lap 90. Patrick was able to hold that lead for two laps but ultimately fell back to third, a position which she found herself in during the last few laps. There were moments during those last few laps of the Daytona 500 when Danica Patrick had a chance to move up from the third spot but she seemed a bit apprehensive to do so. Come to find out during her post race interview with FOX Sports, she told the reporter that she had been running at half throttle all day and was curious
how things would’ve been if she had been running at full throttle. Patrick was able to finish the race in the top ten with an 8th place finish. A respectable way to end the day with an 8th place finish along with leading a total of five laps during the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
Jimmie Johnson’s day ended with a wide smile on his face and the taste of victory as he was able to hold off the fast charge of the cars behind him to finish first and win the 55th running of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500. Johnson started the day in the 9th position out of 43 and was able to escape several multi-car crashes during the race to win NASCAR’s “Super Bowl” as many people refer to the Daytona 500 as. This was his second time winning the race as he first won it in February 2006. "There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I'm a very lucky man to have won it twice," said Johnson, who won in his 400th career start. "I'm very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport." A great ending to the day for Jimmie Johnson with the victory while Danica Patrick was left to ponder whether things would’ve been different if she had been running at full throttle during the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
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