On Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Danica Patrick did something no woman had done before: she became the first woman in NASCAR history to win a Sprint Cup Series pole. She turned a lap of 196.434 mph in her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to grab the pole position for the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
Jeff Gordon will start second in the 500 next Sunday in the familiar Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet by being the second fastest car in qualifying. Patrick and Gordon are the only two cars guaranteed their starting position for the Daytona 500.
“I appreciate the recognition, but I think it falls 90 percent on Tony (crew chief Tony Gibson) and his guys who give me the cars and maybe 10 percent on me,” Patrick said. “I think it shows how well-prepared Tony and everybody was and how strong the Hendrick engines are and how good the new [Chevrolet] SS is.”
Danica Patrick broke the previous best female qualifying effort in the Sprint Cup Series of ninth, which was set by Janet Guthrie in 1977 at Talladega and Bristol.
Four more drivers locked themselves into the Daytona 500 on Sunday with their qualifying speed, although they do not know exactly where they will start until after the Budweiser Duel races on Thursday. Those four drivers are Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newmah , Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne.
Seven more drivers know that they cannot miss the Daytona 500 no matter what happens at the Duel qualifying races on Thursday. These seven driver are Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, and Kurt Busch.
Gordon was happy to be the fastest guy on Sunday.
“I’m proud to be part of the history and to be on the front row with Danica,” Gordon said. “We all know how popular she is and what this will do for our sport.”