Tony Stewart should be a happy man. He may not be happy about almost crashing out of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited and ultimately finishing in fourth place. However, he did show that when it comes onto scoping out talent for his racing team with Gene Haas (founder of Haas Automation), he sure can pick them. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final year with Richard Childress Racing; as of 2014 he’ll be one of the top guns at Stewart-Haas Racing. Until then it’s a long goodbye to the organization that he’s been a part of since 2001. He had the unenviable task of replacing Dale Earnhardt Sr. after his untimely death. It’s hard trying to fill a legend’s shoes, but that’s what Harvick did marvellously.

“In the past 12 seasons, Harvick has collected 19 wins, five pole awards, 91 top-five and 188 top-10 finishes in 430 Sprint Cup Series starts, finishing as high as third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings in 2010 and 2011.” – Richard Childress Racing’s website

Since almost every group practice with the Gen-6 cars had been interrupted by carnage, all eyes were on this race. During the Sprint Unlimited Practice 1, it was Harvick who avoided getting caught up in a bust-up that, forced a number of his competitors to use back-up cars for the race. His control of the Chevy SS stock car was not only impressive then, but more so as he maneuvered the #29 car away from another pile-up, during the race’s first segment. It was a great way to start the Sprint Cup season, but wasn’t for points. However, the next one will be.

On Sunday afternoon, owners, teams, fans and press gathered around Pit Road to send drivers off for their individual qualifying laps around Daytona International Speedway. It was a somewhat relaxed atmosphere, but everyone started buzzing after Danica Patrick set her time of 45:81. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise because the former IndyCar driver was very fast during practice, and managed to avoid the crashes (so far). Yet, Ms. Patrick made history as the very first female driver to get the pole position for the Daytona 500. It’s a fantastic achievement for her and may give her detractors some pause.

It’s true that she’s a media darling with a circus of attention where ever she goes. It’s also true that the attention has reached an almost fever pitch because of her recently revealed romantic relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It’s also true that she’s pretty, petite and pushes back when pushed. Despite all of these truths, there is one that trumps them all. Danica Patrick can drive and has every right to compete in the Sprint Cup Series. Is she the best driver in the world? Hardly. Then again, a learned friend of mine has a theory, that the best driver in the world is actually flipping hamburgers somewhere. As a woman and motorsports fan, I’m very happy that she’s going to be at the very front of the starting grid on Sunday February 24, 2013. Now, if only she could actually win a race. That would make her boss even happier, but not the Daytona 500 quite yet. He’s fully focused on getting that for himself.

“She runs such a smooth line, and that’s what you have to do here to carry speed here like she did. She did a good job. She did her job behind the wheel for sure.” – Tony Stewart to Fox Sports