Today at Daytona has been no different from the past several days—more questions about Danica Patrick than anything else.
The first question of the day, concerning Danica’s ARCA performance, was fielded by Jimmie Johnson.
“She did pretty well,” said Johnson. “The ARCA series is like high school; now she’s moving up to the college level.”
Patrick has finished her second Nationwide practice session at Daytona, moving up to a top five position on the speed chart, and is now ready for her first qualifying attempt on Friday.
While Patrick is locked into Saturday’s race based on owner points, qualifying attempts could be washed out as rain showers are forecasted to move through central Florida on Friday.
Media coverage of Patrick at Daytona seems to have overshadowed the majority of speed week events and the more than 150 drivers here for racing.
During her post-practice media session, Patrick was asked if she felt uneasy by dominating all the attention—to a point that it’s beginning to overshadow the Daytona 500.
“I have been lucky. I also cannot control how much is out there, what people say or how much they say,” said Patrick.
These statements seem scripted and, by all means, noble. But the fact is, Patrick does have control of how much is out there and may have showed that control during media coverage of her first Nationwide practice.
After securing a less-than-mediocre 26th spot on the speed charts, Patrick pulled her Go Daddy Chevrolet into Nationwide garage stall No. 23.
About 20 credentialed photographers took up station outside the garage for photo opportunities and waited for Patrick to exit the car.
While Patrick remained in the car, NASCAR security officials moved in and forced everyone except the JR Motorsports team photographer move away from the area. The closest allowable point for a credentialed member of the media—photographer or reporter—was the area where race haulers are parked—approximately 80 feet away.
Once this event was executed, the NASCAR head of security continued enforcement of the moratorium, and an armed sentry was posted outside the garage stall.
Only then did Patrick exit the car.
Other than Patrick’s garage stall, the rest of the Nationwide garage was sparsely populated with media and/or photographers.
One could speculate it was for safety, or she’s just overwhelmed by the attention.
Or, one could speculate that if the only person with action shots of Patrick’s first venture into the Nationwide series is the team photographer, then those pictures will, at this time, bring a higher premium.
During the day, there are times that the public address system gives lap times and speeds and advertises upcoming events. It also tells NASCAR fans where they can buy their favorite driver merchandise online at NASCAR.com.
Patrick is the only driver’s name heard in this advertisement—and the only Nationwide driver who had a post-practice press conference.
It’s not the first time—and definitely won’t be the last time—that this part-time prima donna will receive treatment outside the norm of other drivers.
“If there is anything I can do to help the series, other drivers, or drag in some sponsors, I am happy to do it, and I get benefit from that, too,” said Patrick.
It’s painfully obvious that Patrick is, by far, benefiting more than any other driver or team present at Daytona this year.