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DATE News (chronologically)
02/18/12
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Move over, boys: it's Danica time

In NASCAR, there is Danica, and then there is everyone else.  She is, without winning a single thing, now NASCAR's biggest star
You’ve experienced Tebow — no first name necessary — love, you are living Jeremy Lin love. Now welcome to Danica — no last name necessary — love.

Whether you are a gear head whose head hits the pillow dreaming of the surrealistic sounds and smells of NASCAR or if you aren’t even on the same planet, it’s a safe bet the media frenzy over Danica Patrick’s stock car debuts will engulf you in no time.

The building tsunami of interest was evident as it engulfed Thursday’s media day that opened Speedweeks leading up to the Feb. 26 Daytona 500. Patrick’s morning session with reporters drew an overflow crowd, surpassing even that of the sport’s crown prince Dale Earnhardt Jr. for whom Patrick will drive a full schedule in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series.

Patrick also is slated to compete in at least 10 races at the elite Sprint Cup level for the team of 2011 champion Tony Stewart, starting with the 500. The fact Stewart bought Patrick’s way into NASCAR’s biggest race in a complicated owner points swap with Tommy Baldwin Racing added a few degrees Fahrenheit to the fever pitch surrounding her switch from the IZOD IndyCar Series.

But the press corps, at times pressed 10 deep around her interview table, never raised the subject, instead talking racing — imagine that — asking among other things if she thought she could win the 500. Not surprisingly, she answered yes, and what it would mean for her to be running for the Nationwide championship.

That question was timely since one of the drivers she will be competing against is former IndyCar Series racer Sam Hornish Jr., who had the unfortunate experience of meeting with reporters at the same time directly across the room.

While maybe at its peak Hornish’s interview was attended by a dozen reporters that many alone – unable to penetrate the mob around Patrick - were gathered around a remote speaker, recorders in hand.

And to think Hornish won the Indianapolis 500 and three IndyCar Series championships.

He could only gaze in astonishment at the crowd as he walked to his interview table and flash a wry smile when he was told it was for Patrick.

But such is life under the big top — where ironically or not — Thursday’s media day was held.

And to think the true circus — Daytona 500 week when the speedway will be besieged by reporters, cameras and countless others, all wanting a piece of Patrick — has yet to dawn. Florida Today

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