Confident Patrick Ready for Daytona 500
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 23, 2013 | 9:27 A.M. EST
“I will do the best job I can. I believe I do have a chance to win. I do believe experience would help but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a chance to win." (Photo: Getty Images)
The week-long buzz Patrick’s pole-winning run has created for the race and NASCAR will come to a crescendo on Sunday afternoon. And Patrick sees no reason why she can’t finish writing the storybook tale by taking the checkered flag in “The Great American Race” despite her lack of experience in stock car racing’s top level.
“I know I’m inexperienced, I know that I’m a rookie out there,” Patrick said. “I will do the best job I can. I believe I do have a chance to win. I do believe experience would help but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a chance to win."
Patrick’s crew chief Tony Gibson agrees with his driver about the potential of making more history come Sunday.
“I have 100 percent confidence in her skills and her ability. I’ve seen it just in the two races we did last year,” said Gibson, who was paired up with Patrick at the tail end of 2012. “We were sitting there running 11th or 12th in Phoenix on the lead lap and running with guys I never dreamed we’d be running with. So, she’s got the talent and she’s got the ability and she’s already proven in the Nationwide Series, from what I’ve seen, on the speedway stuff she definitely gets the respect and people know she’s fast.”
While Gibson has done his best to focus on the matter at hand and the preparation of Patrick’s car, he’s also been swept up in her celebrity role. Gibson has seen Patrick make a major impact in a variety of ways this week since winning the pole but particularly the connection with young female fans.
"I will say this much. I have handed out more lugnuts to little girls at those little windows in the garage area than I have since I have been here,” Gibson said. “It’s pretty amazing to see the little kids and the girls especially walk up with their GoDaddy stuff on and their hats. All they want to do is get a glimpse and get a picture and be part of it.”
Patrick is proud of any inspiration she’s provided to aspiring future drivers no matter what the gender. However she says it’s still a mystery to her in some ways of why she’s able to connect to a younger generation.
“I think it’s an interesting thing though,” she said. “It’s very flattering and it’s a fortunate situation to find myself in. I enjoy being inspirational to these kids. I’d love to know why."
There’s no telling how much more Patrick’s popularity would grow with a win on Sunday. The buzz leading into the 500 has already been sky high. She may not be a favorite; in fact only nine drivers in the 54 year history of the race have gone on to win from the pole.
But Gibson has been around the sport enough to know with a strong car and talented driver anything can happen.
“I can remember Derrike Cope and nobody gave him a chance either, but I saw him in Victory Lane and I actually hung the body on that car so I know it can be done,” he said. “And I think she’s definitely got the support from her team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports that she can get it done.”