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NNS: Patrick Soars To Daytona Pole

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Danica Patrick is off to a blazing start in her pursuit of this year’s Nationwide Series championship.

Patrick won the pole Friday for Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide opener at Daytona International Speedway with a speed of 182.741 miles per hour.

Patrick edged Trevor Bayne by .007 of a second for the pole.

She becomes the first woman to win a Nationwide pole since former driver Shawna Robinson started first at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1994.

The pole win came only one day after Patrick endured a vicious crash on the final lap of a Thursday qualifying race for the Daytona 500.

“It’s so cool for her to start off her season that way,” Bayne said. “She’s looking for that boost. With her running full-time, that’s the kind of momentum you need to build on. She’s done a good job of holding her own in the sport since she got here.”

Rounding out the top five in qualifying were Elliott Sadler, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon, last year’s Camping World Truck Series.

Sadler said Patrick, who plans to run the full Nationwide Series this year, is the most improved driver in NASCAR’s three major series over the past two years.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.

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