- Associated Press - Saturday, February 23, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - There was a line outside Danica Patrick’s merchandising trailer outside Daytona International Speedway on Saturday _ no surprise given her soaring popularity.

Danicamania has reached new heights since she won the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500. And at least one retailer has proof.

Fanatics.com says sales of Patrick’s souvenirs _ hats, T-shirts and other memorabilia _ are up more than 350 percent compared to the week leading up to last year’s Daytona 500.

Although Fanatics.com declined to release dollar figures, the website says sales of Patrick’s gear is currently tops in NASCAR. Yep, even better than that guy Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Three-time series champion Tony Stewart ranks third, followed by four-time champ Jeff Gordon and five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.

Earnhardt has been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for 10 consecutive years.

At the very least, Patrick could be closing the gap.

She became the first woman in NASCAR history to qualify on the pole for any Sprint Cup race.

Johnson, Gordon and Carl Edwards brought their daughters to meet her, and her crew members have handed out dozens and dozens of lug nuts with the No. 10 on them to little girls clamoring for souvenirs near the garage area.

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