Danica Patrick has another first on her short Indy Racing League resume.
The 23-year-old rookie won her first IRL pole yesterday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., becoming the second woman to take the top spot.
Patrick, the first woman to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500, turned in a quick lap of 214.668 mph on her second try around the 11/2-mile tri-oval in qualifying for today's Argent Mortgage Indy 300. Sarah Fisher was the first female pole sitter, starting first at a race in 2002 in Kentucky.
With two teammates qualifying second and third, Patrick's chances of earning her first IRL victory are even better.
"It's very satisfying," said Patrick, who edged out Rahal Letterman teammate Buddy Rice for the pole. "I'm very proud of how hard this team has worked, how hard I've worked. I'm just proud of the whole situation for this team."
Patrick, making her eighth career start, was fastest in her morning practice session, too. Her pole-winning time drew a big cheer from the capacity crowd waiting for the start of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Her best previous start was second at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan in April.
"This is not untouched territory," Patrick said. "What's going to make the difference is going out tomorrow and staying up there and competing with my teammates who did such a great job last year."
In May, Patrick finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500, the best finish by a woman in the 89-year history of the race, and her second fourth in the IRL series.
"I know a lot of this started because I'm a chick in a racecar," Patrick said. "Now it's turning into, 'Look what this rookie can do.' "
Rice, last year's race champion, will start on the outside front after qualifying at 214.650 mph. Vitor Meira was third at 214.546 mph, followed in the top 10 by Tomas Scheckter, Darren Manning, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish Jr.
Dan Wheldon, this year's Indy 500 winner and the current points leader, qualified 13th.
"The car has been very slow since we rolled it off the truck, and we really don't know why," said Wheldon, who has won four of seven events this year. "We just don't have an answer for it. Right now, I've got a lot of people in front of me that are going to be difficult to beat."
Helio Castroneves, who won last week at Richmond, qualified 14th.
"We tried a number of things in practice," he said. "We just couldn't find what we needed."
Last year, Rice won the pole and then held off Meira by .0051 of a second to win the second-closest race in IRL history.
"We'll just have to see," Rice said. "But all three cars qualified strongly, they've been strong all day, and there's no reason we shouldn't all three be running up front and going for a finish like last year."
Patrick agreed -- to a point.
"That's the plan is that the three of us will hopefully take off and, you know, tow each other out to a country-mile lead, and then we don't have to worry about anybody," she said. "In a perfect world, that's what would happen.
"But it's not going to happen like that. There are going to be twists and turns in the race. There'll be yellow flags and fuel strategy and changes within the car as the race goes on. So it's definitely helpful to have friends around, but at the end of the day we're all trying to individually win the race."
* FORMULA ONE: Series leader Fernando Alonso of Spain won the pole for today's French Grand Prix in Magny-Cours, his third of the season.
"Last year I had the pole here, the only one of the 2004 season," the Renault driver said. "The whole weekend has been good. I felt the car had good balance and it gave me extra confidence."
Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who held the pole in the U.S. Grand Prix, was second. Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion, was fourth.
* CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS: Todd Bodine withstood a series of late restarts, then pulled away from the pack in a three-lap shootout to win the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway.
It was the first victory of the season and third in the series for Bodine, a former Winston and Nextel Cup driver.