Biggest Day for Women in Racing History

Sunday was the biggest day for women in the history of auto racing.

Danica Patrick, by virtue of being fastest in qualifying at the Daytona Motor Speedway, won the pole position, a first for a woman, meaning she'll start first in next week's Daytona 500 NASCAR event. It's the first major NASCAR event of the year, but it is also the biggest race of the year, the Super Bowl of stock car racing.

And on the same day, a continent away in Pomona, CA, Courtney Force, daughter of 15-time Funny Car champion John Force, won the Funny Car competition at the season-opening NHRA drag racing Winternationals.

Patrick became the first (and so far only) female to win an IndyCar race in Japan a few years ago, and she has slowly but surely built up her NASCAR career since leaving the open-wheel race cars for the big bruisers of the motorsports scene. Driving for Stewart-Haas Racing (her boss, Tony Stewart, is NASCAR's current champion), the "GoDaddy Girl" drove her Chevrolet to the top spot at Daytona. Patrick is also in contention for NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors this season. In a twist, she's dating Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., another NASCAR Sprint Cup driver also on tap for possible top rookie honors.

Force followed her father, the winningest driver in NHRA history, into Funny Cars, which run the straight, 1,000-foot NHRA course in under 4 seconds and at speeds approaching 320 miles per hour. The deafening dragsters develop some 8,000-horsepower and Force made her statement even more powerful by winning the first major event of the 2013 NHRA season.

What will follow this week is unrelenting media coverage of Danica Patrick until next Sunday's Daytona 500. And she deserves every bit of it, as Courtney Force will follow the NHRA circus this coming weekend into Phoenix.