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Danica Patrick takes pole position (for a few minutes) in first stock-car race

February 5, 2010 | 10:11 am

Danica Patrick on Friday briefly captured the pole position for her first stock-car race as a throng of media members on pit lane nearly outnumbered fans in the mostly vacant grandstands at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick -- the popular IndyCar Series driver who's trying her hand at stock-car racing -- was the 10th of 52 drivers trying to qualify for the ARCA Series race Saturday. ARCA is a developmental series separate from the far bigger NASCAR, and Patrick plans to jump to NASCAR's Nationwide Series later this month.

She clocked a lap of 179.788 mph in her No. 7 Chevrolet on the high-banked, 2.5-mile track that was good enough to claim the pole, but only a few minutes later other drivers began posting faster laps.

Patrick ultimately qualified 11th in the race's 43-car field, while James Buescher won the pole with a speed of 181.543 mph.

"I've enjoyed the whole process," Patrick said after climbing from her car, a gaggle of photographers following her every move. "It would be great if I stayed up front there, but it might not happen, and if it doesn't, I'm not going to get mad; we've got 80 laps of running" in the race.

"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow," she said. "I don't think it's going to be easy, but I think it's going to be fun."

Patrick is driving a car prepared by JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by star NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Patrick's crew chief is Earnhardt's cousin, Tony Eury Jr., who formerly was crew chief for Earnhardt's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car.

-- Jim Peltz in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Photo: Danica Patrick talks with reporters after her qualifying run for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Friday. Credit: Dave Martin / Associated Press