Danica Patrick made history today by becoming the first woman driver to win the pole position for this year’s Daytona 500.
Not only did Patrick make history with her speed at Daytona, she became the first woman to ever secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR’s premier circuit. It’s by far the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl,” she said. “That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning. Then I feel like thriving in those moments, where the pressure’s on, has also been a help for me. I also feel like I’ve been lucky in my career to be with good teams and have good people around me. I don’t think any of it would have been possible without that.”
“For those reasons, I’ve been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don’t stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make. We are excited to do it.”
“I’ve had the experience with mothers, fathers, daughters, sons listening to them say the reason why they’re here as a family is because of me,” said Patrick, who turned a 196.434-mph lap to best Gordon for the top spot. “It’s also nice to hear families talk about that a little girl might say, ‘But mommy, daddy, that’s a girl out there.’ Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn’t by any means not allow you to follow your dreams. I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I’m doing.”
Patrick’s pole position win is a huge milestone for women in motorsports in what has historically been a male-dominated arena. The previous best starting spot by a woman belonged to Janet Guthrie, who qualified ninth twice in 1977 and also held the former mark for best female Daytona 500 starter (18th in 1980).
For more on the story, check out [NYTimes]