While Formula 1 fans will be watching the testing action this week in Barcelona, over in the United States the NASCAR stock car world is all a-Twitter thanks to the events in qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

The 500 is the first round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and is traditionally the biggest event of the NASCAR year, with a prize fund likely to top $20 million for the first time and a TV audience expected to be at least 30 million and probably more given the excitement that surrounds this year’s event.

The viewing figures are likely to go through the roof as a result of Danica Patrick lapping the two and a half mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, at an average speed of 196.434mph in her Stewart Haas Racing Go Daddy Chevrolet. She even had the temerity to knock her team boss Tony Stewart off pole.

The 30-year-old from Wisconsin was the eighth of the 45 drivers to attempt to qualify and then had to wait for nearly two hours as the others tried to knock her off pole. To the delight of the mainstream media her challengers included her recently revealed new boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who ended up 12th, just ahead of former Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya.

It was a tense wait with several moments when it looked as though the dream would be shattered, notably when multiple NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon became the only other driver to lap the speedway at over 196mph, but his average was only 196.292mph.