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Danica Patrick first woman to take Daytona 500 pole

George Diaz| Orlando Sentinel Sports Columnist

2:52 PM CST, February 17, 2013

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DAYTONA BEACH -- Danica Patrick isn’t just dating one of the NASCAR boys.

She’s beating all of them.

Patrick became the first woman to earn the pole position in the history of the Daytona 500 by running a qualifying lap of 45.817 Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. Jeff Gordon was second.

“I can say I was the fastest guy today,” joked Gordon.

Indeed this is an ironic twist for anyone rolling their eyes at all the undue attention Danica was getting because of her relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. There’s a lot more to love now other than her personal life.

“I'm proud of all the hard work that goes into making a pole,” she said. “It’s not just turning left.

"There's a lot more left. The race is where it's really at but this speaks volumes about Stewart Hass Racing. It shows what a great organization it is."

In addition to setting a Daytona record, Patrick became the first woman in NASCAR to ever take a Sprint Cup pole. 

 The 55th running of the Daytona 500 will feature a starting grid of 43 drivers. The rest of the field will be set during the twin qualifying races Thursday afternoon.

George Diaz can be reached at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @georgediaz