Circle Track Stock Car — 22 February 2011

Courtsey of FOX Sports

Two female NASCAR drivers, Danica Patrick and Jennifer Jo Cobb, had reason to celebrate at Daytona International Speedway this past weekend, with both posting career-best finishes.

By Rea White

In the Nationwide Series, Patrick made her presence felt.

She raced to the front of the field, working with Clint Bowyer in the two-car tandems needed for a driver to move toward the leaders, as horsepower is mechanically harnessed in the Nationwide Series. Suddenly, she moved to the front of the field and led a lap of competition.

It was a career weekend. Patrick started fourth, led the lap and finished 14th. Her starting position and finish were her best such efforts in a NASCAR race. Patrick, 28, was making her 14th start in the JR Motorsports Chevrolet, an effort she is fielding part time as she continues her full schedule in the IZOD IndyCar Series. (She has won on the IndyCar circuit.)

Patrick said it was “fun,” but she said that trying to figure out the Daytona drafting process was frustrating at times.

Still, she accepts it will take her a while to reach a point where other drivers are working with her on a consistent basis and pushing her toward the front.

“That takes a while to earn the trust and respect from all the other drivers,” she said. “I’m not mad at that. That’s just going to take time, and it’ll only get better from here on out, hopefully, with that stuff.”

She thinks, though, that running well and clean at Daytona will help her down the road.

First, she clearly had a fast car, something that bodes well for her upcoming races. Although those races are at tracks vastly different from Daytona, she believes running closer to the front and among a wider group of drivers will help her earn that respect.

And that could be her largest gain of the weekend.

“All you can do at a race like this going into . . . (and) anywhere else after this, is make some friends and try to get people to believe in you and trust in you and see that you’re a fast car because people want to follow fast cars,” she said.

Cobb didn’t make the field for that Nationwide race, but otherwise it was a banner performance for the owner/driver as she put her Camping World Truck Series entry into the show, avoided the crashes that marred the race and emerged with a sixth-place finish.

That’s a new NASCAR record for Cobb as the best for a woman driver in the Truck series. She fell one position shy of tying the all-time top finish by a female driver, set by Sara Christian in 1949.

“I’m so excited with what we accomplished tonight,” Cobb said after the race. “This finish is a testament to my team’s hard work and dedication. We don’t have near the budget that some of the other teams operate with, but we never give up. It’s kind of like Walt Disney said, ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ ”

Cobb, 37, was quick to recognize the other women drivers who have competed before she entered NASCAR, and she seemed thrilled to be putting her name alongside theirs.

“When you think about drivers like Janet Guthrie and Erin Crocker who have accomplished so much in their careers, to think that I was able to achieve something that they didn’t at Daytona is really special,” she said.

Cobb’s Truck is sponsored by Lilly’s Cosmetics, a product she endorses by wearing at appearances and at the track.

In 30 career starts in the truck series, Cobb’s best previous result was 14th, which she snared at both Texas Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway in 2010.


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