Some may call it the end of an era, while others would say that it is just the start of one.
Danica Patrick isn’t the first female to race in NASCAR, not by a long shot. However, she did score a number of other firsts in her storied career, including becoming the first woman to lock down a pole position at the Daytona 500 in 2013, as well as the first woman to lead a green flag lap at the same race.
The kudos are endless, so when it came time for Danica to pull on that GoDaddy green fire suit for the last time at the 2018 Daytona 500 of Feb. 18, fans, fellow drivers, race tracks and other members of the NASCAR community were on social media to honor the petite beauty with messages of gratitude and respect.
Darrell Waltrip even kicked off the prestigious race with his signature phrase pointed right to her: “Danica Sue, this is for you! Boogity-Boogity-Boogity!”
Fellow driver Jimmie Johnson, who was eliminated from the 500 after being involved in the first major crash of the race, shared a photo of Danica with one of his daughters on Instagram. The message that accompanied the picture was one of gratitude. He wrote, “Thank you @danicapatrick for being a strong role model to the little girls in my life. It was an honor to race with you in your last #Daytona500. #StrongIsTheNewPretty”
Gotta love that last hashtag!
ARCA racer Lelani Munter also honored Danica for her efforts in furthering women in racing.
“Saying goodbye to Danica at Daytona,” she wrote. “You changed the face of racing for women. Thank you for making the road a little easier for female racers hoping to follow in your footsteps. Wishing you all the best in your new adventure. #WonderWoman”
CBS Sports’ Lexi Swatt also got in a question to Danica about encouraging women to pursue careers in male-dominated arenas. The driver replied, “They should get into what they love and then they’ll be great at it, so you just have to find your passion.”
Of course, Danica’s GoDaddy sponsors applauded her efforts at Daytona, saying, “We are amazed by the energy and determination @DanicaPatrick brought to the track today. Her final #Daytona500 run was cut short, but the #DanicaDouble isn’t over yet. Next stop: Indy.”
And multiple race tracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she’ll race next and last, sent messages thanking the Wisconsin native for her contribution
Sadly, Danica’s Daytona 500 ended prematurely when she was involved in a crash around lap 100. And it was almost as if she predicted the untimely end when she shared a photo on Instagram before the race and wrote, “Going to have to keep my eyes wide open today in the race. These cars and guys are going to do crazy things. #danicadouble #daytonaday.”
Again, we look forward to seeing Danica back behind the wheel at the Indy 500, as well as the exciting future that awaits her after racing.