It was a timely result. Patrick made the pole a year after making her Sprint Cup Series debut in the same race. Not only was it a first for the Daytona 500 -- the pearl of the Sprint Cup Series -- it was also a first for any Sprint Cup event. Patrick set the pace with a qualifying speed of 196.434 mph.
The previous best starting position for a woman in the Daytona 500 was 18th by Janet Guthrie, who most will recall was a pioneer among women in auto racing. Guthrie also held the record for the top starting spot by a female in a Cup race, after qualifying ninth in 1977 at Talladega Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Pride. I'm proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole car. I'm happy for them (the team). It was a fast Chevy. ... If you're anywhere but the front row, it's hard to see on race day. ... This just speaks volumes about Stewart-Haas Racing. I thought we were going to be 1-2-3 for a while.
Teammate Jeff Gordon came close, at 196.292 mph. Teammate Ryan Newman, at 195.946 mph, was fourth, and team owner Tony Stewart was fifth at 195.925 mph.
The six fastest qualifiers are assured a spot in the field.
The finish took Patrick away from the headlines of TMZ -- where she has been since it became known that she was in a relationship with fellow cup rookie, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is five years her junior -- and onto the headlines of ESPN. While Patrick ran, Stenhouse watched from pit road. He later ran a lap of 195.537 mph as Patrick watched him from a TV booth, prior to an interview.
After her boyfriend's lap, Patrick said,
Don't get me wrong, I still want the pole. I think he'll be happy with that time.
In reality, Stenhouse's time didn't really matter. With NASCAR's new qualifying rules, Stenhouse qualified for the race thanks to the owner points former no. 17 driver Matt Kenseth earned for the car in 2012.