DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After winning pole position for Sunday's Daytona 500, the public focus and the fan pressure to win the Great American Race has descended on Danica Patrick.
Famous driver, historic moment, grand stage.
Yet standing inside her hauler Wednesday afternoon inside Daytona International Speedway, Patrick simply laughed away the burden of sudden expectations. Oh, she feels the urgency with such a fast car. And she gets the importance of the groundbreaking accomplishment – she'll be the first woman to start from the pole in NASCAR's biggest race. This, however, is the modern, carefree Danica – new boyfriend, new attitude. She has little time for pressure.
"This is a cool week," Patrick acknowledged. "And I feel really relaxed."
That wasn't always the case with Patrick, who's been in the spotlight since bursting onto the racing scene in 2005 when she led the Indy 500 and nearly won the thing. Soon she'd be a famous duel threat racer/swimsuit model.
She was a bit more programmed then. A bit more guarded.