Danica Patrick and crew chief Tony Gibson celebrate after winning the Daytona… (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )
Danica Patrick became the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole position Sunday when she covered the 2½-mile speedway in 45.817 seconds.
Patrick, who has not had much success in either the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or the second-tier Nationwide Series, was the eighth driver in the qualifying session and averaged 196.434 mph.
She had to wait for two hours as 37 other drivers tried to better her mark on the Daytona, Fla., track. Jeff Gordon was the only other driver to average 196 mph, clinching the second spot on the front row for the race, which will be next Sunday.
The rest of the field will be set in dual, 125-mile qualifying races Thursday.
"That's a really big deal because qualifying for the Daytona 500 is a really interesting thing," Patrick said. "If you're anywhere but the front row, it's really hard to see on race day. I'm proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole. It’s not just turning left.
"The race is where it's really at but this speaks volumes about Stewart Hass Racing. It shows what a great organization it is."
Patrick rose to fame by finishing fourth in the 2005 Indianapolis 500. She would finish third in the 2009 Indy 500 after becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race by taking the 2008 Japan 300.
She began making the transition to stock cars in 2010 when she raced in the ARCA division at Daytona, finishing sixth, before making her first Nationwide Series start a week later at Daytona.
Patrick began racing full time on the Nationwide Series last year for Stewart-Haas Racing. She finished 10th in the standings. She has one top-five finish in 58 starts in the Nationwide Series. Her best finish in 10 Sprint Cup races is 17th.
"Hopefully, there are good things to come," Patrick said.
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