Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 2/17/13

KANSAS CITY, KS - APRIL 25: Danica Patrick driver of the #7 Motorola Andretti green Racing Dallara Honda during practice for the IRL IndyCar Series Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 on April 25, 2009 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
It’s been a perfect storm for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since they’ve arrived at the Daytona International Speedway this past week. The buzz around this season was big with a new sexy looking car as fans have been raving to see it. Then came the first two practice sessions of the season Saturday. In practice session No. 1, Danica Patrick was on top of the leaderboard for most of the early afternoon session. She was beat out near the end by Joey Logano and Austin Dillon, but that buzz of her speed alone certainly helped NASCAR and Speed gain more viewers for the afternoon session as fans wanted to see where she’d end up. As luck would have it, Patrick set the fastest speed of the day as she was nearly one full mph faster than her teammate and car owner Tony Stewart. That created an even bigger buzz as everyone was raving about how a woman could possibly sit on the pole for the Daytona 500. That gave today’s qualifying session the biggest buzz that I could remember for a session in NASCAR racing. Normally, the Daytona 500 qualifying session is one of the most boring qualifying sessions all season long. It’s very laid back as really it’s out of the drivers hands for qualifying. They just hold the wheel and keep the gas pedal down. It’s all on the crews with preparation and set-ups. That usually keeps fans away from watching or attending as there’s not much of a buzz around it. Today though I’d have to say was very comparable to Indianapolis 500 qualifying and the 2001 Pepsi 400. Where there’s not normally a buzz as most times people watching at home use today as a good time to take a nap. With Patrick laying down a lap early in the session that was quickest it kept people watching with intent on every driver making an attempt. That’s big for NASCAR and Fox. Now, with Patrick on the pole there’s a whole week build-up for the 500 next Sunday and the media attention for the race may be at an all-time high. There’s now going to be more eyes on the race as casual fans or even someone watching for the first time will want to see what Patrick can do. That’s why it reminds me of July 2001. Everyone remembers that tragic day on February 18th, 2001 at the Daytona International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed on the last lap blocking for his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip who were running 1-2 running DEI cars for Earnhardt battling for the win. In July, it was very emotional as the series returned to the spot where Earnhardt was killed. Junior was strong on restrictor plate tracks and the buzz surrounding him if he could win would be the momentum the sport needed to put closure on his dads death and moving forward to the next chapter. The buzz was huge around him that July. Junior wound up winning that race getting help from his teammate Waltrip that night and was one of the most emotional fan favorite races in NASCAR history. Obviously, you can’t compare the two situations but the buzz created around both are very similar. This will likely be the most watched Daytona 500 in the 55-year history of the race. Patrick created this huge buzz on her own, and NASCAR is capitalizing from it.   Photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com The post Daytona 500: Danica Patrick’s pole comparable to Junior’s win in July 2001 appeared first on Race Review Online.
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