NASCAR Daytona 2013: Using her newfound experience, Danica Patrick plans to pursue Daytona win

USA TODAY Sports

Having learned her lesson in the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick plans to aggressively pursue the win in NASCAR’s return trip to Daytona International Speedway.

Danica Patrick was running third on the white flag lap in this year's Daytona 500, but a moment of hesitation brought on by inexperience cost her. And instead of finishing third she was shuffled back to eighth.

It's a lesson the Sprint Cup rookie hasn't forgotten. And if she finds herself in a similar position in Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Patrick will not think twice about going for the win.

"On these speedway races there is definitely a feeling of, I feel like over time, especially the longer you have been in them," Patrick said Friday at Daytona. "It's like to go for it. I think that you have to start to take a chance to try and put yourself in a position to win.

"I don't feel like I would want to just settle for the same thing."

Her eighth-place finish was the best ever for a female in the Daytona 500, and thus far her only top 10 of the season. But immediately following the race Patrick was second-guessing herself, and it wasn't until she spoke with race-winner Jimmie Johnson and car owner/teammate Tony Stewart that she felt better about her performance.

Both told Patrick she had done exactly what she was supposed to at Daytona. Although she could have drafted more with Dale Earnhardt Jr., circumstances worked against her as they often do in restrictor-plate racing.

Stewart even told her that she had more to lose than gain in the final laps if she had tried to challenge for the lead, as she could have easily slid far down the running order.

"(Johnson) said that the two times that he has won now at Daytona were the two times he didn't have any kind of plan," Patrick said. "It is about being at the right place at the right time and having the right people behind you. There is luck that plays into it that way.

"Although a lot of times good drivers win, so you still need to know what to do. Probably more than anything it just means have a little bit of experience so that you can handle whatever situation comes up best."

One advantage Patrick will have this weekend that she did not in February is experience running up front in the draft. That along with her more aggressive approach to challenging for the win instead of laying back should encourage other drivers to work with her.

"Although a top-10 finish is always good to have, I think that in the long run it will serve you better to try things," Patrick said. "It will show other drivers that you are willing to do it. That when the time comes maybe next time or the time after or the time after, all of a sudden then you've got a little bit of a better trust and following of other drivers that you want to win.

"Every driver wants to follow someone who wants to go for the win."

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