Apart from the possible exception of drag racing, female racers are still a rarity in motorsports; so, when two women have success in the same day at two of the most revered racing facilities in sports, it's worth pointing out. Sunday was one of those days as Danica Patrick became the first woman to win a pole in NASCAR’s premier division and Courtney Force became the first woman to win the NHRA Winternationals.
The spotlight couldn’t be much brighter for the two women: Patrick’s momentous achievement came at NASCAR most famous track, Daytona International Speedway; Force’s feat happened at the venerable Pomona Raceway. As if that wasn’t enough, Patrick’s pole is for the most famous event in stock car racing, the Daytona 500. Not to be outdone, Force accomplished her exploits at arguably NHRA’s most famous race, the Winternationals.
Driving her #10 GoDaddy, new for 2013 Chevrolet SS, Danica Patrick grabbed the pole early in the qualifying order and then had to wait it out as one challenger after another came up but could never quite surpass her. Patrick's car-owner, Tony Stewart, had the pole as the first qualifier before she swiped it away as the eighth car on the track. Jeff Gordon, who was the 29th of 45 qualifiers, came oh so close to nabbing the pole from Patrick but he was four one-hundredths of a second slower. Trevor Bayne, who won this race two years ago, gave it a ride but missed out on the pole by just over a tenth of a second.
Gordon will sit outside the front row next to Patrick for the Daytona 500. Both Patrick and Gordon have Chevrolet’s powered by Hendrick engines. The last Daytona 500 pole-sitter to win the race was Dale Jarrett back in 2000.
Driving her bronco-busting Traxxas Ford Mustang, Courtney Force had won the number one qualifier heading into Sunday’s eliminations at the Winternationals, which started the drag racing season off.
In eliminations, she defeated Phil Burkart in the first round with a stout 4.06 elapsed time (ET) and just shy of 317 mph. The second round brought her up against 2011 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan, but she left him in the dust with a strong 4.07 ET at 312 mph to move on to the semifinals. There she had some luck because Bob Tasca got a red light while she was coasting down the 1,000 feet after shaking the tires. But in the finals, Force’s car was back on top and she easily beat Ron Capps who had to peddle his car while Courtney was knocking down the best elapsed time of the entire event with a 4.02 ET at 317 mph.
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Neither of these women have a problem with the limelight considering the 30 year old Danica is probably one of the most famous athletes in the world, while the 24 year old Courtney is the youngest daughter of one of the most famous drag racers in history, John Force. Also consider the fact both women are succeeding with little experience. Although Patrick has raced in the Cup series before, technically, she’s a rookie in 2013. Force is only in her second year of driving a 10,000 horsepower Funny Car.
The historical ramifications of Danica Patrick’s feat will undoubtedly be a larger impact media-wise and it should be interesting to see how she can parlay this pole into something bigger this year. Courtney Force would appear to be one of the top cars to beat on the circuit and who’s to say she can’t win a championship. Both women will likely be making more record-setting performances as the season progresses and these early phenoms portend to much more history-making in 2013.