Danica Patrick pulled off the biggest coup of her four-year NASCAR career, becoming the first woman to ever take the pole at the Daytona 500 and the first to clinch a pole in any race in NASCAR’s premier series, the Sprint Cup.
Clocking 196 miles per hour, she beat out 37 other drivers, including four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl,” Patrick said. “That’s how I’ve always approached my racing career. I’ve been lucky enough to make history and be the first woman to do many things. We have a lot more history to make and we are excited to do it.”
Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph. He locked up the No. 2 spot in the Daytona 500, which kicks off the Sprint Cup season next week.
“It’s great to be part of history,” Gordon said. “I can say I was the fastest guy today. 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.”
Patrick is not new to making racing history. She was the first woman to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500, and her third-place finish in 2009 at the Brickyard was the best showing ever by a woman. She is also the only woman to have ever won an IndyCar race.
Since her move to NASCAR, though, she had not fared as well, but her performance today could be an indication of better things to come.
“That’s a huge accomplishment,” team owner and fellow driver Tony Stewart said. “It’s not like it’s been 15 or 20 years she’s been trying to do this. It’s her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She’s made history in the sport. That’s stuff that we’re proud of being a part of with her. It’s something she should have a huge amount of pride in.”