Daytona Beach, FL - Danica Patrick says she's not ready to set a goal of consistent top-10 finishes.
But maybe she should.
Patrick, who made history by becoming the first woman to win a Sprint Cup pole and to lead a lap in the Daytona 500, finished eighth in the Great American Race.
"Only 13 people including me have led Daytona and Indy. That's a cool stat for me," Patrick said.
She appeared to check up on the final lap when a crash erupted behind her. NASCAR did not throw a caution flag.
"You needed a hole. You needed people to help you out," she said. "I had a feeling I was going to get freight-trained (if I went low)."
Jimmie Johnson won his second Daytona 500 as cars ran single-file the last two laps.
Patrick ran in the top 10 most of the day, and was running third toward the end of the race but had trouble finding someone to commit to the low side and attempt a pass on Johnson.
Patrick is dating fellow rookie of the year contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished 11th.
She was surrounded by dozens of people as she climbed into her car amidst a wild scene.
She led the field of 43 to the start. Jeff Gordon, who sat on the inside lane, passed her to lead the first lap.
As drivers prepared for the 55th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, grand marshal James Franco gave an unusual command.
"Drivers - and Danica - start your engines!" he said.
This really is Danica Patrick's Daytona 500.
The morning started out much calmer, though.
Drivers all have sponsor appearances and meetings to attend on the day of a race, but Patrick's first obligation wasn't until 9:20 a.m.
She made appearances on ESPN and SPEED, then met with two contest winners from sponsor Coke Zero and about 10 people from sponsor Go Daddy. All the activities took place are her motorhome, which meant she didn't have to hop on a golf cart and dash all over Daytona International Speedway's expansive property.
After meeting with crew chief Tony Gibson for approximately 30 minutes in the team's hauler, Patrick attended the drivers meeting (she sat next to boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a fellow rookie).
Then it was time for lunch and driver introductions. When she was introduced to the crowd, Patrick received as many cheers as Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has won a record 10 consecutive Most Popular Driver awards.
But then she suddenly got off schedule. The traditional parade lap around the track on the back of a truck took longer than expected, and Patrick didn't arrive at her car until the national anthem was about to play.
She hurriedly took a picture for the Coors pole award -- Miss Coors Light and Pete Coors had been waiting 20 minutes for her to arrive -- and then climbed into the car to start the race.