Danica Patrick missed out on taking the checkered at the 2013 Daytona 500, but she will get her first Sprint series win before the year's end.
More on that later, but first a quick recap of Daytona.
After starting on the pole, Patrick finished the race in eighth. Both set a new standard for female drivers at the Great American Race.
She also led five laps during the race, which as NASCAR tweeted was another first for female drivers:
This was a very solid start to the 2013 racing season for Patrick. Here is how she'll fare going forward.
Danica Will Win a Race in 2013
It is never easy to be a Sprint rookie, and that is an even tougher proposition this year. With NASCAR switching to the Generation 6 cars, drivers have been brought back to the late-90s and early-2000s when this style of racing dominated the landscape.
Patrick's inexperience in this style certainly attributed to her falling from third to eighth in the late stages of this race. However, that inexperience will fade with each passing race.
Stewart-Haas racing is looking strong to start this season, and it will consistently put Patrick in fast rides. One of these races, Patrick will find herself in the lead as the race approaches its end, and she will not be passed.
Danica Will Narrowly Miss out on the Chase
While Danica will find plenty of success this year, she will also suffer some inconsistent results. This is just the way things go for rookies, and if there is one thing drivers can't afford in the race for the series championship, it is inconsistency.
I expect Patrick's real problems in this area to stem from impatience. In the new cars, passing is difficult. These cars just don't handle in the draft.
So, when Patrick gets anxious to make a move, there will be several occasions where this leads to a bad decision. Consequently, Patrick will find herself getting hung out to dry, or getting caught up in, or causing, a big wreck.
And all of that will lead to Patrick just barely sitting out on the Chase.
Danica Will Be NASCAR's Most Popular Driver
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taken this award, awarded according to the results of an annual fan poll sponsored by the National Motorsports Press Association, 10 straight years, but he won't make it 11.
While I don't expect Earnhardt's popularity to wane, he will simply be overtaken by Patrick.
Danica already has star power that reaches far beyond the realm of NASCAR. As she puts together a solid season and gets herself in headlines, this is only going to grow. All of that will be on display when she wins this award.
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