Danica stars at Daytona

Rarely has Daytona’s ARCA 200 support event attracted as much attention as this year, and having found a slightly dodgy broadcast of it on the net last night, I settled down to watch.

It probably should have been renamed the Danica 200, since so much coverage went to the lady in car number seven, but to be fair she was the one we all wanted to see in action.

And she did a great job, highlighted when she rubbed doors with none other than Nelson Piquet on the pit straight, went for a wild sideways ride across the tri-oval grass, and somehow managed to keep it out of the wall. Veteran commentator Darrell Waltrip was full of admiration for the skills she displayed as she twirled the wheel around and got going again…

After some yellows helped her out she fought her way back to as high as fifth, and what really impressed was the way she showed that clearly wasn’t enough. She eventually got shuffled around in a tight lead pack and crossed the line sixth. Even those sceptical about her ultimate ability and the hype that surrounds her would have to admit that she provides entertainment.

“I was pretty excited to go from last back to the top five I think again,” she said with some understatement to the Speed TV interviewer. “The car felt pretty good, and it was really fun, side-by-side with people. The Go-Daddy car doesn’t look very pretty…”

The NASCAR world has finally had a taste of Danicamania, and I am sure they are not going to let her go. Those who thought they might one day like to see her at US F1 – or anywhere else on the Grand Prix grid – can probably forget it…

Nelson meanwhile had something of a wild baptism. He ran a strong fifth in the early laps (he’d had no practice whatsoever at drafting), but endless crashes meant he couldn’t get any momentum going. At one point a red flag came out so they could mend a debris fence, and the field parked on the back straight. Afterwards Nelson couldn’t restart and was pushed back to the pits by a tow truck, which dropped him to last.

He got going again and was subsequently involved in at least three incidents that we saw – aside from triggering Danica’s moment, he also helped nine-times ARCA champion Frank Kimmel into a spin! Next Friday he’ll be racing in the NASCAR Truck series. And those guys don’t take any nonsense…

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