At Daytona International Speedway, the driver doesn’t really play all that much of a role when it comes to actually qualifying the car. All they have to do is keep the car pointed in the correct direction and keep the pedal to the metal. As a result, qualifying is more of a setup exercise, along with the luck of the draw. Normally, teams that are fast off of the truck will contend for the pole.
Sunday afternoon was no different. However, having the top runners more or less hold station in qualifying created history.
Danica Patrick was fastest overall in the practice sessions on Saturday, turning the only lap that exceeded 196 mph. On Sunday, she drew an early number and took full advantage of it. Patrick turned in a lap of 45.817 seconds (196.434 mph) to win the pole for the 55th running of the Daytona 500. It is her very first pole in the Sprint Cup Series in her 11th attempt. It is also the very first pole won by a woman in Sprint Cup Series history.
Following her lap, Patrick was very happy, and gave her team the appropriate credit.
“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls…90 percent on Tony [Gibson] and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast, and maybe ten percent on me,” Patrick said in her press conference. “All I have to do is think about going out there, being smooth, not letting the car bind up, [and] running on the yellow line.”
Second quickest on Sunday was Jeff Gordon, just three hundredths of a second slower than Patrick. Gordon was very happy with his run and predicts greatness for the rest of Speedweeks.
“This is big, to be on the front row at Daytona,” Gordon said. “It’s an accomplishment in itself just because of how many people put so much hard work into it, not just from our team but all the teams that are out there.
Trevor Bayne qualified third quickest, while Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-5. Kasey Kahne was sixth quickest, the final driver guaranteed a place in the Daytona 500 by qualifying speed at least. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin were seventh and eighth, then Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10.
From Sunday’s round of qualifying, only the front row is officially set in stone for the Daytona 500. The qualifying order from Sunday set the starting lineups for the two Budweiser Duels scheduled for Thursday afternoon. They are listed below.
*Budweiser Duel No. 1 Starting Grid*
Row 1: 10 Danica Patrick 21 Trevor Bayne
Row 2: 14 Tony Stewart 11 Denny Hamlin
Row 3: 22 Joey Logano 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Row 4: 42 Juan Pablo Montoya 13 Casey Mears
Row 5: 99 Carl Edwards 56 Martin Truex, Jr.
Row 6: 48 Jimmie Johnson 2 Brad Keselowski
Row 7: 29 Kevin Harvick 16 Greg Biffle
Row 8: 38 David Gilliland 26 Michael Waltrip
Row 9: 78 Kurt Busch 95 Scott Speed
Row 10: 51 Regan Smith 47 Bobby Labonte
Row 11: 83 David Reutimann 87 Joe Nemechek
Row 12: 52 Brian Keselowski
*Budweiser Duel No. 2 Starting Grid*
Row 1: 24 Jeff Gordon 39 Ryan Newman
Row 2: 5 Kasey Kahne 18 Kyle Busch
Row 3: 20 Matt Kenseth 17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Row 4: 27 Paul Menard 33 Austin Dillon
Row 5: 15 Clint Bowyer 31 Jeff Burton
Row 6: 1 Jamie McMurray 9 Marcos Ambrose
Row 7: 43 Aric Almirola 55 Mark Martin
Row 8: 34 David Ragan 35 Josh Wise
Row 9: 98 Michael McDowell 32 Terry Labonte
Row 10: 7 Dave Blaney 36 J.J. Yeley
Row 11: 93 Travis Kvapil 19 Mike Bliss
The top-15 finishers in each race (not including the pole sitters) will earn starting spots in Rows 2-16 in the Daytona 500. The finishing order of Duel No. 1 will set the inside lane, while Duel No. 2 will set the outside lane. Positions 33-36 (Rows 17-18) will be the four fastest drivers in qualifying (excluding Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon) that failed to race in through the Budweiser Duels. Positions 37-42 (Rows 19-21) will be provisionals based on 2012 owner points, while Position 43 will be either the most recent past champion not already in the field, or a seventh regular provisional.
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