By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Danica Patrick's assignment on Thursday wasn't a particularly exciting one, but she accomplished it successfully.
As a result, the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS will make history once again on Sunday as the first female driver to lead the field to green in NASCAR's most important race, the Daytona 500.
To ensure that distinction, Patrick had to keep her pole-winning car intact during her Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. She did just that, dropping to the back after seven laps and coming home 17th.
"It's not an exciting mission when you just have to bring it home," Patrick said. "But it is for the Daytona 500, so you've got to keep that in mind. I learned that the outside (lane) is strong, and it carries a lot of good momentum.
"And then I learned that you need some friends. I also learned that you can't be too tight (with respect to handling)... It was way too tight at the start, but we wanted to be conservative. We didn't want to have any issues with the GoDaddy car.
"We wanted to make sure we've got it on that front row for Sunday."
Carl Edwards has been destroying cars right and left at Daytona International Speedway -- but not because he's done anything wrong.
Edwards, who crashed in practice on Wednesday when Ryan Newman's Chevrolet turned across the nose of Edwards' Ford, was the victim of another accident in Thursday's first Budweiser Duel 150-mile qualifying race.
Denny Hamlin's Toyota got sideways to Edwards' outside and turned the No. 99 Ford hard into the outside wall, demolishing Edwards' car. All told, four of Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing Fusions have fallen victim to crashes at Daytona.
Despite finishing 22nd in the Duel, Edwards is locked into the starting field for Sunday's Daytona 500.
"I don't know exactly what happened," Edwards said of Thursday's wreck. "It looked like Denny got sideways and wrecked us. That's the fourth time we've wrecked since we've been down here. I told (crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig) we wrecked four times, so we have the black flag already, and the race hasn't even started.
"We're getting it out of our systems. Fortunately, we have a really good group of guys and have a good backup car, which is our (Unlimited) car. We'll just go get ‘em in the 500. I learned a lot. If we can just have a little luck, I would not count our 99 team out. It will be a good race for us."
Iconic brand meets legendary track.
Martinsville Speedway, which has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1949, announced Thursday at Daytona a partnership that will put the name of a new brand from a long-time NASCAR sponsor on the spring race at the .526-mile short track.
STP will begin a multiyear entitlement at Martinsville with the April 7 STP Gas Booster 500, adding that Sprint Cup race to a portfolio that includes the STP 400 Cup race at Kansas Speedway and the STP 300 stand-alone Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
In addition, the STP brand will serve as a co-primary sponsor for Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 Jani-King STP Ford Fusion driven by Aric Almirola in that race. The paint scheme commemorates the first appearance of the STP logo on Richard Petty's car, at Riverside, Calif., in 1972.
"STP, Martinsville and Richard Petty Motorsports make a perfect combination," said Jamie Kistner, brand director for STP. "Martinsville has been hosting NASCAR races since 1949. STP has been part of the NASCAR and Petty family for more than 40 years now, and Richard himself has had the most starts with 67 and the most wins with 15 at Martinsville."
In a career that spanned 35 years, Petty logged 27,891 laps at the paper-clip-shaped speedway, more than at any other track.