Daytona Beach, FL, United States (4E Sports) – Danica Patrick’s quest to win the pole for the Daytona 500 Sunday got a much-needed lift as she topped the second Sprint Cup practice, submitting the fastest run of 196.220 mph.
“I suppose being the fastest going into qualifying is as good as you can hope for,” said Patrick, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing. “Everything that we do is to make sure we do whatever we can to be on the pole. That’s what we all are shooting for.”
Patrick’s run topped Joey Logano’s top lap of 195.410 mph in Saturday’s morning session, where she was just third-fastest.
The lady racer even bested boyfriend and fellow Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who posted the 24th-fastest time in the second practice and 15th in the first.
Based on practice results, Patrick could be on her way to becoming the first female to win the pole for the Daytona 500. The best start for a woman at Daytona 500 was 18th, set by Janet Guthrie in 1980.
“It would be really nice,” Patrick said of winning the 500 pole. “It’s a very big pole of all of them in the year for attention, especially for [sponsor] GoDaddy, who is on the car.”
“There are other races throughout the year that as a driver you feel more pleased or proud of yourself to get, but this one is a whole team effort,” added Patrick, who has never started on the pole in a Sprint Cup race.
Patrick’s best start in 10 races last season was 23rd at Atlanta. She qualified 29th for the Daytona 500 and finished 38th, 64 laps behind winner Matt Kenseth.
Team owner Rick Hendrick, whose organization supplies engines to Stewart-Haas Racing, said he’d love to see Patrick on the pole.
“She’s magical,” Hendrick said. “You look at the Super Bowl, and she’s all over the Super Bowl. She’s a good little driver and she does a lot for our sport. It would really be special if she could be on the front row. It would be special. It never happened before, so that would be cool.”