DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In about 24 hours, Danica Patrick went from her biggest crash to her biggest moment in a stock car.
The former IndyCar star won the pole Friday for the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona, becoming the first woman to secure the top qualifying spot in NASCAR’s second-tier series since Shawna Robinson at Atlanta on March 12, 1994.
It came a day after she wrecked on the final lap of a qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
“It’s a good turn of events,” she said.
Patrick won just once in 115 IndyCar starts. She had seven podium finishes, and two of them came when she began dabbling in NASCAR two seasons ago. She moved to NASCAR full time this season, and is scheduled to drive 10 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing and run every Nationwide race for JR Motorsports.
She will make her Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The Nationwide race is today. She has three top-10 finishes in 25 Nationwide races over two years.
Patrick turned a fast lap of 49.250 seconds around the high-banked speedway, averaging 182.741 mph.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne qualified second, followed by Elliott Sadler, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon.
“This is good for the sport,” Sadler said. “It’s going to bring more people, more attention.”
TRUCK SERIES: In Daytona Beach, Fla., John King wrecked the leader and later held on to win a wild Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.
It was King’s first NASCAR victory.
Timothy Peters finished second, giving Red Horse Racing a 1-2 finish in the series opener. Justin Lofton was third, followed by Travis Kvapil, Jason White and Todd Bodine.
King turned leader Johnny Saunter around on the second of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, but the real gasps were saved for the final melee.
Joey Coulter slammed into the wall shortly after the final restart, his truck lifting off the ground, hitting the fence and then spinning back across the track. Coulter emerged a few minutes later unharmed and bowed to the crowd.
HONORED: Former Augusta resident Steve deSouza, the longtime vice president of NASCAR’s Nationwide Series operations at Joe Gibbs Racing, won the NASCAR Industry Ambassador award.
He is in his 14th year with the Gibbs team.