Danica Patrick has already made history by becoming the first woman to ever claim the pole position on NASCAR's premier circuit. She has a chance to break more ground with a Daytona 500 win, something that's a real possibility given her good fortune to start the race.
Although Patrick has taken NASCAR by storm since she arrived on the scene at the Indianapolis 500, don't count on all her fellow (male) drivers to applaud the first-ever first-place finish from a woman at Daytona.
In fact, bet against it.
If you listen to current and former drivers talk about Patrick and what her impact on the sport is at the current moment, the reaction is mixed at best.
ESPN's David Newton examined one issue that seems to have a decent amount of drivers irked in his piece on Wednesday afternoon, asking NASCAR drivers how Patrick's weight (110 pounds) compares to that of the male drivers (anywhere from 140-200 pounds).
Although weight might not be a big issue to a casual fan, NASCAR officials and drivers have different opinions on what impact a lighter or heavier car can have on the track (per Newton's piece):
"There's two thought processes," series director John Darby said when asked whether a lighter driver could have an advantage. "One is the heavier driver will help compress the springs more and help pull the car down out of the air...The other school of thought is any time you can save weight, you're saving weight. At the end of the day I don't think it matters."
However, former drivers like Robby Gordon don't agree. Gordon dropped out of the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 after feeling the field didn't allow him a fair shake based on NASCAR's rulebook toward weight:
"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said at the time. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds, and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier...I won't race against her until the IRL does something to take that advantage away."
Not only is weight an issue heading into the sport's marquee event, but Patrick's personal life is, too.
That's what she gets for dating fellow rookie driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., as the press has been all over the two love birds during media week at Daytona. However, not all the drivers are looking for the next "Love Bug" situation.
That's the latest from Mark Long and the Seattle Times, who notes that drivers have all spoken out about keeping the dating scene out of Daytona talk:
Harvick, Jamie McMurray, three-time series champion Tony Stewart and others have been fairly outspoken that the Patrick-Stenhouse relationship shouldn't be a story at Daytona.
Denny Hamlin is making quotes about Patrick, too, and they aren't exactly superlative in nature. While Hamlin does credit Patrick for helping the sport to take some much needed strides in terms of diversity, he also notes that she gets more credit than she's earned based on her NASCAR career.
Here are his quotes from an interview with Dan Patrick (via DanPatrick.com):
Dan asked Hamlin if Danica Patrick gets too much attention. "For the accomplishments she's had, yes," Hamlin said. "But what's she's done for the sport … people are willing to forgive that."
It should be painfully clear that there is no love lost between Patrick and the other drivers on the NASCAR roster.
It's also clear that they are going to concede nothing during the 500 mile race in Florida on Sunday night. While that's a normal feeling between men on this circuit, it's also true for Patrick—even if she's on the verge of making history.
If Patrick does win the race, she'll likely get no more than a handshake and a pat on the back from the rest of the field. Heck, she might not even get that.
Between her GoDaddy.com endorsements, dating life and typical media attention that she receives for being NASCAR's "first" in many categories, there's no doubt she gets unwarranted publicity that other hard-working men in the sport do not.
This article is a good example of that claim.
That being said, Patrick is a shining light for NASCAR moving forward. Her contributions have proven to be beneficial to both current female drivers aiming for the spotlight and anyone in a position of thinking the odds are stacked against them. She is a true example that hard work and talent put towards the right ends really do pay off.
Just don't expect any of the other drivers to be happy about it if she's in victory lane come Sunday evening.