"If everything goes right ... there's really an opportunity [to win]," Patrick says

By Dahvi Shira
Updated February 22, 2012 05:00 PM
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty

Race car driver Danica Patrick is about to embark on her biggest challenge to date – the Daytona 500, a 500 mile-long NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

But Patrick, 29, seems fearless, telling Reuters, “I’m not scared of going 200 miles an hour,” during Sunday’s competition in Daytona Beach, Fla.

In fact, she believes she has a shot at following in the footsteps of Trevor Bayne, last year’s rookie race winner.

“Did anybody think Trevor Bayne could win the race last year on this day?” she tells SI.com. “Anything can happen here. It is anybody’s ballgame.”

She adds to Reuters, “If everything goes right, the stars are aligned, I do my homework and get a comfortable car there’s really an opportunity [to win].”

But she’s not getting too far ahead of herself.

“It is my first Sprint Cup race ever,” Patrick says. “It is the Daytona 500 so I have a lot to learn. The racing itself is much closer quarters, much more bumping, banging and laying on each other the racing is tighter.”

And she’s very aware that she’s an easy target for her fellow competitors.

“They’re going to test the waters,” she says. “They’re going to see if they can get away with pushing me around. My job as a new driver and a rookie and someone looking for respect is to give it back to them, and that’s where respect is earned.”