|Patrick starts first Sunday|
Given their choice, every one of the 44 competitors who battled Danica Patrick for the pole in this week’s 55th running of the Daytona 500 would trade places with her on Sunday. But while there is no better, safer, or more encouraging place to start than on the inside of the front row, history shows that a pole-position start is anything but a precursor to Victory Lane.
In the 54 previous editions of the Daytona 500, only seven drivers have won from the pole position. Only Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) and Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) were able to perform the feat more than once.
Winning the “Great American Race” from the outside pole is even more unlikely. Only six drivers have accomplished this feat, with Richard Petty the only driver with more than one victory from the second starting spot.
The Daytona 500 has not been won from the pole since Dale Jarrett turned the trick, 13 years ago. Last year’s winner, Matt Kenseth, came from fourth on the starting grid. Trevor Bayne came from 32nd to win in 2011, with Jamie McMurray winning from the 13th starting position in 2010. Kenseth came from 39th at the start to win in 2009, proving yet again that it’s not where you start at Daytona that matters most, it’s where you finish.
Fireball Roberts (1962), Richard Petty (1966), Buddy Baker (1980) and Jeff Gordon (1999) have all captured the Harley J. Earl Trophy from the pole, joining an elite fraternity of drivers to claim NASCAR’s grandest prize from the number-one starting spot.
Patrick will attempt to join the club Sunday.
Photo: Associated Press