Danica Makes the Most of Her Big Moment

Danica Makes the Most of Her Big Moment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Not quite eight years ago, a split-second gust of wind kept 23-year-old Danica Patrick from electrifying rather than just wowing the world. It kept her from winning the pole for the 2005 Indianapolis 500.

And it slowed down her life -- at least in comparison to what might have been.

Good, she reckoned Sunday after becoming the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500, or any Cup race, or any big-name motor race in the world, for that matter.

There were gusts and puffs here during qualifying, but none to faze the woman who'll turn 31 next month, whose hairdresser found a gray hair the other day ("I cried a little," she said).

That Saturday in May of '05, she was hurtling toward the brink of history at nearly 230 mph when a gust caught her car entering the first turn and sent it shooting sideways. Only her lightning reflexes kept her from crashing, warded off the accusations of choking.


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