News & Media

Patrick wins pole for Nationwide race at Daytona

February 24, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A day after a jarring crash took her out of the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway, Danica Patrick stormed back to win the pole for Saturday's Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at the 2.5-mile track.

The pole award was Patrick's first in 26 attempts and the first for a female driver since Shawna Robinson started on the pole at Atlanta in March 1994. Robinson is the only other woman to win a pole in any of NASCAR's top three national series.

Drive4COPD 300

2.Trevor Bayne182.715
3.Elliott Sadler182.671
4.Dale Earnhardt Jr.182.593
5.Austin Dillon182.411

The 35th of 50 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, Patrick posted a lap at 182.741 mph and waited as drivers who had been faster in practice attempted to unseat her.

That didn't happen. Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't knock her off. Nor could Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch or any of the drivers who followed her in the qualifying order.

To Patrick, the wait for 15 cars seemed interminable.

"Gosh it seemed like a hundred, didn't it?" Patrick said. "I didn't even know the qualifying order. I had no idea how many people were going after me. One of the engineers was writing down lap times as he heard 'em, and he was like, 'All right, we dodged that bullet.'

"We've got this one -- this one's going to be a big one. All right, we got that one.' And I'm like, 'It seems like every car is a big one. Of course it is -- they're all faster than me [in practice]. That's why they're qualifying after me.'

"I definitely didn't know it was the pole until the last car crossed the line."

Trevor Bayne qualified on the outside of the front row at 182.715 mph, just .007 seconds slower than Patrick. Elliott Sadler, Earnhardt and 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion Austin Dillon completed the top five.

Afterwards, Sadler paid Patrick a strong compliment.

"In the last 24 months, I think she's the most improved driver we've had, in all three series," Sadler said.