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Daytona Patrick protects Daytona 500 pole after safe run in Budweiser Duel

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    Danica Patrick stands by her car during the playing of the National Anthem before the Budweiser Duel 1 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)The Associated Press

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    Danica Patrick waves to fans during driver introductions before the Budweiser Duel 1 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)The Associated Press

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    Daytona 500 pole sitter Danica Patrick signs autographs for fans before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 auto race Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)The Associated Press

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    Danica Patrick, right, leads the racers past the green flag at the start of the Budweiser Duel 1 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)The Associated Press

Danica Patrick played it safe and kept her pole position for the Daytona 500.

Patrick started on the pole for the first 150-mile Budweiser Duel on Thursday and led the field to green. From there, Patrick was a non-factor in the No. 10 Chevrolet. All she needed to do was keep her car intact to preserve the top spot for Sunday's Daytona 500. She faded into the field and finished 17th. She was nowhere near the four-lap sprint to the finish that saw Kevin Harvick hold off Greg Biffle for the win.

Patrick says there's a "sense of relief" she escaped the race without any major mistakes. She says it wasn't fun not being able to race hard at the end for the win.

Patrick became the first woman in history to win a pole at NASCAR's Sprint Cup series