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Danica wins Daytona 500 pole position

posted by admin, February 18, 2013 @ 1:20 am

Updated Feb 17, 2013 6:34 PM ET



Danica Patrick will start from the pole position in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 (live on FOX on Sunday, Feb. 24, at noon ET).


Mark your calendars now and get ready to “reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!” The Daytona 500 on FOX is set for noon ET on Feb. 24.

Patrick became the first woman in NASCAR’s premier division to win a pole and the 11th consecutive first-time pole-sitter for the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway.

Prior to Speedweeks, Stewart-Haas Racing hedged its bets by purchasing the owners points from the No. 49 team to secure Patrick’s position in the 2013 Daytona 500.

But as Patrick proved on Sunday, the odds were in her favor.

“I was a little bit nervous,” Patrick said. “It’s all about just getting the shifts right and being smooth and, more than anything, you’re trying to hug the line as much as possible, trying to not steer too much. Sometimes the car wants to track up and move up the track a little bit and you’ve got to pull it down, but you also don’t want to hit the apron. So it’s not like you go out there and lock your arms, and it just stays there.

“It’s not that perfect of an arc around the corner. You’re just trying to be smooth and run a nice line that doesn’t scrub any speed. Then the question always is, if the car feels like it’s bound up and wanting to be freed up, do you let it up off the corner and run more distance on the exit, or do you keep it pinched down and run a shorter distance?”

Team owner Tony Stewart was impressed by his rookie’s performance. Overall, the Stewart-Haas Racing contingent was first, fourth (Ryan Newman) and fifth (Stewart) on the speed chart.

[MORE: Full qualifying results]

After comparing Patrick’s line to his and Newman’s, Stewart quickly understood where the driver of the No. 10 Chevy SS gained her advantage.

“She did a really good job of carrying speed off of Turn 2, and where she made up her time was down the backstretch,” Stewart said. “Carrying the speed off of 2 is a big key to that. All three of us ran great laps. I don’t know if she did something a little different or whether it was (crew chief) Tony Gibson, but as a package they did a really good job.

“She runs so smooth. We talked about it two years ago when we ran the Nationwide race together, I said that she was probably one of the easiest people to push around the racetrack. She runs such a smooth line, and that’s what you have to do here to carry speed here like she did. She did a good job. She did her job behind the wheel for sure.”

Patrick, 30, earned the pole for the Nationwide Series race in last year’s season-opener at Daytona. On Sunday, she duplicated the feat with a lap of 196.434 mph in just her 11th start in the Sprint Cup Series.

Patrick made her Cup debut at Daytona International Speedway in last year’s 500. Her NASCAR debut came in the Nationwide Series here in 2010. Patrick ran 12 additional races that first year as she balanced a full-time IndyCar schedule over the next two seasons. In 2011, Patrick scored her first and only career top-five finish when she took fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Her effort earned the distinction of being the best finish by a female in NASCAR’s top three touring divisions.

“Back in the IndyCar days, it was all about the shorter distance, because you had so much power. But in these cars we’re at terminal velocity, it feels like, for the whole lap for the most part,” Patrick said. “So you don’t want to scrub too much speed, and they’re so much heavier to get going again. So it’s a little bit different from what I’m used to.”

Last year, when she moved to NASCAR full time, Patrick finished 10th in the Nationwide Series and ran 10 races in the Sprint Cup Series. Her best finish was 17th at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

This season, Patrick is competing full time for Stewart-Haas Racing and running for Rookie of the Year honors in Sprint Cup.

Jeff Gordon, who posted the second fastest lap, complimented Patrick on her achievement.

“We all know how popular she is and what this will do for our sport,” Gordon said. “I’ve always been a believer in what’s good for the sport is good for all of us. I’m proud to be on the front row with Danica.”


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