Danica Patrick made NASCAR history today during Coors Light Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500, becoming the first female driver to win a pole at NASCAR’s top level – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
During qualifying for the sport’s marquee event, Patrick turned a lap of 196.434 mph (45.817 seconds), giving her the first starting position for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 (1 p.m. on FOX, FOX Deportes, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio). It was the fastest Daytona 500 pole-winning speed since 1990.
Patrick shattered the previous record for top starting spot by a female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Janet Guthrie previously held the mark, twice starting ninth in 1977. She started ninth at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 7, 1977 and at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.
The previous best starting position for a female in the Daytona 500 was 18th by Janet Guthrie in 1980.
This is Patrick’s second NASCAR pole, also winning the Coors Light Pole for the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona last season. The only other female to win a NASCAR national series pole was Shawna Robinson in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1994.
Already a NASCAR record holder, Patrick set the mark of best finish by a female driver in NASCAR national series history when she finished fourth in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011. She finished 10th in the final 2012 NASCAR Nationwide points standings, the top finish by a female in NASCAR national series history.
Patrick, who is running for the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, is the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole since Jimmie Johnson in 2002.