After being the first woman in NASCAR history to win the pole for last year’s Daytona 500, Danica Patrick will not be back at the front of the pack for next Sunday’s Great American Race.
Instead, she’ll start at or near the back of the pack.
In qualifying for the front row Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Patrick was one of the first drivers to make a run for the pole. She recorded a speed of 192.28 mph on her first run and a faster 194.38 mph on her second lap around the 2.5-mile, high-banked track.
But Patrick ultimately wound up falling short in speed to early pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had a fast lap of 195.211 mph at 46.104 seconds.
When asked what she learned on her two-lap run, Patrick deadpanned, “Nothing,” but then gave credit to her Stewart Haas Racing crew, especially after she and teammate Tony Stewart suffered motor failures during Saturday morning’s practice session, forcing the team to put in new motors for both drivers’ qualifying efforts on Sunday.
Because of the engine change, Patrick, Stewart and Bobby Labonte will start at or near the back of the field for both Thursday’s Budweiser Twin 150 Duels and next Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.
“I think I learned that lap was just for the guys (crew) and to reward them for putting it all back together, getting another engine in it, for working hard,” Patrick said. “I know we crashed a car last night (in the Sprint Unlimited), and to just say this is your hard work over the winter, and what you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into to try and qualify for the pole again for the Daytona 500. They deserve to get a lap out there. It’s definitely disappointing knowing we’re starting from the back of, not so much the Duels, but the 500. I don’t understand it, but it’s what I have to do.”
Qualifying is continuing so check back for more updates here at NBCSports’ MotorSportsTalk.