SPARTA, Ky. (AP) -Female driver Erin Crocker won the pole and raced to a second-place finish Friday night in the ARCA Re/Max Series event at Kentucky Speedway.

Crocker matched the best finish by a female driver is series history, Shawna Robinson’s runner-up effort in a 2001 race at Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s definitely an improvement,” Crocker said. “We’re heading in the right direction.”

No woman has won a stock-car race in any of NASCAR’s major national or regional series or in ARCA’s top series.

Chad Blount won the race, taking the lead on the opening lap and leading for 95 of the 100 laps. He and Crocker were 1-2 after the final restart, on lap 86, and stayed that way the rest of the race.

“I thought we had something for him,” Crocker said. “But Chad is an excellent driver. Just being able to battle for the win meant a lot to me.”

Blount finished 1.175 seconds ahead of Crocker en route to his second career win at Kentucky Speedway.

Crocker’s crew also overcame a significant fire in her pit area following a stop on lap 70. The fire was quickly extinguished.

The 24-year-old Crocker started her Dodge on the pole for the second time this season. In her previous start at the front, she finished 12th at Nashville Superspeedway on March 26.

She started and finished seventh in her only other ARCA race, at Michigan International Speedway on June 17.

Crocker completed a qualifying lap around the 11/2-mile Kentucky track at 173.723 mph, the second-fastest time in any ARCA event at the speedway.

Crocker, from Wilbraham, Mass., is a sprint-car and dirt-track driver who has won on the World of Outlaws series. She was hired last September to participate in Evernham Motorsports’ driver development program.

She has received much attention in recent weeks thanks to the emergence of Indy Racing League sensation Danica Patrick.

Crocker still races regularly in the World of Outlaws as well as running an open-wheel car for friend and fellow Evernham driver Kasey Kahne’s team in the U.S. Auto Club’s Silver Crown series.

“Ray Evernham and all the guys on the team give me great equipment and that’s the biggest part,” Crocker said before the race. “I hope to drive it as best I can.”

She is the second female to win a pole for a race at Kentucky Speedway. Sarah Fisher became the first woman in IRL history to start at the front in August 2002.

Another female driver, Christi Passmore of Pryor, Okla., also was in the field for the Kentucky ARCA race. It’s the third time two women have driven in the same race at Kentucky Speedway.

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AP Motorsports Writer Mike Harris contributed to this report.

AP-ES-07-08-05 2229EDT


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