History Maker: Danica Patrick Wins Pole For Daytona 500

Before Sunday, Danica Patrick had already attracted the lion’s share of Speedweeks attention in Daytona for revealing details about her budding personal relationship with fellow racer Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Danica Patrick celebrates winning the Daytona 500 pole Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sunday Patrick continued to garner the bulk of the spotlight in Daytona, but focus shift from personal life to racing accomplishment.

Patrick, readying for her first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, made history Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick was fastest in Daytona 500 qualifying, becoming the first female driver to win a Sprint Cup Series pole position. Patrick will lead a 43-car field to the green in next Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Patrick turned a lap of 196.434 mph (45.817 seconds) around the 2.5-mile Daytona tri-oval.

“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls – as I think I said before I went out on the track – 90 percent on [crew chief] Tony [Gibson] and his guys and everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast, and maybe 10 percent on me. All I have to do is think about going out there and being smooth and not letting the car bind up and running on that yellow line. Outside of that, I think it shows how well prepared Tony and everybody was and how strong the Hendrick engines are.”

Janet Guthrie held the previous top qualifying effort for a female driver in Sprint Cup competition. Guthrie started ninth in two events in 1977.

Patrick, competing for Stewart-Haas Racing, is the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole since five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in 2002.

“Just the history books in itself, that’s something that also as an owner that we’re proud to be a part of that,” team owner Tony Stewart said. “We’re proud for her too. That’s a huge accomplishment. It’s not like it’s been 15 or 20 years she’s been trying to do this. It’s her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car and she’s made history in this sport. That’s what we’re proud of being a part of with her, and it’s something that she should have a huge amount of pride in. It’s never been done. There’s only one person that can be the first do anything, it doesn’t matter how many do it after you do or accomplish that same goal, the first one that does always has that little bit more significance because you were the first.”

Forty-five cars participated in Sunday’s time-trial qualifying, which locked in the front-row for the Daytona 500 field. Jeff Gordon was second fastest in qualifying. The remainder of the field will be set during Thursday’s twin qualifying events at Daytona International Speedway.

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