Only a Danica victory could have saved a Daytona 500 that has been cursed in recent years by rain delays, potholes in the asphalt and exploding jet dryers. If Danica had won, she would have become THE story of weekend. Any other winner — with the possible exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and this week will be remembered for injured fans being hauled away on stretchers.
Everywhere you looked in the infield Sunday, bandwagon Danica fans were sporting their newly purchased merchandise.
Jana Sanders came all the way from Denver in hopes of seeing Danica win. Nicole Rhea flew in all the way from Seattle.
“I've never been to the Daytona 500, and I wanted to be here to see a woman make history in a man's world,” Sanders said.
“She is a role model for little girls everywhere,” Rhea added.
Not that Danica disappointed. She did, after all, become the first woman to ever win a pole at the highest level of NASCAR and the first woman ever to lead a lap at the Daytona 500. She ran with the big dogs all day, was in the top three on the final lap and finished a respectable eighth.
“She's going to make a lot of history all year long,” Dale Jr. said. “It's going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress.”
Isn't it strange that Johnson, perhaps the most underappreciated dynasty in the history of sports, is overshadowed by two drivers — Danica and Dale Jr. — who rarely win? Johnson wins championships like he's in the SEC but gets the attention of a team in the Mountain West.
Of course, what do you expect when the most interesting thing he had to say after his victory Sunday was a corporate plug for a home-improvement chain.
“Go to Lowe's and buy some stuff,” Johnson urged. “Spring is coming!”
This Daytona 500 needed so much more than your typical NASCAR sponsor speak.
It needed something new and charismatic and exciting.
It needed something to make us forget the bloody fans and blaring ambulances.
It needed Danica in Victory Lane.
Distributed by MCT Information Services