Danica Patrick wins Daytona pole
Danica Patrick became the first woman to qualify on the pole for a Sprint Cup race, and she did it in stock car racing’s most prestigious event: the Daytona 500.
Patrick turned a lap at 196.434 miles per hour in her No. 10 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway to take the pole for next Sunday’s season-opening race. She will start alongside Jeff Gordon, who qualified second. Patrick’s speed was 33 thousandths of a second faster than Gordon’s.
Via ESPN, Gordon joked about his second place finish: ”I can say I was the fastest guy today. Congrats to Danica. It’s great to be part of history. I’m proud to be on the front row with her.”
It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that Patrick won as she posted the fastest speed of Saturday’s two qualifying practices and ran slightly faster during her second qualifying lap on Sunday, knocking owner and teammate Tony Stewart from the provisional pole.
The rest of the grid will be set in Thursday’s twin qualifying races. The first race will mark who will start the odd-numbered positions 3-31 and the second race will mark the even-numbered positions 4-32. The rest of the field will be filled out via qualifying speeds from Sunday’s single car runs and provisionals.
Patrick, 30, began racing in the IndyCar Series in 2005. She earned instant fame that season when she became the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500, finishing fourth. She was also the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race when she took the checkered flag at Motegi, Japan in 2008.
Patrick began the transition to stock car racing in 2010 and committed full time to the sport in 2012. She raced in the lower-level Nationwide Series, in which she finished 10th in the standings, and she was voted the most popular driver of the series. She made her Cup debut in last year’s Daytona 500, starting 29th and finishing 38th.
By taking the pole, Patrick proves to rivals and cynics that she has the speed and smooth driving ability needed to win on Daytona’s challenging 2.5-mile tri-oval track. But does she have enough patience?