Danica Patrick removes her earplugs by her car on pit...

Danica Patrick removes her earplugs by her car on pit road after qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway. (Feb. 17, 2013) Credit: AP

The big news for Danica Patrick at Daytona is no longer dating fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

On Sunday Patrick won the pole for next Sunday's Daytona 500 with a speed of 196.434 mph, besting three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon, who will join her on the outside front row.

It's the second Daytona pole in as many years for Patrick, who won the pole position for last year's Nationwide Series Drive for COPD 300.

With Sunday's achievement Patrick became the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500 or any of NASCAR's premier series events, which date back to 1949.

Only Patrick and Gordon locked in their starting spots for next Sunday's race. The rest will be determined after Thursday's Budweiser Duel qualifying races.

"Congratulations to Danica," Gordon said following qualifying. "I can say I was part of history. I can say I was the fastest guy today."

"I think when pressure's on and when the spotlight's on, I feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments and my better races and better results," said Patrick, who as an open-wheel racer finished fourth in her first Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and led in the closing laps. "I don't know why that it. I'm grateful for it because the opposite of that would be I probably wouldn't be here today, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in. I guess thanks mom and dad. Thanks for the genetics. Thank you for all that.

"I just understand that if you put the hard work in before you go out there that you can have a little peace and a little peace of mind knowing that you've done everything you can and just let it happen."

With AP

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