With qualifying for the Daytona 500 today, history was made as Danica Patrick driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, became the first female driver to win a pole at NASCAR’s top level, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Patrick was the 8th driver to qualify she turned a lap of 196.434 mph (45.817 seconds), securing her the first starting position for next Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500. This was the fastest Daytona 500 pole winning speed since 1990 by Ken Schrader.
“That’s a really big deal because qualifying for the Daytona 500 is a really interesting thing,” said Patrick. “If you’re anywhere but the front row, it’s really hard to see on race day. I’m proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole. It’s not just turning left.”
Patrick smashed the previous record for the top starting spot by a female in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver that goes back 36 years by Janet Guthrie in 1977, as Guthrie started ninth on two separate occasions, at Talladega Superspeedway on August 7, 1977 and at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 28, 1977. The previous record for a female in the Daytona 500 was 18th had also by Janet Guthrie in 1980, just like Patrick, Guthrie also drove in the Indy car series.
This is Patrick’s second NASCAR pole, winning the Coors Light Pole for the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race for the 2012 season. The only other female to win a NASCAR nation series pole was Shawna Robinson in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1994.
This is the second record Patrick has broken; where at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011 she finished fourth, marking the best finish by a female driver in NASCAR. Patrick also finished 10th in the final 2012 NASCAR Nationwide points standings, the top finish by a female in NASCAR national series history.
This year Patrick, is in the running for the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, and is the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole since Jimmie Johnson in 2002.
Jeff Gordon, who posted the second fastest lap, and was the only other driver with a speed over 196 mph, complimented Patrick on her achievement.
“We all know how popular she is and what this will do for our sport,” said Gordon. “I’ve always been a believer in what’s good for the sport is good for all of us. I’m proud to be on the front row with Danica. It’s great to be part of history,” Gordon said. “I can say I was the fastest guy today.”
The rest of the field will be set in the duel qualifying races Thursday, with the Daytona 500 airing on FOX at 1 p.m. eastern standard time.