Danica Patrick wins pole for NASCAR's Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick has made history before — as a woman and a racer, in Indianapolis and Japan.
The spotlight is nothing new. But never has it been this bright before.
Patrick won the Daytona 500 pole Sunday, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit. It's by far the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.
"For those reasons, I've been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don't stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make. We are excited to do it."
Her latest stamp in the history books came with a lap at 196.434 mph around Daytona International Speedway. Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session, then had to wait about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot.
Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off. Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph in qualifying. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in next week's season-opening Daytona 500.
"It's great to be a part of history with Danica being on the pole," said Gordon, who joked that at least he was the fastest guy. "I think we all know how popular she is, what this will do for our sport. Congratulations to her. Proud to be on there with her."
The rest of the field will be set in duel qualifying races Thursday.