Oscar-nominated actor James Franco was the grand marshall and said, “Drivers and Danica, start your engines!” The Zac Brown Band played a pre-race concert in the Daytona International Speedway infield. Band member Clay Cook performed the national anthem.
Retired baseball pitcher Tom Gordon, comedian Drew Carey, and Wes Welker and Steve Spurrier also were in attendance.
Lewis called Keselowski on the eve of the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and left him an inspirational voice message. Keselowski also often listens to Lewis’ motivational speeches before races.
“I caught a glimpse of how he always watched my videos and it really inspired him,” Lewis said. “That’s when me and him really started having conversations with each other, and from there it just turned into a friendship. I send him motivational things, and heads-up on what I am doing, that’s where the relationship has gone.”
_ Dan Gelston _ http://twitter.com/APgelston
DANICA DROPS BACK: Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to start from the pole in a NASCAR Cup race.
But in the beginning of the Daytona 500, she failed to pull off another landmark.
Choosing the outside spot on the front row, Patrick gave up the lead to Jeff Gordon on the very first lap, missing out on an early chance to become the first female to lead a Cup lap.
Over the first 10 laps, she settled in behind Gordon and held on to the second spot in the 43-car field.
Patrick went on the radio before the race to thank her crew for giving her such a strong car. “I’ll do the best job I can to do my end of the deal today,” she said. “All in all, thank you for everything. You guys are awesome.”
Later, Patrick sent the huge crowd into a frenzy when she snatched the lead from Michael Waltrip on lap 90 after a series of pit stops under yellow. She led two laps before Denny Hamlin surged to the front.
_ Paul Newberry _ http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
FRANCO’S AUDIBLE: “Drivers … and Danica!!! … start your engines.”