Danica Patrick Daytona Media Domination: Illinois native the talk of Speedweek

As the Great American Race approaches, we’re experiencing Danica Patrick Daytona domination! In all of Speedweek's media coverage. Rightfully so, as Danica Patrick, a Beloit, Illinois native (sometimes her hometown is listed as Roscoe, Illinois), won the pole for the Daytona 500. She is the first woman to win a pole for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the first rookie since Jimmie Johnson in 2002 to win the Daytona 500 pole.

This is why she is making the front pages of newspapers and websites alike, and is the lead on ESPN's auto racing shows. However, Sunday isn’t the first time she’s made history. She was first woman to ever lead in an IndyCar race, the first woman to win an IndyCar race and has the highest finish by a woman (4th) in a Nationwide, Cup or Truck series, breaking her own record of 9th.

Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session Sunday and covered the 2½-mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, averaging 196.434 mph.

And the day before Patrick recorded the fastest lap of everyone on qualifying Saturday.

This is by far the biggest achievement of her young NASCAR career. Patrick shattered the previous record for top starting spot by a female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Janet Guthrie previously held the mark, twice starting ninth in 1977. She started ninth at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 7, 1977 and at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.

Finally, a reason for all the media at Daytona to talk about something other than her personal life. We’re talking about the track again instead of her divorce and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Although having this come up at Daytona 500 media day/the NASCAR start of season publicity push has led to some great soundbites.

I love Stenhouse’s widely quoted response when asked what he saw in her: “she’s hot!” Danica herself compared her relationship to Romeo and Juliet. Not Romeoville and Joliet, which is a bit less romantic. Brad Keselowski, the reigning season points leader, has joined all the other famous racers in helping promote the start of the new season, and the new generation 6 cars. He got a lot of time on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. And yes Michael Wilbon asked his opinion of the Danica Patrick/Ricky Stenhouse Jr. romance.

“In my opinion, I don’t think the news story is them lasting together; I think the news story is: What happens if they fall apart?” he said. “Because that’s going to be way better of a story.”

Keselowski didn’t stop there. He wondered aloud what would happen when they raced around each other after a breakup. Would they wreck each other?

“Like, ‘Last time I was around, you didn’t take the laundry out and that’s why we broke up and I’m going to wreck you,’” he said. “Or ‘You stuck me with the bill.’ I mean, that kind of stuff, to me, is going to be way more exciting than them actually dating.”

h/t USA Today

The marathon 36-race Sprint Cup schedule, Patrick's first, begins with the 55th Daytona 500 Feb. 24 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. And it marks the first race in Patrick’s first full season in the sport's top division.

While Patrick, a Rookie of the Year candidate, lacks a ton of Sprint Cup experience, a new car may help level the playing field for her as she embarks on her first full season at NASCAR’s highest level. NASCAR’s sixth-generation Sprint Cup car (Gen-6) is being used for the first time this season, meaning even veteran drivers won’t have old notes to work from, given that the new machines are vastly different (and better looking) than the Gen-5 automobiles. To preview her season, Danica gave an extended interview.

The “Great American Race,” won in 2012 for a second time by Matt Kenseth, will be broadcast live by FOX with additional coverage by MRN Radio and SIRIUSXM NASCAR Radio.

This year’s Speedweeks marks the first time competitors from every NASCAR division – domestic and international – will have a place to race at the World Center of Racing. The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach – three races on a 0.4-mile oval for NASCAR’s grassroots and touring drivers – joins the festivities in 2013.

But the talk of the week has been and will be Danica, whether it’s television, print, radio or internet.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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