Dancia Patrick made history Sunday becoming the first female driver in NASCAR history to win a pole in the Sprint Cup Series. Patrick, campaigning the entire Sprint Cup season for Stewart-Haas Racing broke a track record with a speed of 196.434 early in the session and will lead the field to the green next Sunday in NASCAR's biggest race the Daytona 500.
Patrick went out for her two laps early in the session hitting the track eighth of the 45 cars. Her closest challenge came from Jeff Gordon who took the second spot with a speed of 196.292.
"I appreciate the recognition," Patrick said. "But it really falls 90 percent on Tony (Gibson crew chief) and his guys; everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast and maybe 10 percent on me."
Prior to Sunday, the best start for a female driver in NASCAR's top touring series came in 1977 when Janet Guthrie made two starts from the 9 position at Bristol and Talladega.
The buzz surrounding Patrick and her run at the pole began on Saturday when she led the final practice session ahead of Sunday's qualifying.
Trevor Bayne was the only Ford in the top five taking the third spot late in the session. Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman was fourth with boss Tony Stewart rounding out the top five.
"That's a huge accomplishment," said team owner Stewart of Patrick's run. "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. She's made history in the sport. That's the stuff we're proud of being a part of with her. It's something she should have a huge amount of pride in."
Last season Patrick won her first pole in NASCAR winning the Nationwide Series pole.
"All I have to do is think about going out there, being smooth, not letting the car bind up running on that yellow line." Patrick said. "Outside of that I think it shows how well prepared Tony and everybody was."
Only Patrick and Gordon have guaranteed starting spots on the front row. The rest of the field will be set by a combination of their qualifying spots and finishing positions in Thursday's duel qualifying races.
"It's really amazing how much effort is put into a qualifying car for Daytona, for the 500 and really only the front row it what sticks for Sunday," Patrick said. "It's nice that all that hard work can pay off and that we can give ourselves that opportunity to lead the pack down into the tri-oval for the green flag of the Daytona 500."
Photo by: Greg Engle