The Daytona 500 takes place today and the racing world is in a frenzy with Danica Patrick starting The Great American Race from pole position. Patrick is of course the first female driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole, continuing a career of trailblazing and breaking down barriers that began in IndyCar. With Patrick making the move from IndyCar racing to NASCAR, her story (and celebrity) is being brought to a wider fanbase. Dare I say it (and with apologies to Tim Tebow), today's Daytona 500 represents new heights for DanicaMania, even compared to when she was leading the Indy 500 once upon a time.
Patrick has been everywhere this week from SportsCenter to the Today Show and countless stops in between. She was certainly a star in the IndyCar world and has been a crossover celebrity (think Maxim, GoDaddy and more) for some time, but being in NASCAR has only increased her profile. Let's face the facts, Danica Patrick was perhaps the last attention grabbing element open wheel racing had left... if you don't count Helio Castroneves' Dancing With the Stars appearances that is. NASCAR has long since lapped open wheel racing several times over in the battle for American racing supremacy and Danica needed to make the switch to continue to grow her own brand and compete in the nation's number one racing series.
Today's Daytona 500 doesn't just represent an opportunity for Danica Patrick though, it also represents a huge opportunity for NASCAR. Patrick's success on the track at Daytona is happening at just the right time for a sport that badly needs to be reinvigorated and reach a new audience once again.