"That's a huge accomplishment," team owner and fellow driver Tony Stewart said. "It's not like it's been 15 or 20 years she's been trying to do this. It's her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She's made history in the sport. That's stuff that we're proud of being a part of with her. It's something she should have a huge amount of pride in.
"It's never been done. There's only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn't matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first."
Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph in qualifying. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in next week's season-opening Daytona 500.
"It's great to be part of history," Gordon said. "I can say I was the fastest guy today."
The rest of the field will be set in duel qualifying races Thursday. However the lineup unfolds, all drivers will line up behind Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet SS for "The Great American Race."
"It's easy to come down here in your first or second year as a driver and clip the apron trying to run too tight a line or do something and scrub speed off," Stewart said. "That's something she did an awesome job. Watching her lap, she runs so smooth . . . She did her job behind the wheel, for sure."
The result surely felt good for Patrick, especially considering the former IndyCar driver has mostly struggled in three NASCAR seasons. Her best finish in 10 Cup races is 17th, and she has one top-five in 58 starts in the second-tier Nationwide Series.
She raced part-time in 2010 and 2011 while still driving a full IndyCar slate. She switched solely to stock cars last season and finished 10th in the Nationwide standings.
But taking the pole will make her the talk of the town for another week. She also won the pole at Daytona for last year's Nationwide race.
This is considerably bigger.
The previous highest female qualifier in a Cup race was Janet Guthrie. She started ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.