Danica Patrick Becomes First Woman to Win a Top Tier NASCAR Pole, Starting Up Front for Daytona 500

Yes, for the first time ever, a woman will lead a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to the green flag as Danica Patrick wins the pole for the Daytona 500. of course, plate qualifying isn't really about the driver as much as it is about the team, so that's really not her accomplishment so much as it is Crew Chief Tony Gibson's. Four time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon took the second position and completed the list of locked in drivers.

So what was Patrick's secret? Well, first and foremost her Chevrolet SS was powered by a Hendrick Motorsports engine, the power plant that's proved most impressive at Daytona this week. However the cars qualified in 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th also had HMS power, so why was Patrick able to go faster?

Well, that comes down to two things. First, SHR's Hendrick engines use special proprietary and race ready lubricants from Mobil 1, while Hendrick Motorsports themselves use less specialized Quaker State oil. Second, Patrick is extremely light, and even though NASCAR can add up to 40 pounds to a driver's car if they are under 180, if they are under 140, they're still underweight no matter how much is added. Thus, Patrick had a small weight advantage on both of her SHR team mates (as both are well above 180 and thus outside of the neutral area) that was about equivalent to the oil advantage she had on her fellow HMS powered drivers. Both would be irrelevant on a normal track, but on a plate track where everything is flat out and everyone basically uses the same line, these small advantages can be everything.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, only the first two positions are locked in right now. Every position from 3rd to 32nd will be decided buy Thursday's "Budweiser Duel" heat races. Positions 33 through 37 are decided by the four fastest cars by qualifying speed that failed to finish in the top 15 in their respective duel races. Positions 38 through 42 are decided by championship points from last year, with the remaining drivers are ranked by 2013 championship position in those spots. Finally, position 43 is given to the most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to not make the field by the first four possibilities.

The lineups for these "Budweiser Duel" races are decided by times in these qualifying sessions, odd numbered positions line up in Duel 1, while even numbered positions line up for Duel 2.

Duel 1 Lineup:

Danica Patrick
Trevor Bayne
Tony Stewart
Denny Hamlin
Joey Logano
Dale Earnhardt, Jr
Juan Pablo Montoya
Casey Mears
Carl Edwards
Martin Truex, Jr
Jimmie Johnson
Brad Keselowski
Kevin Harvick
Greg Biffle
David Gilliland
Michael Waltrip
Kurt Busch
Scott Speed
Regan Smith
Bobby Labonte
David Reutimann
Joe Nemechek
Brian Keselowski

Duel 2 Lineup:

Jeff Gordon
Ryan Newman
Kasey Kahne
Kyle Busch
Matt Kenseth
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr
Paul Menard
Austin Dillon
Clint Bowyer
Jeff Burton
Jamie McMurray
Marcos Ambrose
Aric Almirola
Mark Martin
David Ragan
Josh Wise
Michael McDowell
Terry Labonte
Dave Blaney
JJ Yeley
Travis Kvapil
Mike Bliss

This is the first ever pole for the Chevrolet SS, which took it's first win in last night's Sprint Unlimited exhibition event.