MARK LONG,AP Sports Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Danica Patrick has won the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.

It was the biggest achievement of her four-year NASCAR career.

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Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session Sunday and covered the 2½-mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, averaging 196.434 mph.

She waited about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot. Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off.

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Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in next week’s season-opening Daytona 500. The rest of the field will be set in duel qualifying races Thursday.

However the field unfolds, all drivers will line up behind Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet SS for “The Great American Race.”

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.