Before everyone gets all excited about Danica Patrick winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, here’s a little tidbit: Only seven drivers in the 55-year history of Daytona 500 have won the race from the pole.
Patrick made NASCAR history by becoming the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. While she only claims responsibility for 10 percent of the record-breaking feat, her crew chief, Tony Gibson, gives her at least half the credit for putting the car out front to start the race.
“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls, as I think I said before I went out on the track, 90 percent on Tony and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast, and maybe 10 percent on me,” said Patrick, the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. “All I have to do is think about going out there, being smooth, not letting the car bind up, running on that yellow line. Outside of that, I think it shows how well prepared Tony and everybody was, how strong the Hendrick engines are, how good the new Chevy SS is. We’ve been fast since practice in January.”
Yes, Chevy seems to have the new Gen-6 cars figured out, for Daytona at any rate. Kevin Harvick, driving a Chevy for Richard Childress Racing, won the Sprint Unlimited race. Jeff Gordon, driving a Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, will start on the front row with Patrick for the Daytona 500.
Having good cars certainly helps, especially at tracks like Daytona International Speedway, where too many outside factors contribute to determining the race winner. But a good driver contributes more than 10 percent to a team’s success.
“It’s a team effort. Like I told Danica, it’s more than 10 percent driver,” Gibson said. “I was talking to David Green on the line, about five cars away. He’s just like, ‘Remind her to hit her shifter. I’ve messed up and overshifted and messed the lap up.’ It’s more than 10 percent because you can put a good product out there, but if you don’t have the person to drive it, put everything else together, it can really damage your day.”
Winning the pole position for the Daytona 500 is no small accomplishment. It is one more milestone in a long list of accomplishments for Patrick. She was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. She was the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500. She has been a trailblazer since she started her auto racing career.
It’s a role she embraces.
“I mean, I’ve had the experience with mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, listening to them say the reason why they’re here as a family today is because of me out there, whether it brings the girls out, the guys out, whatever it is, I don’t care. That’s nice to hear,” Patrick said. “It’s also nice to hear families talk about the fact that a little girl might say, ‘But, mommy, daddy, that’s a girl out there.’ Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn’t by any means not allow you to follow your dreams. I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I’m doing.”
Her work is far from over. Winning the pole at Daytona is one thing. Winning the race is another. But Patrick said she craves the limelight. Well, maybe not crave, but she certainly enjoys the challenge of delivering when all eyes are on her.
“I love it when people put me on the radar, I do,” Patrick said. “I think it’s good. It’s a confidence boost when people are saying, I heard Mr. Childress say he thought I was the one to lose the pole. When people put you on the radar, that feels good to me,” Patrick said after winning the pole on Sunday. “I like that after practice in January and yesterday after practice that people were saying I was the one that could go out there and get the pole. That to me was some of the coolest feelings.”
Now for that pesky Daytona history. Dale Jarrett was the last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole in 2000. Gordon did it the year before in 1999. Fireball Roberts was the first to do it in 1959.
Only two drivers have won the Daytona 500 from the pole twice. No driver has done it three times. In recent years, Daytona has become the NASCAR version of “Survivor.” If Patrick can make it to the finish, it will be an accomplishment. If she wins the race, the NASCAR universe might very well collapse.
“It’s really amazing how much effort is put into a qualifying car for Daytona, for the 500, and really only the front row is what sticks for Sunday,” Patrick said. “It’s nice that all that hard work can pay off and that we can give ourselves that opportunity to lead the pack down into the tri oval for the green flag of the Daytona 500.”
The high school basketball and soccer playoffs are under way. Here’s a quick update of who’s still alive and whose seasons are done.
The Hart boys soccer team is the darling of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. The Indians are in the second round after winning their wild-card playoff game and have outscored their opponents 4-0.
Hart won its first game, 2-0, over Workman and followed with a 2-0 shutout over Beverly Hills. The Indians play Santa Paula on Wednesday.
The West Ranch boys soccer team is alive and well in the Division 4 playoffs and could meet Hart in the semifinals. The Wildcats beat North Torrance, 2-1, in the first round and play Oak Hills in the second round.
The Valencia boys soccer team advanced to the second round of the Division 4 playoffs after a 2-0 win over Chino. The Vikings play Temescal Canyon on Wednesday.
The Valencia girls soccer team reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs after a 1-0 win over Moorpark.
The Canyon and Hart girls also advanced to the second round of the Division 2 playoffs. The Saugus girls were the only team from the Foothill League to lose in the first round of the soccer playoffs.
The Valencia girls basketball team won its first-round Southern Section Division 1AA playoff game, 64-34, over Pacifica of Oxnard. The Vikings play Centennial Corona in the second round.
The Canyon girls also won their first-round playoff game in Division 2AA. They beat Channel Islands, 75-44, and play Kaiser in the second round.
The Saugus girls won their first-round playoff game in Division 2AA. The Centurions beat Sultana, 42-36, and will play Murrieta Valley in the second round.
The West Ranch girls lost their first-round playoff game, 54-45, to Highland in Division 1AA.
The West Ranch and Valencia boys basketball teams reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1A playoffs. West Ranch, the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, beat Ventura, 77-59, in the first round. Valencia, the No. 11 seed, beat Arroyo Valley, 76-57, in its first-round playoff game.
The Saugus boys lost to Redlands East Valley, 67-51, in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs.
The Hart boys basketball team was upset in the second round of the Division 3AAA playoffs. The Indians, the third-seeded team in Division 3AAA, lost to West Torrance, 64-55.
The Canyon boys basketball team lost to Lawndale, 73-63, in the first round of the Division 2AA playoffs.
The Trinity Classical Academy boys basketball team is in the quarterfinals of the Division 6 playoffs. The Knights, the No. 2 seed in Division 6, beat Southwestern Academy, 77-36, in the first round and Hope Centre Academy, 64-47, in the second round.
In college basketball, the College of the Canyons men’s team won the Western State Conference South Division championship. The Cougars beat Santa Monica, 82-76, in the regular season finale and finished with a 9-1 conference record.
Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for USA Today, the Team USA website, SB Nation and the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.