Patrick Home at Stewart-Haas
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 14, 2013 | 11:57 A.M. EST
“I just think we started off on a really good foot, especially with the way the testing went with the car responding so well to changes." (Photo: Getty Images)
Danica Patrick kicked off her full-time Sprint Cup career with Stewart-Haas Racing during Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Patrick is ready to make a run at Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and although it’s early in her transition to SHR, she’s feeling good about how things have started.
“A lot of things can change when we come back down here for the race,” said Patrick, who turned a top speed of 192.934 mph during the test. “The guys feel really confident, the guys feel really good what we’re also bringing back for the race.
“I just think we started off on a really good foot, especially with the way the testing went with the car responding so well to changes.”
Patrick ran 10 Cup races for SHR last season and appreciates what that experience did for her learning process. She enters her first full-time campaign in NASCAR’s top division with crew chief Tony Gibson calling the shots and understands the importance of creating a chemistry inside the entire race team.
“It’s important to have good energy together, understand each other well and work well together,” she said. “I feel like the switch over to Tony Gibson and his team at the end of last season for the last two races was a really good change. I feel like I really saw some potential in having a good year this year. There will undoubtedly be really tough days. I know the areas that we need to work on.
“I think that having that good run at the end of Phoenix there to go for a top-12 finish was a pretty good day. I think we are all really confident going into this year. We just have to be optimistic, keep our heads down and stay positive when it gets tough.”
For the most part Patrick will focus almost entirely on the Sprint Cup effort and the No. 10 Chevrolet. Although there may be a limited schedule of Nationwide Series races for Turner Scott Morosports, Patrick will have the bulk of her time dedicated to Cup. That includes taking a pass on trying to run this year’s Indianapolis 500.
“I can confirm that I will not be doing the Indy 500,” Patrick said during last week’s Daytona test. “I am just going to do the Coke 600. The team and I decided to focus on Cup. It’s going to be plenty of work as it is. It’s going to be important for me running for the championship full-time for the first time to really keep myself focused with the Cup car.”
Despite her enthusiasm after the Daytona test and the confidence of ending last year on an upswing, both in her Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series performances, Patrick is doing her best to keep realistic expectations. Although she believes the opportunity for improvement is in place, Patrick also knows how much of a challenge still lies ahead.
“It’s great to go into the season and think ‘gosh we left off so well’ and we should run top-10 or 15 now every weekend, we are going to do that,” she said. “But I think that it is going to be tough to do that every weekend given my first year. I think everybody has got the right attitude. Everybody is excited.”