Having lead the 2005 Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps, the first woman to lead the Indy 500, Danica Patrick switched to NASCAR, and became the first woman to lead the Daytona 500. Lest anyone think that Danica's lead in the 2013 Daytona 500 was a "fluke", note that she remained in the top five almost to the end. Although finishing 8th, she was third at the beginning of the last lap (such is NASCAR). Through the whole race she remained competitive, with the real possibility of winning.
Exceptional driving talent is the only way to describe Danica, and the NASCAR drivers and pundits are well aware of this:
"She's been quick," said Johnson, speaking at a media event earlier this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "There's been Atlanta, Loudon last week, Chicago, (where) she's shown a lot of pace in really getting the car figured out. I can only imagine how difficult it is to come from an open-wheel car to a stock car. We've seen Dario (Franchitti), Juan (Pablo Montoya), many try it, and it's not an easy transition, and she's doing a really nice job."
Danica Patrick continues to improve -- and Jimmie Johnson notices.
Danica is very popular because currently she's the only female in a male-dominated sport, and it would be disingenuous to deny that this is a huge attraction for many NASCAR fans. Many have said that were it not for Danica, they wouldn't watch NASCAR (add me).
Some NASCAR drivers have done 29-plus starts without a win at Daytona, and only one rookie has ever won it since its inception in 1959, Trevor Bayne, who, incidentally, has had only three top tens in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and no poles.
The race known as the "Great American Race" was first run in 1959. There are 52 Daytona 500s in the history books, leaving some drivers still wondering why they could never capture a win on the high banks of Daytona.
Other drivers have multiple wins which seems so unfair to those who have spent perhaps 20 years or more trying to win the prestigious race.
Many drivers have finished well, won the July race at Daytona and have wins at the other high-banked superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, yet for whatever reason, they can't be the one who crosses the finish line first at the Daytona 500.
There are drivers with amazing statistics who have driven for high-profile teams with great equipment, but, be it fate, accidents, equipment failure or just that little bit of horsepower that wasn't there on the last lap, they see another year slip by without a win at the event.
Daytona 500: The 15 Best NASCAR Drivers Ever Who Haven't Won It.