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Danica Patrick wins Daytona 500 pole

The team's third driver Ryan Newman was the 14th to go out on track, and he was able to pip Stewart and lay early claim to the other front row spot alongside Patrick. That status quo survived assaults by the next 15 drivers, until finally Jeff Gordon was able to dislodge Newman for second place. Newman was subsequently bumped another spot by 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, who was third fastest in qualifying.

"To have three cars in the top five like that, just really, really appreciative and excited that we were able to bring three consistent cars down like this," said the proud team co-owner after qualifying. "I'm proud of my teams, my drivers, all of our crews.

"I think all three of us ran great laps. But I don't know if she did something a little different or if it was Tony Gibson and her guys, but as a package they did a great job," continued Stewart, referring to Patrick's crew chief. "Her car, she just did a really good job of carrying speed off of turn two, where she made all of her time up was down the backstretch. Carrying that speed off of two is a big key to that."

Stewart also added a quip that made reference to Danica's recently-revealed relationship with Roush Fenway racer Rickey Stenhouse Jr.

"This will probably be a sound byte for you guys: I think Danica has two boyfriends, she has Ricky and she has Tony Gibson!" he laughed. "They are all but holding hands in the shop when they're there every day together. It's good for me to see as an owner, I like to see that chemistry."

Stenhouse ended up with the 12th fastest time of the day. However, just like Bayne, Newman, Stewart and the rest of the field, Stenhouse will still have to race for his actual starting grid position in the midweek Duel events; only Patrick and Gordon are actually locked in to their grid spots at this point, provided that they don't end up wrecking their race cars in the Duel and end up being sent to to the back next weekend for resorting to back-up cars.

"I'm going to do my best to keep it clean," said Patrick of her plan for how to tackle the Daytona 500 next week. "Keep it out of trouble, get a feel for the traffic throughout the day, and hopefully put myself in a position, position-wise and knowledge-wise, to do a good job and bring it home where it started at the end of Sunday.

"But I have a lot to learn, too," she added. "I mean, I have Jeff Gordon starting next to me. I have, oh my God, a herd of them behind me. I'm a rookie and I am going to be learning as much as I can for 499 or maybe till the last 10 laps.

"When you implement your plan, it depends where you are. Hopefully at the end of 500 we're rolling and we have a chance," she summed up. "There's so many pit stops, so much that could happen, so many ways that it could play out, there's a lot of drivers that taste victory but don't get there. You just have a love for it."

Full qualifying times.




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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with crew chief Alan Gustafson after winning the Front Row Award at qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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