DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Danica Patrick started from the pole and finished eighth in just her second Daytona 500 start. It is the best finish by a woman in the 55-year history of the race. Coming to the white flag, Patrick was running third and very much in the hunt to win the event.
Her outside line stalled and Dale Earnhardt Jr. peeled out from behind her and she chose to stay in line, fearing that a sudden move would result in an accident. Left without a drafting partner on the final lap, Patrick lost touch with the leaders and came across the line several seconds after the winner.
Patrick led the race in the early stages, becoming the only woman to accomplish that feat and lost touch with the leaders only during green flag pit stops.
Patrick started the race from the pole but did not get up to speed as quickly as second place qualifier, Jeff Gordon. Gordon took the point and Patrick quickly moved up to take the spot between him and third place.
Patrick spent the most of the race solidly within the top 10. She was content to run in a single-file line, pushing only when she needed to. With about 20 laps to go, she received attention for pushing on Greg Biffle, causing Gordon to push her, but all three drivers held on. At the time it looked like the high line was going to prevail, but eventual winner Jimmie Johnson made the bottom line work and Patrick was unable to advance to the front.
For Patrick, the entire Daytona Speedweeks experience was about earning respect and after scoring a pole position and a top-10 finish, her maiden full-time Sprint Cup Series season has to be seen as off to a successful start.
More from SB Nation: