The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver, who took to the track eighth, navigated the 2.5 mile track in 45.817 seconds at a speed of 196.434 mph and waited as the rest of the 45-driver field tried to knock her out of the top spot.
Jeff Gordon will join Patrick on the front row of the Daytona 500 and the rest of the field will be set after the Thursday Budweiser Duel races. Patrick will lead the first Duel and Gordon will lead the second one.
Patrick credited her fast lap to the hard work of the SHR team.
Patrick, a Rookie of the Year candidate in the Sprint Cup series, will lead the field in only her 11th start in the series. Patrick ran a partial schedule for SHR in 2012 while running the NASCAR Nationwide series for JR Motorsports. Patrick was also named the most popular driver in that series.
Although Patrick has limited experience in the series, the fact that NASCAR has gone to a new car might help level the field for the former IndyCar driver. NASCAR’s sixth-generation Sprint Cup car (Gen-6) was used for the first time in the Sprint Unlimited Saturday night..