Danica Patrick became the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole Sunday by qualifying fastest for the 2013 season-opening Daytona 500.
Patrick pushed her #10 Stewart-Haas GoDaddy Chevrolet around Daytona’s 2.5-mile banked oval in 45.817 seconds, hitting a top speed of 196.434. Patrick’s top speed was the highest since 1990, and she is the first Rookie of the Year candidate to win the pole since Jimmie Johnson in 2002
This was not Patrick’s first Daytona pole: in 2012 she qualified fastest for the NASCAR second-tier Nationwide Series Daytona race, the DRIVE4COPD 300. Only one other female driver has ever won a NASCAR pole: in 1994, Shawna Robinson won the pole for a Nationwide race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I appreciate the recognition but it really falls ninety percent on Tony [crew chief Tony Gibson] and his guys and everybody who gives me the car to go out there and be fast and maybe ten percent on me” Patrick told NASCAR.com
“I think it shows how well prepared Tony and everybody was and how strong the Hendrick engines are and how good the new Chevy SS is.
“Tony’s given me a good car. I’m going to do my best to keep it clean, keep it out of trouble, and get a feel for the traffic throughout the day, and hopefully put myself in a position, position-wise and knowledge-wise, to be able to do a do a good a job and have a chance to bring it home where it started at the end of Sunday.”
Patrick seemed comfortable to be making racing history once again.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl—that was instilled in me from the beginning. I feel like thriving in those moments when the pressure is on has been a help for me, and I feel like I have been very lucky in my career to be with good teams and have good people around me. I don’t think any of it would have been possible without that.
“For those reasons I’ve been lucky enough to make history and be the first woman to do many things, I really hope I don’t stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make and we are excited to do it.”
Hendricks Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon qualified second with a lap of 45.85 and a top speed of 196.292. Trevor Bayne, who in 2011 became the race’s youngest winner at age 20, qualified third with a lap of 45.924 at 195.976 mph.
The higher speeds seen at qualifying (22 drivers topped 195 mph, a speed reached only once (in 1999 by Jeff Gordon) since 1991) can be attributed to the brand-new Gen-6 NASACR car, which aside from supposedly looking more like the street cars upon which “stock cars” were originally based, is also slipperier than the Gen-5 “Car of Tomorrow” used from 2007–2012.
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season starts with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 24, but before that race, there will be two qualifying races—the Duels at Daytona, on Thursday, Feb. 21—to fill in the rest of the Daytona 500 grid. Tickets for all these events can be purchased through the NASCAR.com website.
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