Tag:Danica Patrick
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:47 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:27 pm

VIDEO: Danica Patrick crashes on last lap of Duel

Posted by Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Danica Patrick's first appearance in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona ended violently with a hard crash into the backstretch inside wall.

Patrick climbed from her car uninjured in the vicious crash and gave her view of what took place after she made on track contact with Aric Almirola.

“It happened really quickly," Patrick explained.  "I guess you can always imagine when you get down to the end of the race everyone is on each other’s doors really close.  It’s just kind of what happens at the end of the race.  Unfortunately, I was part of it.  I felt like I was having at least a solid race.  I worked my way up there at the beginning a little bit; hung around in the front group for a while.  I felt like it kind of slowed down I was dragging the brake a little bit just to keep with the pack and not run up to them too quickly.  I don’t know if that had any affect.  We were just looking to finish to be honest; unfortunately that was not the case.”

Patrick ran inside the top ten for some of Thursday's first 60-lap qualifying race but wasn't really a challenger for the lead or win. Still she feels the day was part of her learning process and she'll try to take something away from the experience including the crash.

“I’m betting that everybody that was watching on TV probably had the best look," Patrick said. "From my perspective it was obviously the last lap and the bottom lane started moving well so that is where I was.  We were just getting our run down the back and all of a sudden I got hit.  I’m betting that somebody also got hit outside of me, is what I’m betting.

"I’m going to have to look.  It was just a chain reaction every person that gets hit, next and next and next.  It gets bigger and bigger.  It felt like a pretty big hit so I don’t know what it looked like.  I’m really just bummed out that we didn’t finish the last two corners.  Instead we have a Go Daddy car in the wall and lots of damage and I’m sure a back-up.  But, what I said was maybe the back-up car will be faster.”

Daytona Speedweeks
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:28 pm

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time since 1972 there will not be a Waltrip in the Daytona 500.

Unfortunately for Michael Waltrip he was one of the big losers in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races and failed to qualify for Sunday's "Great American Race."

Waltrip, who crashed in the day's first 150-mile race, wasn't alone in the disappointment department with the likes of Kenny and Mike Wallace, Bill Elliott, J.J. Yeley and Robert Richardson Jr. also missing out on gaining a spot in the biggest race of the season.

"I just went the wrong way and lost the car," said Waltrip, who after hitting pit road for fuel lost control of his Hillman Racing Toyotya while racing through turns one and two. "I feel like I let everybody down. I raced my way to the front and then I let them down. It’s just really hard. I don’t know what to say -- it’s just sad. Thankful to my team and Aaron’s for giving me the opportunity and hate that I let everybody down.” 

Kenny Wallace was trying to drive the underfunded RAB Racing Toyota into Sunday's race and was the victim of a fuel pick-up problem that mired him deep in the field unable to challenge for the spot he needed to transfer to the 500.

"It's a tough pill to swallow for sure," said Wallace. "This team tried so hard and it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm so proud of the effort put forth to try and get into the Daytona 500 and that's what I'll take away from today's experience."

On the other side of the coin were the stories of drivers that survived Thursday with what they needed to move on to Sunday.

Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon transfered from the day's opening race and both drivers were thankful for the turn of events that led to their starts in the 500.

"It's amazing," said McDowell, who got a push from his friend and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne to help secure the sixth place finish. "I've been here once before and made the race. I had to qualify in and I've been on the outside looking in too, so just know that this is extremely special not just for me and my family, but for our whole team. Phil Parsons Racing is a small team. We've got six guys back at the shop that worked really hard in the off-season to give us a fast car..."

Gordon had an early race scare when smoke started to billow from his Dodge but was able to nurse his car through that issue and notch the ninth place finish he needed to make the 500.

"It's big for us," said Gordon, who ran a partial schedule last season in his independent entry. "We were in a position last year, it sounds kind of crazy, we've won Indy Car races, I've won NASCAR races and we were in position we didn't have the funding to run all of the races so we found ourselves outside the Top 35.

"I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud of the Daytona 500."

Two other David vs.Goliath stories played out in the day's second race when Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney punched their tickets to the 500.

For the journeyman Nemechek, a former Nationwide Series champion who made every Sprint Cup race last year with his small operation, making Daytona was a key to his entire 2012 effort.

"We're not sure what we can do this year," Nemechek said. "But now just getting into this race is such a huge shot in the arm for this team and will go a long way in helping us this year to say the least. This is so hard but we just keep plugging away and this was a great day for this race.

Blaney, who saw his guaranteed Daytona starting spot go to Danica Patrick when Tommy Baldwin Racing createda "collaborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing, was forced to race his way into the big event with a twelfth place finish Thursday.

"Nah I don't feel any satisfaction or redemption," Blaney said. "Just happy to be able to start in the Daytona 500."

Daytona Speedweeks
Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:12 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 10:28 pm

Danica Patrick comfortable in NASCAR world

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.- Danica Patrick is set to embark on her full-time NASCAR career and says she feels comfortable in her no longer new surroundings.

She'll run a complete Nationwide Series program from JR Motorsports in addition to a 10 race Sprint Cup Series schedule, beginning with her first career Daytona 500.

The former open wheel regular is keeping realistic expectations of her initial appearance in "The Great American Race."

“I think that with a race like Daytona, well first off it’s the Daytona 500 and everybody wants to win it of course," Patrick said. "It’s just going to depend on the looking back at the picture of the race and did you run up front at all, what happened, did I make any mistakes, but let’s face it great drivers don’t have great big speedway races because it depends on so many other factors like the tandem running or like staying in touch with the pack or like a pit stop or something like that or staying out of trouble. Like I said you can get caught in an accident that you just couldn’t see through to miss and your day is over.

So I don’t think there is a position that you can put on a race like this because it’s wide open for various levels of experienced drivers to do well. Ultimately we all want to win but at the end of the day it’s going to depend on probably looking back at the race and assessing my mistake level probably.”

Patrick is relieved to have some NASCAR experience under her belt - both behind the wheel as well as simply dealing with the stock car racing culture - and hopes that will be beneficial to growth in 2012.

“Yeah, and I think that comes from learning how it works and getting comfortable and familiar," Patrick said. "I’m very good when I know what’s coming. When I get surprised and things getting added on the schedule is when I get frustrated because expectation levels are everything for me. But not only from my perspective am I more comfortable now but from my assistant’s perspective and the help she gets from Junior Motorsports and Stewart-Hass, I think we all have a much better picture of how to do everything and how to keep it in line and how to help you folks do your job.”
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Posted on: February 6, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 11:28 am

2012 Nationwide Series season preview

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Stenhouse Jr. will be back to defend his championship in 2012 and looks to bring Mustang another title)

The days of the Nationwide Series being referred to “Sprint Cup Lite” may be coming to a close. 

Thanks to NASCAR’s new championship system, the disappearance of Cup regulars running full-time in the series and a brand new race car, stock car racing’s number two series is beginning to find an identity of its own. 

The sanctioning body’s decision to mandate drivers choose which championship they intended to compete for at the beginning of last season provided an opportunity for Nationwide-only competitors to shine. Although Sprint Cup drivers won their share of races last season, the title fight that went down to the wire between series regulars Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler did exactly what NASCAR had hoped it would by providing more exposure and awareness. 

"I think it's worked just the way we wanted it to," said NASCASR CEO Brian France. "We wanted to showcase the young drivers in their own series, and still have the participation of drivers with a lot of experience, and that's exactly what we've gotten. I think it's been good for the young drivers to get some different notoriety and the honor and prestige of winning a championship, and the money that comes with that, and all the best. It's been a good thing." 

Eventual champ Stenhouse had to fight the likes of Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski for wins throughout the year but he didn’t have to worry about battling those Cup interlopers for the championship. 

"When they changed the points system, nobody really counted us in," Stenhouse said after claiming the crown for Roush Fenway Racing. “But we felt like as a race team, that gave us an even better shot to win it. We just fought really hard all year. We came into this season feeling like we had a shot at it." 

As the 2012 season nears, Stenhouse will get a shot at back to back titles. Despite some sponsorship issues and the challenge of finding the necessary funding, team owner Jack Roush has committed to bringing Stenhouse back for another title assault. 

“They’re working on sponsorship for it right now, so everything is good,” said Stenhouse, who will also run a handful of Sprint Cup races for RFR including his first Daytona 500. “It sounds like we’re going to be able to go and defend our title again. … We’ve been planning on running for it.”

The road to a second straight crown won’t be an easy one for Stenhouse who will face a tough group of challengers including Sadler and his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, last year’s Camping World Truck Series titlist. 

The duo is pumped up about their assault on the championship for the restructured and re-energized RCR Nationwide effort, which absorbed the Kevin Harvick Inc. program Sadler drove for last season. 

“I’ve already seen a difference on a lot of stuff,” said Sadler, who will also run the Daytona for RCR in a limited Sprint Cup program. “We feel like right now our cars are prepared as good as we can make them. We really feel like we’ve got our stuff together here to start the first four or five races.” 

Luke Lambert, who worked with RCR Cup driver Jeff Burton at the end of last season, will guide Sadler’s No. 2 Chevrolet team. 

Dillon, team owner Childress’ grandson, will carry the iconic No. 3 entry into his full Nationwide Series program after brining RCR the truck title in 2011. 

He believes his experience and subsequent success last season will be paramount to the road that lies ahead in the Nationwide Series. 

“In 2010, I was able to learn all the Truck Series tracks and that’s what helped me in 2011,” said Dillon. “Kind of knowing what to expect the next year and how to pick up my game, I guess.  

“It was a good year last year winning a championship,” Dillon said. “You want another championship because you know what it feels like standing up there at the table and everything. But I think where we’re at, being a rookie, top five in points and winning a few races would be great. Winning rookie of the year would be great. It’s going to be fun and exciting.” 

Image Detail
(Patrick makes her full-time move to NASCAR in 2012 with a Nationwide Series program for JR Motorsports)

While Stenhouse, Sadler and Dillon bring their own recognition into the new campaign the will have to battle for attention against the highest-profile name on the Nationwide Series driver roster in 2012 – Danica Patrick.

The former open wheel driver will go from dipping her toe into the NASCAR waters to a full dive into the deep end of the pool with a fulltime Nationwide effort at Junior Motorsports. 

Patrick, who spent parts of the last two seasons juggling an Indy Car-NASCAR schedule, believes she’s ready to make the complete move to stock cars. 

“There's a lot of things that are unknown, especially with running the full-time Nationwide championship, wanting to do really well in that and wanting to make a good impression in the Cup races I'm doing," said Patrick, who has a ten race Sprint Cup schedule as well in a collaborative Stewart-Haas Racing/Tommy Baldwin racing effort. "But overall, I'm feeling comfortable, as comfortable as I could imagine myself in this situation." 

Patrick admits she’s learned a lot in her so far limited stint in NASCAR and that she may have to change her approach going forward now as a full-time competitor. 

“There’s still going to be moments for sure where I’m going to be patient and I’m probably am not going to go all the way, but I’m getting more comfortable around the drivers,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to come in and start pushing my way around because that’s not my style.

“Now I’ve been here for a little while, I feel more comfortable with the style of racing, when you can push and when you can’t push. Ultimately, just having a bigger comfort zone with the car is going to give me the ability to push harder and put the car on the track wherever I want and do more with it.” 

Patrick will be teamed up with another driver making a full Nationwide season debut in Cole Whitt, who takes the wheel of the JR Motorsports No. 88 entry vacated when Aric Almirola got the call to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Cup Series. 

The young driver made a solid impression in the truck series and now hopes to capitalize on the opportunity afforded him by co-owners Dale and Kelley Earnhardt. 

“This is a big opportunity for me, and I’m happy to be a part of the JR Motorsports team,” said Whitt. “I’m grateful to Dale, Kelley and everyone at JR Motorsports for giving me this chance. It’s an honor to work with the Eurys, and I will do everything in my power to put this No. 88 team where it belongs in Victory Lane.” 

There are others who will try to make their mark in the Nationwide Series title race this season including Justin Allgaier of Turner Motorsports, Sam Hornish Jr. in a full-time program for Penske Racing and Michael Annett, who wound up at RPM after Rusty Wallace’s team was forced to close up shop. 

There will still be Sprint Cup regular influence with the likes of Keselowski, Kyle and Kurt Busch with the new Kyle Busch Motorsports entry, Kasey Kahne at Turner, Trevor Bayne for RFR and the Joey Logano/Denny Hamlin combo at Joe Gibbs Racing.

But there is a distinct flavor of excitement and anticipation to the 2012 Nationwide season that hasn’t been present for some time.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed    

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Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:39 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 3:36 pm

Points manipulation a blow to NASCAR credibility

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Patrick is already locked into the 2012 Daytona 500 thanks to a deal between SHR and TBR)

You most likely already know Danica Patrick is making her full-time move to NASCAR in 2012. 

But without yet even turning one competitive lap in a Sprint Cup car, Patrick has already locked herself into a starting spot for the season-opening Daytona 500. 

How is this possible you ask? 

Just chalk it up to NASCAR math. 

The annual ritual of swapping points, creating alliances and trumping up partnerships to manipulate the rule allowing teams finishing in the Top 35 of the point standings last season a guaranteed start in the first five races of the new campaign has once again reared its ugly head. 

Only this time it’s not just a simple transaction between owners swapping points accrued by one to allow another to field a car in the biggest race of the season.  The latest maneuvering is a shell game of epic proportions that somehow puts Patrick in car technically owned by Tommy Baldwin Racing while still employed by Stewart-Haas Racing. 

A room full of Philadelphia lawyers would take days to figure out the legal machinations that created this “collaborative partnership” between SHR and TBR. But at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how things ended up but rather the path that allows this ridiculous practice to happen in the first place. 

When NASCAR first instituted the Top 35 rule a few years ago the intent was to provide a guarantee for teams and sponsors that support the entire series. Basically if a team stays inside the first thirty five of the standings they are locked into the next race and don’t have to worry about qualifying to make the field. 

While NASCAR contends the rule “protects” teams and sponsors as well as fans, who are ensured the “stars” of the sport will compete in every event, it has done so at the expense of competition and credibility. 

By trying to serve the business side of the sport, all NASCAR has done is compromised the competitive element and its own integrity. 

Qualifying has been reduced to a simple placement of cars into the starting line-up with none of the drama remaining that used to draw sizeable crowds to some tracks in anticipation of the racing weekend. 

The popular Gatorade Duel qualifying races at Daytona, once one of the most exciting days of the season and certainly of Speedweeks, is now only a shell of its former self. The inclusion of the Top 35 policy into the equation of who already has made the race and what drivers have their Daytona 500 lives on the line with a bad finish – all part of what made the Thursday before the 500 so special – is now a convoluted mess that requires a slide rule and a calculator to help decipher. 

The easy solution is to allow the fastest 36 cars in qualifying into every race and then seed the remaining seven spots with provisionals based on the point standings. That system worked for decades before the dollar signs from potential upset sponsors blurred NASCAR’s vision. 

The world would also continue to rotate on its axis if Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed a race. Other sports have proven they can survive should a star not be up to the necessary level of performance on a particular weekend. 

Should Tiger Woods fail to make the cut on a Friday (a scenario that has lately happened plenty of times by the way), oh well the PGA Tour goes on. The legendary John Force has missed qualifying for NHRA events before and drag racing has somehow found a way to survive. 

Then to make matters even worse there is the blatant bending of the rules to shift around owner points every January. 

To be fair to Stewart and Baldwin, they have not done anything “wrong” or that several other owners haven't executed in the last few years. Richard Petty, Richard Childress and Roger Penske are just a few of the names that massaged the rules to their advantage in order to lock in new entries in their stables. 

Just last season both Steven Wallace and even Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne were beneficiaries of their owners working out deals to get them into the biggest race of the year. 

However having the lightning rod Patrick involved this time around has certainly taken the practice to a much greater level of awareness. 

Quite frankly it doesn’t do much for Patrick in terms of trying to prove herself as a stock car driver when she literally gets handed a coveted spot at Daytona. In many eyes, she’s done nothing to earn the position except to work for a team owner who obviously has a creative business mind. 

Last week NASCAR took a major step forward by announcing it was outlawing “secret fines” and making all penalties toward drivers who made derogatory comments about the sport public. It was the right move and one that brings more transparency to a sport that sometimes desperately needs to show skeptical fans all is on the up and up. 

Now NASCAR needs to eradicate the Top 35 rule or at the very least enforce teams follow a "use ‘em or lose ‘em" policy the following season. No buying, selling, swapping or other game of smoke and mirrors allowed.

If not just save your money. Perhaps with a large enough checkbook even you can buy your way into starting the 2013 Daytona 500.

As is the case with Patrick, no experience is necessary.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed    

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Posted on: January 31, 2012 4:52 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 5:15 pm

Official: Danica in 500 on points acquisition

Posted by Pete Pistone

Danica Patrick will begin her Sprint Cup career with a guaranteed starting spot in the Daytona 500.

Thanks to a "collaborative partnership" between Stewart-Haas Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, Patrick gets a starting berth in next month's Daytona 500.

The No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet will now technically be fielded out of the TBR stable. TBR’s No. 36 car, which finished the 2011 season thirty-third in points, becomes the No. 10 for 2012.

For the 26 races where Patrick is not scheduled to drive, David Reutimann will pilot the No. 10 car. 

“Tommy Baldwin Racing has proven to be a very strong organization and it’s a good fit with Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Matt Borland, vice president of competition, SHR. “It’s a Chevrolet team led by a racer who knows every inch of a racecar. That kind of technical expertise, along with a company mindset that is similar to ours, provides the ideal environment for Danica to learn and succeed.”

TBR will field two cars in 2012 with Dave Blaney joining the No. 10 entry this coming season.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve established at Tommy Baldwin Racing, and the opportunity to partner with Stewart-Haas Racing and aid in the development of Danica Patrick is a testament to all the hard work we’ve put in over the years,” Baldwin said. “Danica will have a great teammate in Dave Blaney, who has been instrumental in getting our race team to where it is today. And with David Reutimann driving the No. 10 car in the races where Danica is not, the team will remain in a strong and competitive position throughout the year.”

Greg Zipadelli, who came to SHR this season to serve as the team's Director of Competition, will serve as Patrick's crew chief in her ten race schedule.

“Working with Tommy will be like old times,” Zipadelli said. “We both grew up together and competed against each other in Modifieds and we did the same thing when we got to Sprint Cup. To finally be able to work with each other and help Danica Patrick make a successful transition from Indy cars to stock cars is a challenge we’re both looking forward to.

“Partnering with Tommy and his team provides Danica with the foundation she needs to succeed. With a guaranteed starting spot, we can go into each weekend and simply learn. It’s all about getting her comfortable in the car, and with the variety of tracks she’s running, seat time will be incredibly valuable. A guaranteed spot in the race ensures that she’ll have the opportunity to make as many laps as possible.”

Patrick, who will also run a full Nationwide Series program for JR Motorsports in 2012, will run nine more Cup races in addition to Daytona this season.

“Our goal with Danica’s schedule is to try and maximize her 10 races so that she’s as prepared as she can possibly be for a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013,” said Tony Stewart, co-owner of SHR. “There are short tracks, intermediate 1.5-mile ovals, and some unique tracks like Darlington and Phoenix. The point is to expose her to as many challenges as possible so that she’ll know what to expect in 2013.”

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Posted on: January 30, 2012 4:25 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 5:16 pm

Report: Plan in works to lock Danica into 500

By Pete Pistone

Danica Patrick reportedly will have a guaranteed starting spot in next month's Daytona 500 thanks to Stewart-Haas Racing's acquiring points earned by Tommy Baldwin Racing last season.

Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio's "Sirius/XM Speedway" reports SHR has a deal lined up to acquire the points from TBR's Dave Blaney in 2011, which were inside the Top 35 and thus guarantees a starting position in the first five races of this season.

Patrick is scheduled to run approximately 10 Sprint Cup races this season, and TBR driver David Reutimann will run many of the events Patrick does not in the No. 10 entry. While Patrick will drive Stewart Haas cars purchased from Hendrick Motorsports in her 10 races, David Reutimann will steer Baldwin’s cars in his outings. 

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:04 pm

Danica Patrick ready for NASCAR only focus

By Pete Pistone

CHARLOTTE - She'll have a busy schedule ahead of her but Danica Patrick is concetrating solely on NASCAR this season.

Patrick has a full Nationwide Series season planned for JR Motorsports and a ten race Sprint Cup Series schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing.

That won't leave her any time to even consider running the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 and quite frankly she finds some comfort in the decision.

“It’s kind of a relief to just focus on NASCAR as I have a lot to learn and I’m going to need to focus completely on it,” Patrick said. "I know that I am going to have the whole season to do that, and that makes me feel good. And with more racing, there are going to be more expectations to do well, and I want to do that and the focus will help that.” 

Patrick admitted to trying to work out something to continue her participation at Indy Memorial Day weekend but the hectic pace of her NASCAR schedule was something she couldn't work around.

“Qualifying at Indy is the same weekend as the Iowa [Nationwide] race and I have had great moments with qualifying where it is over and done with very quickly and I’ve had dramatic weekends where it goes on until the very end," she said during Monday's opening day of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour. "Having that chance that it might go on until the very end would interfere with the Nationwide schedule, and I can’t have that.

“Just like when I raced IndyCar and did part-time NASCAR, it was all about making sure everything was good to go on the IndyCar side and nothing interfered. The same applies with the Nationwide Series and making sure I am there for every moment of it and as prepared as possible. That was definitely a concern – the schedule. And then beyond that, the deal business-wise didn’t work out.”

Her new Sprint Cup team boss Tony Stewart said he was in favor of Patrick trying to work out a deal to run Indy and that he in now way stood in her way.

However at the end of the day Stewart is pleased Patrick will be able to concentrate on NASCAR only this year.

“It was her decision. We didn’t tell her that she couldn’t run the 500, it was left up to her,” Stewart said. “But obviously she is running the Nationwide car full time and it’s a good weekend to get a lot of laps in the car.

“It shows how dedicated she is to making this transition.”

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