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Patrick ready to move on after Daytona
AVONDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - Danica Patrick had already built quite a following from her IndyCar days, with a big assist from all those television commercials and magazine layouts.
The Daytona 500 took Danicamania to a new, frenzied level.
“I need to keep realistic expectations and everyone else does, too,” Patrick said from Phoenix International Raceway, the next stop on the Sprint Cup schedule. “Daytona is a very unique place and this is kind of where the bulk of the season starts.”
Attention for one of auto racing’s most popular drivers reached a fever pitch in Daytona, her face all over the news, everyone watching her every move, the daughters of a few of her fellow drivers wanting the opportunity to meet NASCAR’s biggest draw.
“I feel like now days, having the experience that I had in IndyCar and understanding how media works, what it’s like to be busy and do a lot of interviews and things outside the car, and also building a great team helps me manage and tolerate all of that is very different than it was back in 2005,” Patrick said.
She wasn’t bad on the track, either, leading five laps and entering the final lap in third. Patrick faded as the field turned toward the checkers, dropping to eighth as a handful of veteran drivers dropped to the inside lane and passed her.
Disappointing? Sure, but she did earn a top-10 finish in NASCAR’s biggest race, becoming the 13th driver to lead laps at the Indy and Daytona 500s.
Unlike 2005, when she struggled with everything that came after Indy, Patrick left Daytona at ease, ready to race at Phoenix and beyond.
“I kind of feel like it is another weekend now,” she said. “Last weekend was what it was. But we’re moving on and maybe in 2005 it was kind of a little bit of ongoing excitement level, and hope for me. I think I’m a little more mature now to know that these come, they go.”
Still, there is a bit of a gnawing feeling about Daytona.
Perhaps due to her lack of experience, Patrick was passed by five cars as the field turned toward the checkered flag, leaving her feeling like she let a chance get away in Florida.
Maybe she did, but maybe not.
By Tom Fitton
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