It did not take long for Danica Patrick secure a historic milestone in her NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie season. Patrick, who already has the honor of being the first female to win a major, closed-course motorsports race with her victory at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2008, made history yet again Sunday by becoming the first woman to win the pole for a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Fittingly, it comes in NASCAR’s season-opening and most prestigious race – the Daytona 500.
Patrick, who will start in the front row alongside Jeff Gordon for Sunday’s Daytona 500, earned the pole with a speed of 196.434 miles per hour in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing. For Patrick, earning the pole is what she hopes is the start of more career-defining moments in NASCAR.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl,” Patrick said. “That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning. For those reasons, I’ve been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don’t stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make. We are excited to do it.”
Patrick went out eighth during Sunday’s qualifying and then was relegated to waiting nearly two hours and watching 37 other drivers try to knock her off the top spot. The only driver to challenge her and also top 196 mph was Gordon, who earned the outside front-row position at 196.292 mph. Patrick and Gordon are locked into those starting positions for the Daytona 500 while the rest of the field will be set in Thursday’s Budweiser Duel.
Her pole comes as no surprise to the other competitors vying for a spot in the Daytona 500. Patrick turned in the fastest lap during Saturday’s practice at 196.220 miles per hour. Her speed in practice suddenly made her a legitimate threat to win the Daytona 500 pole position.
“I love it when people put me on the radar, I do,” Patrick said. “I think it’s good. It’s a confidence boost. I heard Mr. (Richard) Childress (NASCAR team owner) say he thought I was the one to lose the pole. When people put you on the radar that feels good to me.”
While winning the pole is a major accomplishment for Patrick, she understands the real test will come during Sunday’s Daytona 500. Last year during her limited NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, she qualified 29th for the Daytona 500 and only made it through two laps before being collected in a six-car accident.
Patrick understands the challenges that she faces if she wants to win the Daytona 500 and knows it will require quick learning and a little luck.
“I’m a rookie and I’m going to be learning as much as I can for 499 or maybe until the last 10 laps,” Patrick said. “When you implement your plan, it depends where you are. Hopefully at the end of 500 (miles), we’re rolling and we have a chance.”
Catch Sunday’s season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, beginning at Noon CT on FOX (TV) and MRN (Radio) nationally. Locally, the Daytona 500 will be broadcast on KDFW (FOX Channel 4) and 105.3 The FAN, the official broadcast partner of Texas Motor Speedway.