Historic day as Patrick takes Daytona Pole - Notes by Lugnut - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

NASCAR NOTES: Patrick makes history winning Daytona pole

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"

Danica Patrick became the 16th woman to race in NASCAR's premier division when she began her Sprint Cup career last season. Despite the accomplishments of the women before her, Patrick now has one thing on her resume that her predecessors can't claim: a Sprint Cup Pole.

With a lap of 196.434 miles per hour, Patrick outperformed her male counterparts and will start NASCAR's Super Bowl of racing, the Daytona 500, from the front row alongside four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

When Patrick announced that she would be joining Stewart-Haas Racing for the full 2013 Cup season, many questioned her ability to compete at NASCAR's senior level. After all her performance in 10 races last season was a little inconsistent but team owner, Tony Stewart, liked what he saw and knew that the popular driver could find success if given a chance.

"It's her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car," said Stewart after qualifying was official. "She's made history in the sport. That's stuff that we're proud of being a part of with her."

As Patrick basked in the spotlight of her achievements Sunday afternoon, she was quick to point out that her pole win was a total team effort.

"I think that says a lot about the team, a lot about Stewart-Haas Racing, a lot about how much work was done over the winter and how they've adapted to the new car," said Patrick. "This is very much a team pole."

Prior to Patrick, the most accomplished Cup Series female race driver was Janet Guthrie who started 33 races in her short NASCAR career. Guthrie posted five top 10 finishes but her best starting position was ninth at Talladega and Bristol. Patrick's historic effort may not silence a lot of her critics but it definitely should make them rethink their position.

"There's only one person that can be the first to do anything," said Stewart on his driver's historic run. "It doesn't matter how many do it after you accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first."

Now sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500 is one thing, but how you perform in the race is another. Stewart thinks his young driver is positioned to turn some heads this season.

"I believe in her. The team believes in her. Our organization believes in her," continued Stewart. "We're going to do everything we can to make her as consistent and fast every week."

Despite the high expectations that the media has placed on Patrick since her entry into the NASCAR ranks, the popular driver still has a lot to learn in her rookie year. However, with the type of support that she is getting from her car owner and team, this could be a very historic season for this female driver.

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