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Danica Patrick: What Claming Pole Position at Daytona Means for the Sport

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Chevrolet, celebrates with Kris Redlinger of after winning the pole award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Ryan DavenportContributor IFebruary 17, 2013

Danica Patrick has done it again. 

Throughout her career, Patrick has cemented herself as racing's premier female driver by breaking countless barriers, and she's continued that trend during her first season in NASCAR.

She continued that trend on Sunday, as she became the first woman to ever earn pole position at the Daytona 500, one of the sport's most iconic races. 

At just 30 years old, Patrick will almost certainly have bigger moments in her career, but this one is worth taking a step back to recognize its importance. 

As Heather Tucker of USA Today pointed out, Patrick not only became the first female driver to win the pole in the Daytona 500's 53-year history, she's also the first woman to do so at a Sprint Cup Series event. 

While Patrick obviously has aspirations of doing much more, this significant accomplishment wasn't lost on her. Tucker wrote: 

She became the first woman to win the pole position for the Daytona 500—and a Sprint Cup event—on Sunday when the rookie posted a lap of 196.434 mph.

"Pride. I'm proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole car," Patrick said. "I'm happy for them (the team). It was a fast Chevy. ... If you're anywhere but the front row, it's hard to see on race day. ... This just speaks volumes about Stewart-Haas Racing. I thought we were going to be 1-2-3 for a while."

For Patrick, who announced her arrival to the racing world by winning Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500 in 2005, winning the pole at Daytona was a surprising outcome, given her limited experience on the circuit. It does, however, remind the sports world that this is no longer a sport in which women can't do anything that men can. 

For young females who aspire to follow in Danica's footsteps, this accomplishment is a reminder that while it's extremely difficult for anyone—regardless of gender—to become a Sprint Cup Series driver, it's no longer impossible.

As the Sprint Cup Series' only current female driver, Patrick's status as NASCAR's first lady won't be in jeopardy anytime soon, but the presence of Johanna Long, Jennifer Jo Cobb and the handful of female drivers racing in the Nationwide Series symbolizes how far women have come on the racetrack. 

At some point, Patrick may manage to win a Series Cup race, but until then, this will stand out as the most memorable accomplishment ever by a female in Sprint Cup Series history. 

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