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NASCAR

Danica Patrick Makes NASCAR History

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Danica Patrick had the fastest car in practice at Daytona International Speedway for the NASCAR Daytona 500.  That is always a good thing when a driver and team have to make the field to qualify for the 500.  Danica’s team is not locked in and has to make it into the field on speed.  Drivers who led practice don’t always repeat those speeds during qualifying and earn the pole.

It is unusual for a driver who leads practice to get much attention but Danica’s practice laps seemed to have more attention than others.  Richard Childress said after the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited “I think she’ll be the car to beat for the pole.” Danica said, “I love it when people put me on the radar, I do.  I think it’s good.  It’s a confidence boost when people are saying, I heard Mr. Childress say he thought I was the one to lose the pole.  When people put you on the radar, that feels good to me.”  Danica Patrick backed it up and won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Daytona 500. Patrick turned a lap of 196.434 mph or 45.817 seconds.

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is much different than any other NASCAR race.  The drivers run single car runs in order to make the fastest laps.  Those drivers with the fastest laps then start the race up front.  The exception is for the Daytona 500 they only start up front for the qualifying races on Thursday.  Only those cars who qualify first and second get to maintain those spots all the way through until the Daytona 500.  Danica has the best of those positions.

Danica Patrick is the first woman to win a pole at the Sprint Cup level of NASCAR.  She will lead the field to green in the first of the two qualifying races on Thursday prior to the Daytona 500.  No matter how she finishes, unless she wrecks her car she will start the Daytona 500 from the pole.  The previous best starting position for a female in the Daytona 500 was 18th by Janet Guthrie in 1980.

NASCAR’s starts like no other sport with the biggest race of the season.  This is Danica Patrick’s first full season at NASCAR’s top level.  She is starting it off right by winning the pole.  The history of her winning the pole will put a big spotlight upon NASCAR’s biggest race as Danica is an international race star and sports personality.

This is a pretty big stage.  There’s a lot of people that benefit from this and a lot of people see it.” Danica said, “ I feel like there’s a lot of people win more so than ever with this one as far as the team, Tony, Go Daddy, Hendrick, Chevy.  There’s a lot of people that benefit from this because of the big platform that it is.  It’s not just like the high point of my name or what I’ve done.  There’s going to be a whole story here.

Danica Patrick is running for the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.  She is the first rookie to win the Daytona 500 pole since Jimmie Johnson in 2002.  This pole also makes her the first to qualify for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Unlimited.  Jeff Gordon will start second.  This Daytona 500 will be one to watch as history is continually being made.

The Daytona 500 is Sunday Feb. 24.  If you can’t get to Daytona International Speedway it will be shown on FOX at 1 p.m. ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary. On Facebook at NASCAR News and Commentary. On Pinterest at NASCARnews. Also add to your network on Google.