DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In about 24 hours, Danica Patrick went from her biggest crash to her biggest success in a stock car.
The former IndyCar star won the pole Friday for the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona, becoming the first woman to secure the top qualifying spot in NASCAR’s second-tier series since Shawna Robinson at Atlanta on March 12, 1994.
Her victory came a day after she wrecked on the final lap of a qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
“It’s a good turn of events,” she said.
“I really don’t think about it from a girl perspective,” she said with her proud parents standing a few yards away. “I’ve been taught from a young age to want to be the best driver. … It was about being the best driver and not the best girl.”
Patrick won once in 115 IndyCar starts. She had seven podium finishes, and two of them came when she began dabbling in NASCAR two seasons ago. She moved to NASCAR full time this season, and is scheduled to drive 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing and run every Nationwide race for JR Motorsports.
She will make her Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The Nationwide race is today. She has three top-10 finishes in 25 Nationwide races over two years.
Brad Keselowski posted the fastest 10-lap average during Daytona 500 practice Friday, barely edging Kyle Busch.
Keselowski averaged 195.898 mph during the second of two sessions at Daytona International Speedway. Busch averaged 195.895 mph. Clint Bowyer was third, followed by Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Mark Martin. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.
Only 16 cars took the track in the morning, and 23 turned laps in the afternoon.
Drivers have one final chance, a 90-minute session today, to get on the track before Sunday’s opener.
Budweiser is removing its name from NASCAR’s Shootout exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway beginning next February and instead will be the title sponsor for the 150-mile Duel qualifying races held before the Daytona 500.
The beer brand will become title sponsor of Daytona Speedweeks and the Daytona 500 pre-race show. It also sponsors the No. 29 car driven by Kevin Harvick.
Daytona president Joie Chitwood said the track is shopping for a new title sponsor for the Shootout.
Next season’s Shootout field will feature mostly pole position winners from this season. The pole position is sponsored by a rival brewer, Coors Light.
Travis Pastrana’s foray into NASCAR will include seven Nationwide Series races and 11 events in the K&N Pro Series in 2012.
Pastrana released his schedule Friday. It could change if he secures more sponsorship in the Nationwide Series.
The extreme sports star will make his NASCAR debut April 27 at Richmond International Raceway.
A Daytona spokesman says approximately 250 limited access credentials were stolen from a guest services trailer at the track sometime between the Daytona 24-hour sports car race in late January and last week’s Budweiser Shootout.
According to the spokesman, about 50 of the passes have been recovered and police continue to investigate the incident.