DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick did something in the Daytona 500 that she could never achieve at the Indianapolis 500 – win the pole.
Patrick achieved NASCAR history on Sunday becoming the first female driver to win a pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It just so happened to come in the biggest NASCAR race of them all.
She was the eighth driver to make a qualification attempt and her speed of 196.434 miles per hour in the GoDaddy Chevrolet was unsurpassed by any of the other 44 drivers to make an attempt.
Patrick is also the 11th consecutive different driver to win the pole for the Daytona 500.
She will start alongside three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet after the four-time Brickyard 400 winner ran a lap at 196.292 mph.
Those two drivers are locked into their starting position for Sunday’s Daytona 500. The next four drivers are guaranteed a starting position on speed regardless of where they finish in Thursday’s Budweiser Duels.
Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, was third at 195.976 mph in a Ford followed by Ryan Newman’s 195.946 mph in a Chevrolet. Tony Stewart’s Chevrolet was fifth at 195.946 mph and Kasey Kahne’s Chevrolet was sixth at 195.852.
Those six drivers are guaranteed a start in the race with the latter four drivers starting positions determined after Thursday’s two 150-mile qualifying races.
While this is the first Sprint Cup pole of Patrick’s career it’s her second-straight at Daytona. She won the pole for last year’s Nationwide Series race at the 2.5-mile oval.
“I’m proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole car,” Patrick said. “It’s not just about turning left; it’s about a lot of other things. The guys back at the shop and Hendrick giving me a fast engine for this fast Chevy. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is an interesting thing because so much work goes into this car. There is a lot more left in the races to get the end, have a fast car but this speaks volumes for Stewart Haas Racing.
All three SHR cars are in the top five including Patrick, Newman and Stewart.
“Watching Tony Stewart last night it showed how solid the cars are but I am not Tony Stewart,” Patrick said. “As a team it shows how strong we are. We are strong in qualifying so hopefully there are a lot of good things to come.”
Stewart was proud of his team’s efforts.
“They make me look really smart but I’m not,” Stewart said. “I could not be more proud of what our guys have done in the off-season. They worked really, really hard for a lot of late nights. Today is a day to show what the guys at the shop have done for us. I’m just really, really proud of these guys.”
Stewart was most proud of his driver.
“She is outracing people with a lot less experience,” Stewart said. “You could see what she did in IndyCar. You could see it. She’s got talent. To come here and have that kind of composure and run the lap as smooth as she did, she did a really good job.”
Patrick will start on the pole of Thursday’s first Duel and Gordon will lead the field to the green flag of Thursday’s second 150-mile Duel.
“I like the Duels to go out and race hard to find out what we can do to win the Daytona 500,” Gordon said. “This is such a great way to get the season started. Congratulations to Danica. It’s great to be part of history.
“I guess I can say I’m the fastest guy out there today.”