DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Even James Franco knew this was Danica Patrick's Daytona 500.
As the grand marshal for NASCAR's biggest race Sunday, the actor veered off script when it came time to recite racing's most famous words.
"Drivers — and Danica — start your engines!" he said.
Jimmie Johnson might have won the race, but years from now the 55th running of the Daytona 500 might be remembered more for Patrick winning the pole position and how she capitalized on the opportunity.
For seven consecutive days after she became the first woman to win a Sprint Cup Series pole, it was the Danica 500.
She did interviews with all three nightly news broadcasts (CBS, NBC, ABC) as well as CNN and Fox News — significantly more attention than any other NASCAR driver has gotten in recent memory.
The day after she won the pole, she was featured on the front of more than 100 newspapers.