NASCAR's Daytona 500, the "Great American Race". Arguably one of the single-most prestigious races in all of motorsports, it is one of those career-defining events that every driver hopes to add to their resume.
For Danica Patrick, the Daytona super speedway holds special charm. Last season, she posted the fastest qualifying lap for the pole in the Nationwide series event. Sunday, as a series rookie in NASCAR's primetime Sprint Cup, she posted one of the fastest restrictor-plate time trial laps in Daytona history, fast enough to land her the pole in the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500.
Danica qualified early in the session with a blazing lap speed of 196.434mph. Earning her spot in the front row also puts her in the history books as the first female to hold the pole in NASCAR Cup history, dating back to 1949. Janet Guthrie previously held the honor of the best qualified woman, earning the 9th spot on the qualifying grid in 1977.
Patrick adds this elite honor to an already impressive resume, including another career-defining accomplishment: the top qualifying spot in Indycar's Indianapolis 500.
Fox's Darrel Waltrip asked Danica the difference in winning the pole in Daytona or Indy, she responded:
"It would definitely be a high point memory. I think Daytona has such a legendary following. Somebody said winning the pole for the Daytona 500 was the fourth-biggest race. It's clearly a very important moment in the year," she said. "... What the fans need to understand is we're holding it wide open, but it's not just a car. There's so many little things the team does to be ready to go out there."