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NASCAR NOTES: Patrick gains respect with strong Daytona performance

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Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (RNN) -

Danica Patrick made history last week by being the first female to earn a Cup Series pole at Daytona. As historic as that achievement was for the young NASCAR driver, many still questioned how she would fare once she got into racing competition.

Those questions were answered as the NASCAR Rookie of the Year contender ran in the top 10 most of the day and finished the Daytona 500 in eighth position.

"She's going to make a lot of history all year long," said second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. about Patrick's racing skills. "I think she's done her best work in the Cup car. I think for whatever reason, she seems to get a lot more out of that car."

Running at the front of the pack all day earned Patrick respect from many of NASCAR's elite, which should add confidence to her as the year progresses.

"I agree with everything that Dale said," added third place finisher Mark Martin on Patrick's performance. "She did an incredible job today, as well as an incredible job a number of times last year. There will be more of that to come."

Patrick was appreciative of the kind comments from her competitors but, as usual, diverted the credit to her team rather than basking in the limelight.

"This is a unique track," said Patrick on her impressive finish. "It's a lot about the car. I mean, you have to be smart enough to do the right thing at the right time but, it's very much about the car."

Patrick not only started the event from the Pole but also led a total of five laps which was another first for a female driver. However, instead of focusing on her gender achievements, Patrick was more excited about another accomplishment.

"I think a stat that I found more interesting is only 13 people, including me now, have led Indy and Daytona," continued Patrick on her record breaking Speedweeks. "I thought that was a much cooler stat for me."

Despite the doors that Patrick is opening for female drivers, she is more focused on being respected as a race car driver.

"I'm honored," said Patrick on her historic accomplishments. "But, again, these are things that just happen along the way. I'm on the quest to be the best driver, run up front, and get to Victory Lane. These things happen and I'm proud, but they're not the ultimate goal."

With her Daytona success behind her now, Patrick now focuses on the rest of the season. Her goal, of course, is to win the Rookie of the Year title but, on-track goals are still in development.

"I feel like I'm still sticking to, let's see how these first five races go," said an excited Patrick. "We go to a bunch of different kinds of tracks, let's see where we settle in, and then start to establish goals from there on out."

Patrick's respect from her fellow drivers will come over time but no one can deny that she certainly made an impression during Speedweeks. I think Mark Martin put it best when he said, "It's just going to be a lot of fun having her in the series."

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