Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/18/14

RICHMOND, VI - JUNE 26: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Boost Mobile Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda during practice for the IRL Indycar Series SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 26, 2009 at the Richmond International Speedway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)


Patrick Working To Become First Female To Win At Daytona

Make no mistake, Danica Patrick wants to win at Daytona. She has openly spoken about the extra track time she has specifically scheduled to gain more experience. 

In February, Patrick became the second woman to capture a NASCAR national series pole and first at Daytona. Patrick’s shine seems to blaze even brighter on the biggest stages. But in the season-opening race, she had an unlucky outcome due to an accident with JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt and finished 38th.

As she returns to Daytona, redemption may be on her mind. And why not? In this race last year, she finished 10th, sliding across the finish line during a last-lap melee. It was her best Daytona performance to date. She posted a 115.4 Driver Rating, with an Average Running Position of 6.2. She spent 100 percent of her laps completed in the top 15 and she led 13 percent of the race. In the latter stages of the race, she was in position for what could have been a historic win. 

Patrick is currently ninth in the standings, having posted one top-10 finish (Texas) this season. But she comes into Daytona following two solid runs at Road America and Kentucky, where she finished 12th in both events.  Her season-to-date Driver Rating is 76.9, which is ranked 11th in the series.

The Man In The White Hat: Dillon Taking No. 3 Car Back To Prominence

Along pit road and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage these days, you will see a young man in a distinctive white hat. His name is Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress and driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Dillon posted his first series win this past weekend, kicking open the door on a possible points championship. 

Dillon, 22, won his first career series race last week at Kentucky and also took the points lead. He was the first Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to lead the standings since Reed Sorenson in 2005. On Monday, he was docked six driver championship points after his No. 3 Chevrolet was found to be too low in post-race inspection, putting him four points behind current leader and Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler. But Dillon must be considered a title threat in the season’s second half. History could be made, as well: There has never been an NNS champion who in the previous season won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title. A Sunoco Rookie of the Year has also never won the series championship. 

Over the last three races, Dillon has earned the first two poles of his series career. He has four top fives in his last seven events, including his win, which was the 151st victory by the No. 3 car/truck throughout the NASCAR national series – 97 in NASCAR Sprint Cup, 29 in the NNS and 25 in Trucks.

Dash 4 Cash Kicks Off With Daytona Qualifier

Daytona serves as the qualifying race for the popular NASCAR Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash (follow on Twitter – #Dash4Cash) bonus program that awards the highest-finishing eligible driver in each of this season’s four D4C races a $100,000 bonus on top of their race winnings. For the first time in the program’s three-year history, the bonus races are consecutive – New Hampshire, Chicagoland, Indianapolis and Iowa. 

The four highest-finishing NNS driver championship contenders at Daytona will be eligible for the $100,000 D4C bonus at New Hampshire. The driver who finishes the highest among those four at NHMS – he or she does not have to win the race – will win the first $100,000 bonus and also become eligible for the next Dash 4 Cash race at Chicagoland. The next three highest-finishing series regulars at New Hampshire will then be eligible for Chicagoland, and these same rules will apply for Indianapolis and Iowa. Should the same driver capture the three previous D4C bonuses and win the Iowa race outright, he or she will win an extra $600,000, bringing the total payout to $1 million.

Like last year, a fan element is also in play. Fans can enter the NNS $100,000 Sweepstakes at www.nascar.com/dash4cash and vie for a chance to win a trip and be paired with an eligible driver for the final D4C race at Iowa on Aug. 4. The fan paired with the driver who wins the bonus also wins $100,000.

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.

All-time wins leader Kyle Busch (51 wins) returns to the series this weekend at Daytona, where he leads the series in laps led (247). … Michael Annett gave his team owner, Richard Petty, an early birthday present last week at Kentucky when he posted his career-best, fourth-place finish. The King celebrated his 75th birthday on July 2. Annett comes to Daytona seventh in the standings. ... Reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. may be graduating to NSCS next year but still has work to do at this level. He’s 21 points behind Sadler. Last year heading to Daytona he also was third, seven points out. He left in worse shape, still third but 31 points back, yet righted himself in the second half en route to his championship. … Joey Logano is defending winner of this race. Despite taking last week off, he is one of the hottest NNS drivers with five wins in 11 races this year, including four of his last five. … James Buescher, who won the February NNS race at Daytona – his first national series win – is entered this week. … Latin crossover singer-songwriter Paty Cantú will sing the national anthem for the 11th annual Subway Jalapeno 250 Powered By Coca-Cola Friday night.


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