In 2012 she took the top qualifying spot for the Nationwide Series opener at famed track and on Sunday she made history by being the first woman to capture the pole for the Daytona 500. Patrick recorded a fast lap of 45.817 seconds, a mere .033 faster than Jeff Gordon who will join her on the front row for next Sunday’s Great American Race.
“Last year I was pretty decent in practice and came for the race and it wasn't the same situation,” Patrick said. “This year it continued. I think that just shows how well-prepared they all have been, how hard they've worked over the winter. It's really amazing how much effort is put into a qualifying car for Daytona, for the 500, and really only the front row is what sticks for Sunday. 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.”
From the time her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet was unloaded from the hauler until she finished her two qualifying laps, Patrick had the best car. After a pair of practice sessions where he topped the speed charts she came out eighth of the 45 cars vying for one of only two spots that would guarantee a starting spot in the 500 and cashed in her opportunity.
I'm proud of her,” said crew chief Tony Gibson. “I know there was a lot of pressure on her to come here and qualify well, in the top six, to lock us in. I'm proud of her to carry that weight on her shoulders. She didn't falter. She did everything right. She hit her marks, hit her marks on the shifts, and here we are.”
Stewart-Hass Racing owner and teammate Tony Stewart had the provisional pole until Patrick bumped him and at one time SHR had the top three spots with Ryan Newman pushing his boss back to third. The Kannapolis, North Carolina based organization held on until Gordon rolled off 29th and raced into second. SHR would wind up first, fourth and fifth.
Patrick became the 11th straight different pole winner for the Daytona 500, a race that has had just 38 over its 55 year history. The 30-year old Beliot, Wisconsin native recorded the fastest qualifying speed, 196.434 mph, since 1995 when Dale Jarrett clocked in at 196.498. She is just the fourth rookie to claim the top spot and easily surpassed Janet Guthrie for the best start, ninth.
“That's a huge accomplishment,” said car owner Tony Stewart. “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 stuff that we're proud of being a part of with her. It's something she should have a huge amount of pride in. It's never been done. There's only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn't matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first.”
QUALIFYING NOTES: Trevor Bayne was the fastest Ford driving the traditional red and white No. 21 Motorcraft car of the Wood Brothers assuring him of a spot in the 500 field even if he has trouble in the Budweiser Duels on Thursday. He will be able to fall back on speed.
This will be the 52nd Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers.
Other drivers guaranteed to race next Sunday are Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne (on speed) while Brad Keselowski, Clint Boyer, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Rickey Stenhouse Jr. all being able to fall back on owner points. Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte can claim a past champion provisional although there is only one of those spots available.