DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- She's been a television spokesperson, a swimsuit model and a sports pioneer. She's now a pole-sitter.
No woman had ever captured the pole for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit until Danica Patrick's performance in Sunday's qualifying session for the Daytona 500.
Patrick was the eighth driver to post a qualifying time, finishing in 45.817 seconds and averaging 196.434 mph. Then, she had to wait another two hours as 37 drivers tried and failed to beat her time.
Patrick's best finish in 10 Cup races is 17th, and she has one top-five in 58 starts in the second-tier Nationwide Series.
The previous highest female qualifier in a Cup race was Janet Guthrie, who started ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.
Jeff Gordon was the only other driver to top 196 mph in qualifying, giving him the other spot in the front row for next Sunday's race.
The rest of the field will be set in dual qualifying races Thursday.