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Danica Patrick Claims Nationwide Series Pole At Daytona

For the second time in NASCAR Nationwide Series history, the boys will be led to the green flag by a gal.

Danica Patrick snared the pole for Saturday's Drive4COPD 300 (1 p.m. Eastern, ESPN), touring the Daytona International Speedway in 49.250 seconds. Defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne will start second after running just .007 seconds slower than Patrick. The top-five is rounded out by Elliott Sadler, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Austin Dillon. Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Brad Keselowski, and reigning Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. round out the top-10. All but Dillon, Hornish, and Whitt are also competing in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Patrick joins Shawna Robinson as the only women to ever claim the top spot for a Nationwide Series event. Robinson, a Nationwide veteran who was the most recent woman to race in the Daytona 500 until Patrick runs this weekend's race, claimed the pole for the 1994 Busch Light 300 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, she crashed on the very first lap and was never competitive. Patrick, having already had one hard accident this week with her vicious Gatorade Duel wreck, will be looking to last about 120 laps longer than Robinson did and try to become the first woman to ever win a national NASCAR event.

Stewart, her boss in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is looking to make history of his own. He has won the last four Nationwide season-openers at Daytona and six of the last seven. Another victory would tie him with Dale Earnhardt for the most Nationwide wins all-time at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr., another six-time Nationwide winner, could also tie his father with a win Saturday. Both will be chasing their employee and protege, however, when the green flag drops on the 2012 Nationwide Series season.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.