Duno becomes first female driver to win Talladega pole since 1988
by Joe Medley
May 02, 2013 | 8414 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA -- Milka Duno was thrilled to qualify second for today’s ARCA International Motorsports Hall of Fame 250, but the biggest thrill was yet to come.

“I was changing already, and I was in my truck, and they say, ‘Don’t go! Don’t go yet! Don’t go yet!’” she said. “After that, a couple of people said, ‘You have to go (to the Ken Patterson Media Center)!’ I said, ‘What happened! What happened!’

“‘You have the pole! You have the pole!’ I said, ‘Oh, great! Great!’”

Original pole winner John Wes Townley’s car failed inspection after Thursday’s qualifying, so Duno will be the first female driver to have pole position at Talladega since Patty Moise in both ARCA races in 1988.

Friday's race will make ARCA’s 51st at Talladega, where no female driver has won an ARCA or NASCAR race. Janet Guthrie made three Talladega starts in the Sprint Cup series, and Moise made one.

Elsewhere on the ARCA circuit, Erin Crocker won five poles, and Shawna Robinson won one at Michigan in 2000. No female driver has won in 61 years of the ARCA circuit.

Starting today’s race on the outside of the front row will be Mason Mingus, and Fairhope native Grant Enfinger was third.

Duno posted a 53.652-second lap (178.484 mph) around Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval. She won her first pole in 25 career starts.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Duno said about the opportunity for a breakthrough victory for women drivers. “I want to have the perfect race tomorrow.

“We can win the race. The car is there. The car is fast. It’s just, we’ll have to make a perfect race.”

She has strong speedway car, having qualified second at Daytona in February. She led the 11 laps, but transmission troubles doomed her to 28th place.

Her pole at Talladega comes a week less than a week after she posted a career-best eighth-place finish at Salem.

The 41-year-old Venezuelan has been racing since 1998. She broke into the Indy Racing League in 2007 and made headlines with a record-best finish for a female in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

She debuted in ARCA racing in 2010. She drove for four different teams before landing with Venturini Motorsports this year, her first full season in ARCA.

Venturini has four cars in today’s race, including Justin Boston’s and Caleb Armstrong’s. They’ll start fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Now, I have continuity, and we’re a good team,” she said. “When you have a good team, this is what you are able to do, because the car is there, the team is there, the engineer and everybody.

“That is what I’m showing now, what I’m able to do with good equipment.”

Townley’s car would have been the first Venturini car in the field, but his time was disallowed and his car bumped back to the 30th starting position after inspection. ARCA officials did not specify what issue caused his car to fail inspection.

He still figures to be strong in today’s race. He brought the same speedway car he drove to victory in Daytona in February.

“Having such a good weekend at Daytona, we were on top of the world,” Townley said before learning that his car failed inspection. “Things are starting to follow a trend, it seems like, and that’s what I like to see.”

Two other cars also failed inspection and were sent back in the field. Korbin Forrester will start 32nd and Mark Thompson 33rd.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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