Daytona Win Would Catapult Danica Patrick to Whole New Level of Celebrity

BY Judy Woodruff  February 22, 2013 at 6:03 PM EST

Judy Woodruff spoke with espnW reporter Brant James on Danica Patrick’s star power and her chances in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Danica Patrick has already made history when she became the first female driver to win a pole position in NASCAR’s premier division, the Sprint Cup Series. On Sunday, she will have the chance to use that spot to drive her to a first-place finish at Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500. Another female first for the history books.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, is the first woman to win pole position for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ race. Photo by Photo by NASCAR via Getty Images

I was compelled by her story and wanted to find out more about the woman who is arguably the most popular figure in American auto racing. So I tapped the expertise of Brant James, a reporter who has covered Patrick extensively for espnW. James told me that Patrick’s influence on the popularity of the sport is noticeable. Not only has she inspired more women to be fans, more families are coming to the track sporting electric green shirts with the bright orange No. 10.

“She draws fans from across the demographic spectrum. It’s incredible to watch at the race track. You see little girls wearing the shirts. You see the fathers, the sons. You see old men,” James told me Friday from his hotel room near Daytona Beach, Fla., the site of the race.

You can listen to the rest of our discussion about Patrick’s electrifying effect on the world of NASCAR, the challenges women have faced in the sport, and James’ prediction for Sunday’s race, in the video above.