Danica Patrick became the first woman to ever capture the pole at the Daytona 500, and now she can be the first pole winner to capture America’s Race in 13 years Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
The 30-year-old made her Sprint Cup Series debut at Daytona last year, and put together a blazing speed of 196.434 mph to capture her first-career pole earlier this week. The last pole winner to clinch Daytona was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Technically, Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it last in 2004, but that was because he move ahead of that year’s pole winner in Greg Biffle, who had engine trouble the Saturday before.
Last season, Patrick showed her mettle with seven Top 10 finishes and one pole in the Nationwide series.
Behind Patrick are some of NASCAR’s most decorated drivers. Jeff Gordon earned the second position with a 196.292 mph lap. The California native hasn’t finished outside the Top 10 of the Sprint Cup chase since 2005, but hasn’t won the crown since 2001, and a win at Daytona could put him well in line to do so.
Patrick will have to contend with both of her teammates including owner Tony Stewart, who will rev up in the No. 13 spot Sunday, and Ryan Newman in the No. 34 position.
The winner of Thursday's first Duel, Kevin Harvick, is now seen as the big favorite heading into Sunday. Kyle Busch won the second Duel. Harvick last took the checkered flag in 2007, while Busch has never won Daytona's top race.
Surprisingly, last year’s Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski clocked the 23rd best qualifying time, just behind five-time champion Jimmy Johnson, who posted a 195.084 mph lap for 21st. Johnson was the last to win Daytona and the Sprint Cup in the same season. Johnson will be ninth in Sunday's grid, and Keselowski will start at the No. 15 spot.
The race will be shown at Sunday Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. eastern time on FOX. You can also check out the NASCAR’s viewing guide here at NASCAR.com.
You can check out the top 10 in Sunday’s starting grid, with the manufacturer and number below:
Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 10
Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 24
Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 29
Kyle Busch, Toyota, 18
Greg Biffle, Ford, 16
Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 5
Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 42
Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 33
Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 48
Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 15