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Danica Patrick gives her thoughts on Daytona, 2015 season and more in Q&A

Posted On Wednesday, 11 February 2015 19:00 Written by
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Stewart-Haas Racing has accomplished a lot, especially this past year. What are your expectations coming into this season?
“Really, to continue with the things that were happening last year and the improvements made in the areas that I was looking to improve them, and also to develop new relationships, obviously. With a new crew chief and a new group, we need to get to know each other sooner than later, so I’ll be putting a lot of hard work into getting our communication going as quickly as possible. But then, after that, it’s to kind of pick up where I left off with Tony Gibson and his guys who taught me so much and really helped me get much further toward the front and qualifying much better and running much better. I’m sure there will be a little bit of a learning curve, but I think we can overcome that sooner than later.”

Given your success at Daytona in 2013, is this the race you look forward to the most? What are your expectations?
“It’s sure one of them, but I think it also has to do with the fact that it’s the biggest race of the year. Anything can happen at Daytona, so it makes it an exciting race, but it also can be frustrating, too, and I think that’s why it’s probably exciting for every driver to go to Daytona on some level because, I guess, I equate it to almost like the Indy 500. It’s so long that there are a lot of cycles that could have put you in the right place to win the race. And I feel like Daytona is one of those races that, given the right flow through the pack, you could be the one up front to win the race. I’m sure there are a lot of people who get excited about going there but also get a little bit, I don’t know, uncomfortable. I doubt people are scared, but you could equally fail and not have a great race. You could be running great and finish 20th. That’s just what happens at Daytona.”

Is it tough having a new crew chief? How long does it normally take for you to develop the relationship?

“It is a challenge. I think the hard thing is that, in Cup, the littlest things make the biggest difference. So you’re really working in a tiny little window. To get there is challenging. I think I underestimated how long it would take to get to know a crew chief, get on the same page. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a year, but I hope it doesn’t. I hope the things I’ve learned over the last couple of years will help that move faster because I’ll be able to put focus on the areas I know help develop the relationship and also improve the car to put it in a good place to run well.”
Is this where you expected to be after two or three seasons at the Sprint Cup level?
“I’ve said all along that it’s about progress, and it still is. As long as you keep progressing, you’re going to get to the top in a matter of time. There have been improvements in the areas I wanted them, and now it’s about making those improvements much more consistent.”

What’s the next step with your improvement? Is it realistic you will win a race this year?
“I think there were slight possibilities of winning races last year, we just didn’t. I think this year it’s going to take a little bit of time to pick up where everything left off with Tony Gibson. I think that’s going to take some time, especially given the last three races we weren’t quite there. But there was improvement within those three races, so that’s a positive, in such a short amount of time. I feel we got to the point where top-15 really was where our speed was, and we ran there much more frequently. It’s time to make that very consistent. I feel like what’s funny, once you get up into the top-15, the top-10 is not that much different. But I guess the progression would be to work into the top-10. I think that top-15 is the biggest one to crack. I feel like we did a good job at doing that much more often last year.”

What would define this season as a successful year?
“That is a question I don’t ever have an answer to. It’s about progress for me, improving from where we were last year. With a new crew chief, I think that’s going to take a little bit of time to get to know each other, get the cars where I want them for comfort, where they need to be. But I think that progress is what’s important. We definitely ran much more often in the top-15 last year and, speed‑wise, we were definitely there, I felt like, a lot of the time. It’s about making that much more consistent and making top-15 finishes much more regular. I think those are some things that will be continuations of where things left off last year that I’ll be looking to happen by the end of the year. Again, I said it will take a little bit of time with the new crew chief. If we can get there by the end of the year, it will make me that much more excited about the end of the season.”

-- Press release courtesy of Stewart-Haas Racing

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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