Danica Patrick will not repeat as Daytona 500 pole sitter

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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.

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.