- Danica Patrick posted a solid run from the pole position and finished 8th in Sunday's Daytona 500.
- She led five laps, becoming the first woman to lead a Cup Series race under green-flag conditions.
- She was running 3rd until a last-lap scramble shuffled her and 2nd-place Greg Biffle back in the final rundown.
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Danica Patrick rose above the tentative, unimpressive level of racing she had demonstrated in a 150-mile qualifying race and had a strong effort in Sunday's Daytona 500, running near the front most of the day, leading the race at one point and finishing 8th.
Patrick was running 3rd in the late laps behind eventual winner Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle. On the final lap, Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a charge from 7th place, drafting to the front with Mark Martin and Brad Keselowski following him. All the front-runners managed to make it through the final lap without wrecking, but Biffle and Patrick, who tried to stay in line behind Johnson, were shuffled back several spots.
The race finished under green even though a car further back in the pack driven by Travis Kvapil smacked the wall in Turn 1 on the final lap. Kvapil kept his car moving and the caution flag did not wave.
"We stayed basically in the top 10 all day long," Patrick said. "You can't really complain about that. It was nice."
Patrick chose to start on the outside of the front row rather than on the inside, the traditional pole position, because she had immediately fallen behind outside front-row starter Trevor Bayne at the start of Thursday's qualifying race.
The outside line had proven to be faster, at least in the early going, in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race earlier in the week. Patrick did not compete in that race.
Like she did in the 150-miler, Patrick failed to take the advantage at the start Sunday. Jeff Gordon moved ahead on the inside and then moved up in front of Patrick.
Unlike Thursday, Patrick did not continue to fade backward. She ran with the top cars most of the race. She took the lead on lap 90, just before the halfway mark, and led twice for five laps.
That was another first for Patrick, who in 2005 became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and first to finish the famous race in the top five (she took 4th place). Now, she is the first woman pole winner in the Sprint Cup Series, first to finish in the top 10 in the Daytona classic and first to lead a Cup Series race under green-flag conditions. Janet Guthrie led five laps in a race in 1977 at Ontario, California, but they were all under the yellow flag.
"Only 13 people including me have led Daytona and Indy," Patrick said. "That's a cool stat for me."
Edmunds says: Saturday's spectacular crash that caused injury to several spectators stole much of the weekend media attention, but Patrick certainly proved herself after making history with her pole-winning qualifying run. The pole was no fluke, and Patrick ran an excellent race.