Rookie Danica Patrick made history last Sunday as she became the first woman to ever sit on a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole. She was joined by Jeff Gordon as the only other driver to lock in his position during qualifying.
Based on Daytona's unusual qualifying process the rest of the Daytona 500 field was set by the Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch raced their way to Duel wins and claimed the right to start in the second row.
Drop Of The Green
Danica wisely picked the outside lane for the start. We have seen all week that the place to be was up top in a long single-file line. Jeff Gordon got a great start and passed Danica cleanly going into turn one and pulled up in line in front of her to lead the first lap.
Gordon lead a five car single-file train on the top as Kevin Harvick took a shot leading the bottom line. Harvick couldn't find any fast helpers on the bottom and his charge fell back and merged back into the outside lane.
Drivers were content to find a place in line and put some laps on the board as the early part of this one resembled a single-file parade on the outside lane with zero passing. By lap fourteen there were 41 cars in a single-line with two drivers off the pace.
Multiple stories took the spotlight on NASCAR's biggest stage.
The first "Big One" took out a lot of potential winners on lap thirty-two. This wreck included Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Juan Montoya, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick who was having a great week inning both the 2013 Sprint Unlimited and his Budweiser Duel.
The second "Big One" of the day happened away from the lead pack when Brad Keselowski was in the wrong place for the second time today. He wrecked once again in an incident including Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and others.
This was Carl Edwards' fifth Daytona wreck of the season including preseason testing, practice, the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duel. He will be happy to see this place in his rear-view mirror.
This race was a test of patience. Single-file in the outside lane was the order of the day. Since drivers could no longer safely push each other the two car dance and the big pack bump-draft racing were both out of the question.
The day truly belonged to Danica Patrick though.
Danica Patrick stayed out of trouble and stayed near the front all day. She took her turn at the front on lap 90 becoming the first woman to lead the Daytona 500. Danica was such a big story today that Fox virtually ignored NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Danica deserved the coverage. She represents a great story as a talented woman breaking into a traditionally male-dominated sport.
Danica was in the hunt at the end scrambling for the win and ended up a repectable eighth.
Chasing The Checkers
Matt Kenseth lead the most laps and was in the lead when his dreams of defending his 2012 Daytona 500 win went up in smoke. Just a couple of laps later his teammate Kyle Busch also headed to pit road with smoke trailing behind the car.
The third Joe Gibbs Racing car driven by Denny Hamlin inherited the lead and dragged the train around on the top as the laps continued to click away.
All of the leaders dove onto pit road with 28 laps to go. It was Brad Keselowski who was at the head of the class with twenty laps to go in spite of his two wrecks on the day. Behind him Jimmie Johnson was licking his chops and Greg Biffle was third.
A late race restart stacked up the drivers for the final nineteen laps. Keselowski, Biffle and Danica Patrick pulled away on the outside line with Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin rounding out the top five.
Who would make a move? When? Will it work?
Jimmie Johnson stayed on the bottom and got a good push from Denny Hamlin. He started to inch back towards the front and we were side-by-side for the lead with thirteen laps remaining.
Could Keselowski rebound from two wrecks and still take it to Victory Lane at Daytona?
The leaders were just starting get antsy when NASCAR threw a debris caution with nine laps to go.
Resetting for the restart we had Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.
With six laps to go Johnson chose the outside lane for the restart and pulled Greg Biffle and Danica Patrick into the top three while the bottom lane tried to hang on behind Keselowski.
Johnson, Biffle and Patrick took the white flag in single-file. Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a run from fourth as there was a last-lap crash deep in the pack but NASCAR decided not to throw the yellow and let them finish it.
Jimmie Johnson was never really threatened as Junior finished second and Mark Martin was third.
- Jimmie Johnson
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Mark Martin
- Brad Keselowski
- Ryan Newman
- Greg Biffle
- Regan Smith
- Danica Patrick
- Michael McDowell
- J.J. Yeley