Danica’s in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – sort of

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Time will tell if Danica Patrick’s career in stock car racing will be worthy enough to make her a NASCAR Hall of Fame driver. But the popular Sprint Cup rookie has already made her way into the Charlotte, N.C. museum as part of an exhibit that honors her for being the first woman to win a Cup pole.

According to USA Today’s Nate Ryan, Patrick, who earned the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and nearly converted it into a win, was asked for some mementos from the occasion by Winston Kelley, the NASCAR HoF’s executive director. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver responded by donating the trophy for her pole position and some hats from the celebration at Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Lane.

Per Ryan’s story, Patrick’s exhibit is positioned inside the main entrance to the building, which will surely see an uptick in traffic over the next week or so as fans converge for tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s part of a bigger effort by the Hall to emphasize more recent accomplishments within the sport.

“One of the things we realize we don’t have is here’s a 500th home run and so, someone automatically is thinking about the ball,” Kelley told Ryan. “We want to continue to plant that seed when folks do something historical.

“We’ve got a lot of drivers that are humble and not looking to show themselves off, and some think this is just for Hall of Famers. But that’s not the case. It’s telling the entire story of NASCAR history.”

Patrick will start seventh in tomorrow’s Sprint Showdown preliminary race and is aiming to finish in the top two to move to the All-Star Race. If she can’t do that, she’ll have to hope to be the winner of a fan vote that can get her into the main event.