Danica Patrick made history in Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500 by becoming the first female to lead a lap at the Great American Race under a green flag.
She finished in eighth place despite being in contention for much of the race. Jimmie Johnson won the race and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second.
Patrick became the first female to lead the Daytona 500 under a green flag, the 13th driver in history to lead a lap at Daytona and the Indianapolis 500, and only the sixth driver ever to lead five laps in both races. She also had the highest finish ever for a woman in the Daytona 500; the highest had been Janet Guthrie’s 11th-place finish in 1980.
Patrick led after lap 90, receiving a standing and thunderous ovation from the Daytona crowd that is usually reserved for the sport’s most popular drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart.
Last week, Patrick made history when she became the first woman to win a pole in a NASCAR event. She started the race in the pole position.
On lap 32, favorites like Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Kevin Harvick were knocked out of the race after getting caught up in a wreck. Stewart owns Patrick’s car, and Patrick’s other teammate, Ryan Newman, was stuck back in the pack most of the day, leaving Patrick without a teammate in a restrictor plate race, which made her performance more impressive.
Matt Kenseth, debuting for Joe Gibbs Racing, led 86 laps before having to go to the garage due to engine problems.
NASCAR also debuted the “Gen 6″ cars, and it will be interesting to see how the cars handle without restrictor plates in the weeks ahead.