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Nationwide: Danica Patrick wins Daytona pole

Danica Patrick bounced back from Thursday's huge Gatorade Duel crash to claim pole position for Saturday's Drive4COPD Nationwide Series race at Daytona.
Sometimes the media obsession with Danica Patrick goes laughably over the top; but it's hard to argue that for once, the media meltdown over Danica at Daytona isn't actually justified.

On Thursday she was the focus of attention for being on the receiving end of the first hard race wreck of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. As she walked away sore but unharmed from a frightening head-on impact with the infield SAFER barrier, everyone was wondering whether this would shake her confidence going into the weekend's Cup and Nationwide races.

Patrick answered the only way she knew how - on the track - and as emphatically as anyone possibly could, by sweeping pole position for Saturday's Drive4COPD Nationwide Series season opener on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, her first series outing as a full-time NASCAR driver.

Danica Patrick's time of 49.250s (182.741mph) was seven-thousandths of a second ahead of Trevor Bayne, which means that Patrick is the first female driver to claim pole in a Nationwide event since Shawna Robinson at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 1994.

But as far as Patrick was concerned, the biggest upside of clinching pole position was nothing to do with the record books, but about the edge it gives her on pit road for the race.

"No more wondering where my pit is with a sea of pit signs!" was her first thought. "It's nice to start at front of the pack so there will be a lot less chance of problems," she added, while stressing that it wouldn't affect the team's race strategy.

As the 35th of 50 drivers to set their qualifying time, Patrick had to watch on expecting to be knocked off the top at any moment by the remaining 15 runners.

"It seemed like a hundred, didn't it?" she said. "One of the engineers was writing down lap times as he heard them, and he was like: 'All right, we dodged that bullet,'" she continued. "I definitely didn't know it was the pole until the last car crossed the line."

Even Bayne didn't begrudge ceding pole position to Danica on this occasion.

“It's so cool for her to start off her season that way,” said Bayne. “She's looking for that boost. With her running full-time, that's the kind of momentum you need to build on."




Related Pictures

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Danica Patrick speaking at Daytona. [Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
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Hendrick Motorsports team mates (left) Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet and (right) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident with Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, and Brian Scott, driver of the #62 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during practice for the 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
The damaged #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet of Danica Patrick is towed through the garage area after an incident during practice for the 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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