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CNN NEWSROOM

Mindy McCready Dead at Age 37; Pope Benedict XVI Leads a Prayer for Strength; Danica Patrick First Woman to Win the Pole at Daytona; Man Charged with Assaulting a Child on a Delta Flight

Aired February 17, 2013 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: History made. Danica Patrick becomes the first woman ever to win the pole position in NASCAR.

All right. So, listen. Don't be modest. You won this time. You won the pole the position. What are you doing this time --.

DANICA PATRICK, NASCAR DERIVER: I don't know how the answer that.

LEMON: She talks with me about making history.

Flying with kids is tough, but one woman says that a boozy passenger slapped her child and then called the boy a racial slur.

The murder of John Lennon, letters now are surfacing written by Lennon's killer to his arresting officer. We are talking to the former cop.

And the favorite American whiskey reverses its course after fans get angry over a formula change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Don Lemon.

We want to get you up to speed on the day's headlines of the day.

First, sports history has been made written and another boy's club is no more.

Danica Patrick has won the pole at Daytona 500 pole position breaking 197 miles per hour, and the first woman to win the pole at daytona or any sprint cup race. I interviewed Danica a while ago and stay right there, and I will show you the full conversation in a few moments.

Massive spending cuts are coming, and you should get ready for them and that what Wyoming Republican John Barrasso said. I'm talking about those budget cuts that were narrowly avoided two months ago. Remember the fiscal cliff a couple of months ago? Well, the cuts will kick in automatically March 1st if nothing changes. Democrats want them. They favor raising taxes and other alternatives to across the board cuts. So another deadline and countdown and plenty more budget fighting on Capitol Hill. A top White House aide is defending a new administration plan for immigration reform. The plan was leaked over the weekend, and angering the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress working on their own. And Marco Rubio is calling the White House plan quote "dead on arrival in his current form."

And Republican senator John McCain says that Chuck Hagel will be probably confirmed as the next defense secretary. McCain said on NBC, he still doesn't think Hagel is qualified for the job, but he is confident that Hagel; will have the votes he needs to join President Obama's cabinet believes he has enough votes to win the vote next week when the Senate reconvenes.

And snowy Southern Russia, they are trying to calm down after that meteor plowed through Friday. Some say they are afraid to stand by the windows remembering that cosmic explosion. It injured more than 1,000 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

John Lennon's killer wrote chilling letters and sent them to the officer who arrested him. Now, in an exclusive interview, the officer is speaking out for the very first time. Mark David Chapman wrote the NYPD officer Steve Spiro in 1983. He wanted to be friends with the officer, and he had other questions and requests as we. I spoke earlier with Officer Steve Spiro.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Steve, what did you think when the letters were showing up in the mailbox and you started to read? I mean, they are fascinating to read. What did you think?

STEVE SPIRO, FORMER NYPD OFFICER (via phone): I was shocked. I said, why are you sending this to me? But when you spent five hours with somebody, you get to know them a little bit. And he was -- he was still selling himself three years after the murder that he wanted to be infamous.

LEMON: I can't -- I can barely read this here, but he said that the reason he wanted to write to you from the time, and he goes on the say from the time I guess of the arrester to vent, he says --

SPIRO: Right.

LEMON: -- I felt very close to you. He is obsessed, it seems with the "catcher in the rye" and he talks about the character Holden in "catcher in the rye "and he is asking you the read it and specifically talking about his particular copy we he believes that he left at the crime scene or in your patrol car.

SPIRO: Yes, he left ate at the crime scene.

LEMON: Did you give it back to him?

SPIRO: No, I vouchered it and went to the district attorney's office as evidence. LEMON: Why did he want you to read it? In the letters he said, I want you read it, because I want you to hear what Holden says about the phoniness. And John Lennon was a phony and it's dangerous to the world.

SPIRO: Well, he said about the phoniness in the world that all these rich people don't give to the certain charities that, you know, he would like.

LEMON: So, Steve, why are you releasing the letters now?

SPIRO: Well, I'm 66 years old, and they have been sitting here for 30 years. And I decided that to sell them. And I believe that the parole board should see that three years after this guy killed John Lennon that he admits that he had a hit list. Now, the D.A. knows that. But a lot of people don't know that he had a hit list to serve his purpose. It was not just John Lennon. And this is important if the parole board is ever going to think of letting him out.

LEMON: You say in the letters that the sorts of things that are in this, in these letters that it would ensure that John Lennon's killer might never get paroled, you said because he had a hit list. Who else was on that hit list?

W SPIRO: well, I don't know what the parole board really thinks, but I think that the world should know that there was a hit list.

LEMON: Who else was on the hit list?

SPIRO: Not only John Lennon, it was Walter Cronkite, George C. Scott, Jackie Onassis and -- I'm trying to think of who else.

LEMON: Were these names in the letters to you?

SPIRO: No. See, I was trying to get him to admit that. You see, I had known through the investigation in the D.A.'s office that he had named these people. To the psychiatrist, but they were not going allow that to hit the street. So I figured if I could get h him to mention it in a letter, I could, you know, confirm it. But he said other people would serve its purpose. That is what he meant by that with the hit list. He says, you know, and the D.A. knows the names.

LEMON: Do you ever go back now to on the upper west side and ever go back and walk by the Dakota?

SPIRO: Yes, I have been there a few times. And it is not a great place to visit anymore. It is a magnificent building and everything, but what I felt then was that it was so sad that he died, because he had a son the same age as mine. And I said, here, this kid is going to grow up without a father. I couldn't care a less if he never wrote another song or whatever, but it was the fact that this guy was a father and he was enjoying the hell out of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Steve Spiro, thank you. Breaking news into CNN. Some tragic news tonight in the world of country music, police officials in Arkansas confirmed to CNN that singer Mindy McCready has been found dead. She was apparently committed suicide. The 37-year-old when who broke on to the music scene in the mid-1990s and since then her career up and down with the drama of a very troubled personal life.

Again, this is just into CNN and confirmed. I want to go live now to Los Angeles and Dr. Drew Pinsky, addiction medicine specialist and host of HLN's "Dr. Drew, on call."

So, Doctor, you have worked with her before. And we are actually confirming now through your contacts as well that she has died. What can you tell us about what happened to her?

DOCTOR DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Well, I don't know if people may or may not be aware, she had been doing well and things were looking up for her. She had children with a boyfriend who ended up killing himself a few weeks ago. She was struggling after that. Actually was admitted herself to a psychiatric facility. And there's a cautionary tale here about the stigma of mental illness and the way in which the public attacks celebrities of which take care of themselves. And she was so fearful of the stigma and the way people were responding to her being hospitalized that she checked herself out prematurely and we have what we have.

LEMON: As I am sitting here looking at the picture, I am remembering a story from a while back that involved a child in custody with her? Can you refresh our memory with that? You know what I'm talking about?

PINSKY: Yes, a long struggle regaining custody of her child whom she finally just recently had custody again. And again, establishing a stable home with her boyfriend and things went off on a bad direction after he killed himself. Again, I have no direct knowledge of this, but this is what I am understanding. I did hear from very concerned friends that she was struggling a few weeks ago, so I had not seen her in years, but I reached out to her, she sounded good.

LEMON: But you knew her personally --

PINSKY: No, no. I treated her for three weeks in a celebrity rehab episode three years ago and I always had contact with her for various levels as she seek for advise of what not, I did not treat her and I was not her physician, but when I heard she was struggling, I did reach out to her and urged her to go take care of herself and get to a facility if she felt if she need it. There was good support around her to do that, but her biggest fear was stigma of doing so and if what people would think if she, God forbid, took care of herself. And this to me is the most distressing part of the story. She is a lovely woman. We have lost her and it did not have to go down like this.

LEMON: And look, and if you can continue to talk to us about that because, you know, people have all types of illness. We have cancer, and you have brain tumors, HIV, and there is so much of a stigma when it comes to issues when of that matter. PINSKY: That is precisely the point. It is all about mental illness and people have just ignored that. We want it to be a weakness. We wanted to be a moral issue. We wanted to be anything but a problem with our brain function.

Not only that, one of my hopes was in bringing celebrity rehab out was to teach people how dangerous addiction was. If I was doing a show on cancer, there would not be much surprise when my cancer patients died. In fact, we would celebrate a few years of good quality life. People don't understand that addiction has virtually the same prognosis. If you have other mental issues on top of that, it is so much worse.

This was not an addiction death, interestingly. This was related to -- had her boyfriend had not died, I don't list anyway we would have been in this position right now.

LEMON: Is there, you know, we always talk about the warning signs. But really, I mean, is there anything, is there anything that you can do when someone is in this predicament or is it really up to them?

PINSKY: Yes. No, Don. The point is that suicide-ality (ph) usually passes, and that is why we hold people against their will. So if you know somebody that is even contemplating, is thinking passively about it or God forbid begins giving things away, you take that person to a hospital. You deal with it like a medical emergency. It is a life threatening event that oftentimes when people are held for a period of time passes.

And they are thankful when they are held against their will. They may not go willingly, but they are thankful when give ten appropriate care. And the bottom line is that care works if it is sustained.

The kind of care that somebody like Mindy needs and many others millions of Americans out there is not like a car wash where they are fixed, it is ongoing and regular maintenance in order to prevent deadly outcomes.

LEMON: And again, I think that it is important what you said and I don't want it to be glossed over for us to not lose the importance, you said this is no different than addiction, because we will hear about the death of Whitney Houston. She died, you know, partially because of an addiction, partially because of a weakened heart or what have you, but addiction problems and mental illness, you said there is not a difference between the two.

PINSKY: Between cancer and mental illness, and people don't understand that this is a brain disease. And Don, you and I were here last year talking about Whitney Houston and we had the same conversation that people were not stepping up and getting her the care she need, lo and behold, you have a death. This is a deadly process, and it has to be given the priority and the intensity of services that we do know other illnesses. It is absolutely absurd that we give hopeless illnesses much more resources than that we give this one that is treatable and can prevent people from dying prematurely.

LEMON: How does one, when you think of someone who has as much as Mindy McCready had as a promising career and money by all accounts, more that most Americans had, how do you of you lose sight of all of that and you go down this dark hole and end up taking your own life. How does that happen?

PINSKY: Well, that is an interesting question, because people would think that if you had all of these things, you would not get depressed, and that is simply not true. Mental illness is not discriminatory in terms of who would it affects or what socioeconomic. Obviously, if your life is stressful, you are more prone to these things. But just because you have a lot, and let's remember, what is really important for human beings is other people, important relationships, and she lost a crucial relationship in her life. This is somebody she loved deeply.

And by the way, let's not lose sight of the fact that there are people around Mindy here who are suffering greatly tonight. She was a deeply loved woman.

LEMON: Yes. 37 years old. Dr. Drew, we have to move on, but again, since you said you did knew her, but you were not a close friend of hers. You talked to her.

PINSKY: No, I treated her once and it was an acquaintance later and we hope to deal with the whole legacy tomorrow night on my show.

LEMON: I want to ask you this. With the limited experience that you did have with her, there is usually something about every person, every single person that I meet that is memorable. What do you remember about her?

PINSKY: You know what it was that, and it is going to be glib, but it is her smile, that she -- she was a beautiful woman, and she would, she had the potential to really light up the room. She was a warm person. She had a lot of struggles, and she has had a lot of chaos in her life over the years. But what attracted everybody to her is precisely that that she was, and love sly is the word that comes to mind for me, and she was never otherwise.

LEMON: All right. Dr. Drew 9:00 p.m. eastern will be covering it, talking about the death of Indy McCready, 37-years-old. Make sure to tune in on Dr. Drew tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. on HLN.

Thank you, Dr. Drew. We will be right back.

PINSKY: Thanks, Don.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Fifty years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, piece of his legacy are up for grabs now. Hundreds of items of the Kennedy family memorabilia hit the auction blocks in Massachusetts today. Items like the air force I bomber jacket, a birthday card signed by John, Jr. To his dad and a marked up itinerary for the slain president's November 1963 trip to Dallas. The items were found tucked away in the home of one of JFK's closest assistants. A month of killing Burmese pythons in Florida has paid off for several lucky hunters. Cash prizes were awarded for the most snakes' bag and for the largest. A 14-footer was worth $1,000 to the hunter who killed it. Look at that thing. Another hunter snagged the top prize of $1,500 for killing 18 of the giant snakes, and all 68 snakes were killed, and the game officials fear that they will wipe out the wildlife in the Florida everglades unless they are killed.

Nobody likes being on the plane with a fussy toddler, right? Well, it is probably even more difficult if it is your baby, but one Minnesota woman is traumatized after a flight with her son. She said the man sitting next to them slapped the little boy.

Dave Berggren of our affiliate KARE, in Minneapolis has the story now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA BENNETT, MOTHER: Sing twinkle, twinkle?

DAVE BERGGREN, REPORTER, KARE (voice-over): Jonah Bennett is a smart and smiley 19-month-old.

BENNETT: Big kiss.

BERGGREN: But it's what happened on a Delta flight that has Jonah's parents doing anything but smile.

BENNETT: He hit a child. And that he said what he said and it's disgusting.

BERGGREN: Jessica Bennett and her son were flying to Atlanta and sat next to this man, 60-year-old Joe Huntley from Idaho.

BENNETT: He was being rude and belligerent and I spoke very uncomfortable.

BERGGREN: She said Huntley reeked of alcohol and continue to drink on board. But, as the plane began to descent, Jonah got fussy and the already uncomfortable flight got even worse.

BENNETT: I was having trouble comforting him and that's when the guy had made his comment to me.

BERGGREN: As court documents say, this is when Huntley allegedly told Jessica to quote "shut that n-word baby up," but it didn't add there. Huntley used the racial slur a second time and then allegedly slapped Jonah, hitting him in the eye.

BENNETT: I could I not believe that he would say something like that. And to a baby or about a baby and then to hit him was just -- I -- I felt like I was in another world, I was shaking.

BERGGREN: Jessica says other passengers eventually came to her aid and the two were given a new seat, while Jonah is back to being a curious toddler, his parents call Huntley's actions heinous and hateful and want something to be done. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the evidence is sufficient enough to support what we're saying and, you know, I think that we hope he is punished as much as he possibly can be.

BERGGREN: It's an experience the Bennett's never want to go through again but one this family will think about the next time they fly.

BENNETT: I think I'll just be replaying it the whole time, very traumatic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Dave Berggren from our affiliate KARE with that report.

Joe Huntley has since been suspended from his job, pending an investigation. He has been charged withes Assault. His attorney says, quote, we want the case to move along as it is supposed to, and we hope it will resolve itself.

A powerful force hits the golf links, the president and Tiger, they both tee up for a round of golf in Florida.

And a leaked White House immigration plan has some in Congress seeing red and one said, quote, this thing is dead on arrival. What has them all riled up? That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Obama must be feeling pretty confident in his golf game these days. The White House confirms that president played 18 holes with Tiger Woods. The president is on a mini vacation to a Florida resort this weekend. His foursome included the owner, a man name Tim Crane, who also happens to be a major Democratic Party donor.

The skies have been busy during the president's Florida stay. Military firefighters intercepted three small planes this weekend that have crossed into the restricted air space near the president is staying. Two sets and a small two-seater aircraft were all forced to leave the area.

Senator John McCain has been lead in leading the Republican charge in the debate over the U.S. response in Benghazi, Libya as well as the battle over defense secretary nominee of Chuck Hagel. Does McCain have a bigger strategy in play her or is he just trying to get to the truth? I talked about it with CNN contributors Lz Granderson and Ana Navarro. And I started with their reactions to some tough new comments by McCain on "Meet the Press."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You said a cover-up, and a cover-up of what?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Of the information of concerning the deaths of four brave Americans. The information has not been forthcoming. You can obviously believe that it has. I know that it hasn't. And I will be glad to send you a list of the questions that have not been answered.

LEMON: Lz, is he correct? Is there a White House cover-up when it comes to the 9/11 attack on our consulate and Benghazi, Libya?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he sure seems to think so. I don't know why he is so, you know hell bent on trying the find more answers after we have gotten, I think, pretty much everyone who was directly involved with what happened in Benghazi already On the Record.

I really am just wondering if he doing this to try to sure up his cred (ph) as far as being the military's voice and wanted to make sure that the servicemen and women understand that he will fight for them every step of the way. But other than that, I don't know what productive thing can come out of the conversation.

LEMON: Ana, it does seem that John McCain has been on a mission lately. He is going after the president on Benghazi and others in the White House. And then, he is taking on his old friend Chuck Hagel in the confirmation hearing for defense secretary. What is he after here?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: look, I think, he is doing his job. You know, he understands that his job as a senator is not to rubber stamp the nominations, it is to advice and consent and scrutinize these nominees. If not now, when?

And I think what he is doing on Benghazi and what he has done along with other senators like Kelly Ayotte, like Lindsey Graham, is very important. Let's just think about this, OK? Were if not for the John McCain and the Kelly Ayotte going after this, that we would still be thinking that Benghazi was duped to a video and that is not true. Because of the activity, there is a scathing report about the negligence and the breaches of security of the state department. There have been recommendation made and there may be American lives saved in the future, because of this saga with John McCain right now. So I 'm very proud of him for having done it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Ana Navarro and Lz Granderson. Thank you very much.

We are following some breaking news this hour. Country music singer is dead after taking her own life.

And crowds gather at the Vatican for one of the pope's final acts as leader of the Catholic church.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It is half past the hour and we follow up on the headlines right now.

We have some breaking news into to CNN, this coming from the country music world. Police officials in Arkansas are confirming to CNN that singer Mindy McCready has been found dead. She apparently committed suicide. The 37-year-old was reportedly committed suicide at a home in Arkansas. McCready had a history of addiction and mental illness. Stay right there, because my conversation with Dr. Drew Pinsky, she worked with him and the medical show for a short time. My interview with him is coming up here on CNN. Mindy McCready, 37-years-old has been found dead after a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The convicted mastermind of the 1993 world trade center bombings says he is not a security threat, and he wants his communications restrictions lifted. Ramzi Yousef has been in solitary confinement the federal super max prison in Colorado since 1998. Right now, his contacts are limited to relative, lawyers and other inmates. He was sentenced to life plus 20 years.

Now facing murder charges, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has dropped out of several races including one set for April in the U.S. Although he is under contract to run, his management company said he is dropped out to deal with the charges he now faces. Pistorius is accused of shooting his girlfriend model Reeva Steenkampp on Valentine's Day.

A Cuban blogger and fierce critic of the Cuban government finally got to leave Havana today, at least for 80 days. Yoani Sanchez, seen her on the left, has been refused an exit visa for years. She is headed on an 80-day tour of 10 countries including the U.S. Sanchez says, she doesn't plan to tamper her criticism of life in Cuba just because the exit visa, but she acknowledges it could be her last trip out of the country.

A bigger than normal crowd packed the Vatican city today. It is a second to the last time that Pope Benedict XVI will address the crowds of Catholic (INAUDIBLE) from famous window overlooking Saint square. One hundred thousands of people turned out to hear Pope Benedict ask for prayers for the next Pope.

Ben Wedeman is covering the story for us in Rome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A much larger crowd crammed into St. Peters square this Sunday to hear Pope Benedict XVI give his penultimate Angelis prayer. During the prayer, he asked those assembled in St. Peters to pray for him and to pray for the next Pope. The Pope is now going into a week-long Lenten retreat. This is an annual tradition, and part of the Lenten season. When he reemerges, he will conduct his last Angelis prayer. And then on the 28th of February step down as the pontiff.

It is not clear at this point when the conclave, that meeting of 117 cardinals assembled to vote for the next Pope will meet. However, a senior Vatican spokesman on Saturday said that, it could happen earlier than planned, before the 15th of March.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Rome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Ben, thank you.

A cold day to talk about global warming. Thousands break freezing temperature on the national mall to demand action on climate change.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A huge rally at the national mall in Washington today as thousands, well they pleaded for more action on climate change.

Chris Lawrence talked to those who braved the freezing temperatures hoping it will all lead to changes in the U.S. energy policy.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, it has been one of the coldest days of the year here in Washington, but it did not stop tens of thousands of people from jamming the national mall, and then marching from here right past the White House. Even though president Obama is away in Florida, the message that they wanted to send to him is clear. They want two things. They want the environmental protection agency to establish stricter emission standards on the existing power plants and not just future plants that will be built down the line.

They also want President Obama to kill the extension of the keystone pipeline. That is the oil pipeline that is coming from Canada and would cut through the United States and bring all of the way to the gulf coast. A lot of folks here are younger voters or younger people who say, even though the U.S. right now may be as focused on the debt- ceiling and other issues, it is time to look further down the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am only 16, and some day I hope to have my own kids, and I think that this is -- I want them to live in a world that's, you know, like environmentally safe and natural.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keystone XL is a dirty and dangerous pipeline. It is a literally going to cut our country in half carrying a very dangerous fuel, and it will cause run away climate change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: On the flipside, a lot of folks say tighter emission standard have already cost some jobs at coal plants in places like West Virginia, tightening them further is only going to squeeze that part of the economy even more, and some of the higher prices will be passed on to you and me as consumers. They also argue that the keystone pipeline will be safe with today's technology and will bring jobs to places like Nebraska and also help the U.S. become more energy independent. -Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Chris.

Now, to the big stories in the week ahead from Wall Street to Hollywood, our correspondents will tell you what you need to know. We begin with what is happening tonight with what is happening at the Pentagon. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Defense secretary Leon Panetta was supposed to be home in California in retirement. But now that Congress will not deal with the Chuck Hagel nomination for another ten days, Panetta still is on the job. He will travel to Brussels for a NATO summit to talk about Afghanistan and other security issues. When the summit is over on Friday, the big question, does he come back to the Pentagon or does he try once again to go home to California?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm poppy Harlow in New York.

While the markets are closed Monday for the president's day holiday, but when they reopen Tuesday, we will get key earnings and also economic reports. The latest existing home sales numbers will come out Wednesday. That will help us to see if the housing recovery is continuing, because existing home sales account for about 90 percent of the overall housing market.

On the earnings front, we will hear from Walmart and Marriott. And all eyes on Dell as the computer maker reports its quarterly numbers. Founder Michael Dell has made a $24 billion bid to take that struggling company private, whether the shareholders will sign on is the big question. We will keep an eye on that and all of the business news coming up on CNN money.

A.J. HAMMER, HLN HOST, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: I'm "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" A.J. Hammer. Here is what we are watching this week. It is showbiz road to gold as we countdown to the Oscars next weekend & and we will go one on one with Oscars host Seth McFarland. You got to see how he is holding up before his epic hosting gig.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, guys.

Danica Patrick has allowed - always, excuse me, been surrounded by hype, but now she is making history. My conversation with pole sitter for this year's Daytona 500 straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is going to be known for more than her commercial star power. She the pole sitter for this year's Daytona 500. And I spoke with her not long after the ground breaking achievement and I asked her if she understood the magnitude of making this an important mark in sports history?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK: In a simple word, yes, I understand that. I think that understanding the scope of what that means and what it will end up meaning or if any is something that happens down the road. In the moment, it's about thinking about what I need to do for next Sunday and try to make some more history.

LEMON: Tell us about the reaction from your fellow drivers, including your team owner Tony Stewart?

PATRICK: Tony came over and we had gotten the pole and qualifying was over with, and he came over the say good job, and, you know, for me, I just wanted to tell him thank you for giving me the chance and for giving me the crew and the car and the job with and a team to be able to go out to do something like that. So, it means a lot, and it goes a long way when someone like Tony Stewart believes in you.

LEMON: I met Tony Stewart a couple of years ago doing a interview for Daytona 500 and he could not have been more gracious, a very gracious man.

Let's talk a little bit more about you though. Winning the pole is one thing. Now, you have to go out the race in a 125-mile qualifying race and then a 500-mile main event Sunday. How are you going to prepare for this, this week?

PATRICK: Well, I'm going to hope that I can have a little bit of time off between now and the time we hit the track on Wednesday, but I'm racing in the nationwide race which is, I think, going to be a really good help for the race Sunday for the Daytona 500. So, I will be racing Saturday and Sunday.

But, I mean, just getting out there in traffic and feeling what s like here on another car and we are going to be smart about what we do out there on the track. I believe if we crash in practice or the duals which is a race that we do on Thursday, we don't get to start in the front row, so perhaps, we have to be a little bit smart, but it does not mean that we can't get the chance to see what it feels like to be around the other cars.

LEMON: All right, so listen, don't be modest, you won this time. You won the pole position. What are you doing this time that is different or better than you were doing before or better than the other drivers?

PATRICK: I don't know if I know how to answer that. I mean, you know, I -- all I can do as a driver when I go out there and qualify at a place like Daytona is to be smooth and not let the car bind up too much and let it take the head and let it go where it wants to go a little bit and yet keeping a minimum distance as little as possible, but other than that, it is very much about the crew. I know you told me not to be modest, but it is very much about the crew and the engine and the car, those elements have to be in place for you the go out there to be able to have a chance at the pole.

LEMON: Yes. You were also modest when you answered the history question, but you said that you do understand that you made history today. It is a ground-breaking, but do you understand that there are young women and little girls at home watching you and who all of the sudden today, will say, you know what, I can do that. I can become a race car driver. I can be a Danica Patrick and well, little boys and my producer, but little boys have had role models in racing from the beginning, but you are a role model for little girls do. You get that?

PATRICK: You know, I love the go beyond racing in general, I mean, just to kind of break gender barriers, I feel that one of the coolest things is to be able to think that parents and their kids are having that conversation at home about it. And to, you know, I have heard stories about a kid, whether a little boy or girl saying, but mommy or daddy, that is a girl that is out there racing, and then they can have the conversation to say, you can do anything you want to. And gender does not matter. Your passion is what matters. And that is cool.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: More power. Congratulations, Danica. By the way, Danica's fellow driver Michael Waltrip will be racing for Newtown, Connecticut, at the Daytona 500. Watrip will be driving the number 26 Sandy Hook school support fund Toyota. There it is right there. The car will honor the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting. Waltrip will also be encouraging NASCAR fans to make $10 donations to the school support fund. Good job.

Hundreds were hurt and buildings damaged when a meteor crashed over Russia this week. Many residents are still shaking about the whole thing. Some of the youngest still very were traumatized by the whole thing. Their story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: What a great day it was Friday for the thousands of people who finally got off of the cruise from hell. That was the carnival ship that was virtually dead in the water for days leaving the passengers to sleep on the deck, walk around in raw sewerage.

Well, last night on Saturday night live, the cast imagine what it was like aboard that ship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now before we move on, we want to designate a few more areas on the boat as toilets, OK? All right? What have we got here? The superstar karaoke bar is now officially a toilet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. The blue iguana cantina is now a toilet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Just in time. OK. Good. And the bonsai sushi restaurant, that is still a sushi restaurant, so you want to get in there soon before it becomes a toilet actually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. Really not famous until in America "Saturday Night Live" has had its way with you.

Maker's mark says it goofed by attempting to water down its whiskey. They should have remembered coca-cola. Remember that? The Kentucky distiller says it won't change the makers mark, because they said they would have to cut the alcohol volume to meet the rising global demand, but after being besieged with customer complaints they go back to original 45 percent alcohol by volume 90 proof. The images of that meteor crashing into remote Russia are chilling. The blast sent adults scrambling for cover and more than 1,000 people were hurt. Among them hundreds of schoolchildren although the event lasted only about 32 seconds, it is having a lasting effect.

CNN's Phil Black reports from Russian village on how it has impacted the children.

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PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This small Siberian village is usually a quiet place. One thousand people living just south of the city of Chelyabinsk. But on Friday morning, they, like everyone in the region, were shocked by what they saw. An intense light followed by a trail of smoke across the sky.

Kindergarten worker (INAUDIBLE) says that the 20 children in this room ran to the windows when they saw the light. But she felt that something was wrong and moved them away. She said she was still facing the windows when the meteor's shock wave hit.

As the windows blew in, the flying glass cut Olga's face and hands. She said she did not notice, because she was worried about the children. Most were safe, but terrified. But, one was bleeding heavily. 3-year-old Sasha suffered deep cuts to the hands and face. Her mother Aretha Ivanovo (ph) ran to the kindergarten after she heard the blast.

I was shaking she says, and I grabbed her and started to calm her down. A lot of the kids were crying, too. (INAUDIBLE) was also in the room that morning and not hurt physically by the blast, but her mother says she is traumatized and too afraid to stand near the windows but she keeps asking if the glass is going to break again.

Ekaterina says that she understands what the children of the village are feeling. She said that the blast is so terrifying that it rekindled her own memories from the second World War. Most of the visible damage to the region and the buildings can be repaired, but the meteor's impact on some will take longer to heal.

Phil black, CNN, in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Phil.

A troubled country singer has died. Mindy McCready committed suicide tonight. just weeks after her boyfriend took his own life. Up next, Dr. Drew talks about treating McCready for addiction.

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LEMON: Mindy McCready, a country history with a string of hits and turbulent personal life is dead. CNN has confirmed that McCready committed suicide this afternoon at her home in Arkansas. The sheriff in Cleburne County says McCready shot herself in her home there. She was 37-years-old.

Outside of her successful country music career, Mindy McCready struggled with addiction and mental illness even agreeing to be treated on a TV reality show hosted by HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky. I talked to Dr. Drew about her a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: I don't know if people may or may not be aware, she actually been doing very well. Things were looking up for her, and she had children with a boyfriend who ended up killing himself a few weeks ago. She was struggling after that. Actually, was admitted herself to a psychiatric facility. And there's a cautionary tale here about the stigma and he way people were responding to her being hospitalized that she actually check herself out prematurely and now, we have what we have.

LEMON: As I am sitting here looking at her picture, I remember a story from a while back that involved a child and custody with her. Can you refresh our memory with that? Do you know what I am talking about?

PINSKY: Yes. She had a long, long struggle to regain custody of her child who she finally, just recently, had custody of again. And again, establishing a stable home with her boyfriend and things went off in a bad direction after he killed himself. Again, I have no direct knowledge of all of this. This is what I'm understanding. I did hear from very concerned friends that she was struggling a few weeks ago, so I haven't seen her in years but reached out to her. She sounded good.

LEMON: You knew her personally?

PINSKY: No, no, no.

LEMON: You didn't know her personally?

PINSKY: No, I treated her for three weeks on the celebrity rehab. And so, it was several years ago. And always had contact with her on various levels where seek her advice or what not. I did not treat her. It was not her physician. But when I heard she was struggling I reached out to her to urge her to go take care f herself, get to a facility if she felt she needed. There was good support to get her to do that, but the biggest fear was the stigma of doing so and what people would think if she, God forbid took care of herself. This is the most distressing part of the story. She is a lovely woman. And we have lost her, and it didn't have to go down like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Drew. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

Thank you for watching. Have yourself a good night and a great week. I will see you back here next weekend.