Danica on the pole for Daytona N'wide race

Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As if expectations already weren't high for Danica Patrick.

Patrick on Friday became just the second woman - and first since 1994 - to win the pole for a race in what is NASCAR's Nationwide Series.

Her qualifying lap at 182.741 mph edged Trevor Bayne for the top starting position for today's Drive4CPOD 300 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

The only other woman to win a pole in the series was Shawna Robinson, who won the pole at Atlanta in March 1994. Robinson never led a lap in the race.

With Patrick's fast car and her strong performance in the Nationwide race at Daytona last July, much more is expected of her.

"Winning the pole has a lot of pressure and I'm now nervous," she said. "Everyone who sits on the pole is going to be expected to do well."

Her pole-winning run Friday stood in stark contrast to how her day ended Thursday, with a violent crash at the conclusion of her 150-mile Sprint Cup qualifying race for the Daytona 500.

Patrick showed no lingering signs of discomfort from her wreck.

"The bottom line is (crew chief) Tony Eury Jr. built a really great car and the guys that help him do that did a great job. I'm really thrilled for Tony Jr.," she said.

"This is something that he really wanted and for me to be able to push the pedal and turn the wheel to get that done makes me feel good."

In 25 previous series races, Patrick's best start was fourth in this race one year ago.

Elliott Sadler qualified third-fastest, Dale Earnhardt Jr. - who owns Patrick's Nationwide car - was fourth and Austin Dillon fifth. Last season's series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., will line up 10th.

"You can't think of two bigger names being on the front row with Trevor winning the Daytona 500 last year and Danica making her full season debut here at Daytona," Sadler said.