Harry C. Risher
Greensburg Daily News
Danica Patrick has been setting motor sports precedents since early in her racing career. By winning the pole position for next Sunday’s 55th annual Daytona 500, Patrick became the first female driver in the 2,345-race history of NASCAR Sprint Cup to earn a coveted pole position.
The 30-year-old Illinois native has already established several historic benchmarks for women in motor sports, including the only female to win an IndyCar race, the highest finish for any woman in the Indianapolis 500 (third), the highest finish for any female in a NASCAR Nationwide Series event (fourth), and the highest season-ending finish for any female in the points standings for the NASCAR Nationwide Series (10th in 2012).
Patrick commented on her first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl...” she started. “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.”
Patrick, a rookie who has run just 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, and only one Daytona 500, gave most of the credit to her Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief, Tony Gibson.
“I appreciate the recognition,” she said, “but it really falls 90 percent on Tony and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast, and maybe 10 percent on me.”
Patrick turned a lap at 196.434 mph to win the pole by 0.142 mph or 0.033 seconds over 4-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon. Only Patrick and Gordon are locked into their starting position for next Sunday’s Daytona 500.
They will start on the front row of the 43-car field. The remainder of the field will be set by the results of two, 125-mile qualifying races Thursday (positions 1-32). Speed and provisionals will determine the remaining 11 positions for next Sunday’s 55th annual Daytona 500.
Harry C. Risher - GDN Motor sports writer/photographer