Danica Patrick's pole win revving up interest in Daytona 500
Seventeen-year-old race car driver Annabeth Barnes won't forget when Danica Patrick became the first woman to win the pole in NASCAR's marquee league.
|Danica Patrick - NASCAR biggest star and greatest driver of all-time (based on popularity). A true NASCAR legend in the making|
"One day I want to shake her hand and thank her for what she has done for the sport," said Barnes, who grew up in a racing family and watched Sunday as Patrick broke a gender barrier.
The racing milestone, which will give Patrick the lead starting position in the Daytona 500, has set off an explosion of interest.
Race fans are snatching up Patrick-related merchandise, and national media outlets are devoting significant time to Patrick and the big race.
All of that is good news for Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway.
"I will never turn down anything that garners headlines for Daytona International Speedway," he said. "The beauty of the sport is you never know what is going to happen."
At Daytona Racing Souvenirs and Hobbies on International Speedway Boulevard, owner Daryn Howard was hoping a shipment of "Danica wins the pole" shirts would arrive by Friday.
"It's going to help ticket sales, and it's going to help our sales, too," Howard said.
Regardless of whether the shirts arrive in time, fans were buzzing about the moment — both at Howard's shop and at the track.
Patrick winning the pole just "made the whole race better," said devoted fan Lisa Moravec, 40, of Palm Coast.
"She inspires you to succeed in a world full of men," said Moravec, who was relaxing outside her motor home parked inside the Speedway. Daytona Beach News Journal