Danica Patrick: Historic Performance in Qualifying Adds Intrigue to Daytona 500

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

The Daytona 500 is among the biggest spectacles on NASCAR's annual schedule, but the 2013 edition has a special buzz about it. Thanks to Danica Patrick's performance in qualifying, a woman will lead the Daytona 500 field for the first time ever.

Actually it's the first time that a woman has ever started in the pole position at a Sprint Cup race. Fortunately for NASCAR, it's coming on the grandest stage in the sport.

The Daytona 500 serves as the launching point for the rest of the season, and the historic aspect of this race guarantees that their will be plenty of eyeballs glued to the television when the green flag goes down on Sunday.

Given Patrick's celebrity status—without the long-string of success that NASCAR's biggest personalities have had—detractors of the racer have always looked down on Patrick as a side show.

In three partial seasons on NASCAR's premier season, Patrick has struggled to find success. She has yet to finish any better than 17th in a race. Given her starting position in this race, finishing outside of the Top 15 would be a sore disappointment for Patrick.

If Patrick's performance in the multi-stage qualifying is any indication, this could be the year when her big-name status aligns with her on-track performance.

Earning the pole position at Daytona is no easy task. Patrick not only had to run the fastest time in qualifying, which she did by posting an average speed of 196.434 mph, but she also had to make it through the qualifying Budweiser Duels race without wrecking.

Through smart, strategic racing she made it through unscathed and secured the historic first spot on Sunday.

With Patrick starting in pole position, 2013 could be the year that she puts everything together and makes her presence felt on the track.

The Daytona 500 already offers some of the most intense racing of the season, the added intrigue of a woman potentially winning the race only makes this an even grander event. Patrick has her work cut out for her, the pole winner hasn't won the race since Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 2000, but she'll have plenty of hardcore and casual fans alike hoping to see history.