History Made In Daytona: Danica Patrick Gets The Pole
For the first time in NASCAR history, a woman wins the pole position in a Sprint Cup race. Not to mention it was was at the Daytona 500, only the biggest and most prestigious race of the year. To win a pole at any race is an accomplishment, but when it’s the Daytona 500, it will be talked about among race fans everywhere for a long time.
Another accomplishment from Danica Patrick winning the pole at Daytona is the fact that she was the first rookie to achieve this since Jimmie Johnson did it back in 2002, in his rookie year. She has recorded other record-breaking feats as well; the best finish for a female driver in the nationwide series; she finished fourth at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2012. She also finished in tenth place in the point standings, the highest for a female driver. Danica also won a pole in 2012 in the nationwide series, but she wasn’t the first to do that. In 1994 Shawna Robison won a pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Danica is not new to racing, though. She came from Indy Racing, where she won a race in Japan in 2008 and was the first female to lead laps at the Indianapolis 500 and finished third in 2009.
Previously, the highest qualifying position for a woman driver was Janet Guthrie, who started ninth at Talladega and Bristol in 1977. Guthrie’s highest starting position at The Daytona 500 was eighteenth in 1980.Guthrie had this to say about Danica’s pole. “It’s obviously a history-making event that will last a long, long time. It’s a different era, of course. Different times. I can’t imagine what I would do with a spotter or somebody telling me how to drive. It’s rather a different sport now. Back then, there was a much greater difference from the front of the field to the back.”
Danica went onto the track eighth for her qualifying lap and turn in a lap of 196.434. After waiting for two hours and 37 other drivers to try to beat her time, she was on top of the world and captured the pole.
After running a full season in the Nationwide series and a limited number of races in the Sprint Cup in 2012, she is going for rookie of the year and running a full 2013 Sprint Cup schedule.
The only other driver to come close to her time was four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who had this to say. “It’s great to be a part of history with Danica being on the pole,” said Gordon, who joked that at least he was the fastest guy. ”I think we all know how popular she is, what this will do for our sport. Congratulations to her. Proud to be on there with her.”
Her team is owned by fellow race driver Tony Stewart, who said this, “That’s a huge accomplishment. It’s not like it’s been 15 or 20 years she’s been trying to do this. It’s her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She’s made history in the sport. That’s stuff that we’re proud of being a part of with her. It’s something she should have a huge amount of pride in. It’s never been done. There’s only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn’t matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first.”
Danica had this to say about her record breaking accomplishment. “I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl. That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning. Then I feel like thriving in those moments, where the pressure’s on, has also been a help for me. I also feel like I’ve been lucky in my career to be with good teams and have good people around me. I don’t think any of it would have been possible without that.”
She also stated, “For those reasons, 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. We are excited to do it. I think when pressure’s on and when the spotlight’s on, I feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments and my better races and better results. I just understand that if you put the hard work in before you go out there that you can have a little peace and a little peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can and just let it happen.”
Image Credit: TopSpeed.com