Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Little girls dazzled by Danica

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The big boys brought their little girls to see NASCAR's shining star.

Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson all took their daughters to meet Danica Patrick this week at Daytona International Speedway.

It was the ultimate backstage pass. Patrick dropped to one knee, wrapped her right arm around Ella Gordon's waist as the 5-year-old flashed an endless grin in Victory Lane last week. Every day since, Patrick's crew has handed out dozens and dozens of lugnuts to little girls clamouring for souvenirs. Annie Edwards wore GoDaddy green shoes for the occasion. Evie Johnson recognizes only two cars, her dad said -- his and the green one.

"Carl was saying it's good that she sees me in real life and in person because 'To her, you are like some mythical creature that doesn't exist,' " Patrick said. "Then after qualifying, Jimmie Johnson brought his little girl over. That's three pretty big drivers who have little girls that wanted to meet me."

Danicamania is in full bloom at Daytona -- and with a brand new audience.

The first woman in history to earn the top starting spot in a race at NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup Series, Patrick will bring new eyeballs to Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500. She'll lure in casual sports fans, women who don't know a muffler from a manifold, and little girls in awe of the glamorous driver and her fast green car.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 C6

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