Danica Patrick poses with her Sprint Cup pole award - image: Stewart-Haas RacingEnlarge Photo
On the other hand, her fans will remind you that she’s the first female driver to lead an Indianapolis 500, the highest-finishing female driver in the race and the second woman to earn a pole position in the NASCAR Nationwide series (after Shawna Robinson won a Busch Series pole in 1994).
Now Patrick’s fans have one more thing to brag about: on Sunday, the Stewart-Haas driver became the first woman in history to earn a pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Patrick’s Daytona lap of 45.817 seconds (at 196.434 mph) puts her on the inside of row one, alongside veteran driver Jeff Gordon.
Patrick’s teammates at Stewart-Haas racing ran strong on Sunday, but not strong enough to challenge for the front row. Ryan Newman’s time of 45.931 seconds (at 195.946 mph) made him fourth-quickest, followed by Tony Stewart in fifth spot with a time of 45.936 seconds (at 195.92 mph).
Sunday’s time trials set only the front row of next weekend’s 55th Daytona 500, leaving 30 more spots to be set during Thursday’s Budweiser Duel races. The top 15 drivers in each of two 150-mile Duel races will take the even-number spots (first race) and the odd-numbered spots (second race).
From there, the next four spots (positions 33-36) will go to the four fastest cars that have not yet earned a spot on the grid. The following six spots (37-42) will go to the highest six cars in 2012 owner points that have yet to qualify via other means.
The final (43rd) position will go to an eligible past Sprint Cup champion who ran in the 2012 season but has not otherwise qualified, or to the next-highest car in 2012 ownership points. If it sounds complex, it’s just NASCAR’s way of ensuring that fans get to see their favorite teams and drivers run.
The 55th running of the NASCAR Daytona 500 will take place on Sunday, February 24. If you can’t be at the Daytona International Speedway to catch the race in person, you can watch it live on FOX, beginning with pre-race coverage at noon Eastern.