Patrick Faces Room for Improvement

Danica Patrick

"We're going to be better because I have more experience, because we have more experiences together as a team, because we have more resources and more people, because we have a new energy, because we're going to use our resources better as a team." (Photo: Getty Images)

Danica Patrick knows there’s room for improvement as she embarks on her sophomore season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

While Patrick’s rookie campaign got off to a spectacular start when she became the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole and went on to content for a win in “The Great American Race,” the rest of the season was a struggle.

Patrick heard from her critics during her frustrations, as has been the case since she burst onto the national racing scene. She eventually wound up 27th in the final point standings and as Patrick enters 2014 is ready to progress both her career and performance.

“I think that we all have the same goal, so it's all healthy criticism,” Patrick said. “I always want it. I want to know what to do to be better. And I do think that the pressure builds more and more each year because there's less and less excuses.”

Patrick returns to a revamped Stewart-Haas Racing team that includes new teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. She feels the new energy inside the organization will be beneficial to better on track performance.

“I feel like we have a lot of really cool stuff going on at the team and a lot of really interesting changes and new drivers and new personnel, and I think that -- I don't know if anybody is as excited as Kevin Harvick is right now,” Patrick said. “He seems just super excited. But everybody is really looking forward to the year, and I think we all feel a lot of opportunity ahead of us.”

“I'm always pushing hard. I mean, I can't push harder. But you can find new ways and areas to do it. I'm all for that.”

Patrick believes despite not fulfilling some of the promise many had for her she can build on last year’s effort simply from the time she spent behind the wheel and working with the entire No. 10 team.

“Well, we're going to be better because I have more experience, because we have more experiences together as a team, because we have more resources and more people, because we have a new energy, because we're going to use our resources better as a team,” she said. “I think those are all reasons why we're going to do better.

“And beyond that it's going to be hard work, too. It's not like you can just say, well, we have all these things going for us so everything will be easier. You still have to put the effort in, and it's who pushes hardest and who works hardest that tends to get the better results.”

Work has gone into trying to get better this off-season with last week’s Daytona Preseason Thunder Test at Daytona. The SHR team will also spend time at Nashville Superspeedway in the coming days dialing in the new intermediate track rules for the season.

Patrick has also found time for some away from the Sprint Cup program world with a Coca-Cola commercial shoot as well as spending time watching Ricky Stenhouse Jr. compete in this week’s Chili Bowl.

But the most important focus is finding a way to better finishes and more consistent performances.

“I'm not there yet. I'm not in a position to win every weekend,” Patrick admitted. “That's going to take some time. I'm in a fortunate position that I have three teammates that can win every weekend and make it to the Chase. That's incredible for me to be able to learn from those. And very strong characters that are going to really help the team go in the right direction and teach me how to do that.

“So I just feel very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in, and I hope somewhere down the road sooner rather than later he can say four of us. But I mean, I'm prepared if we start the year off and it goes like that, but I think that realistic expectations say that's not where I'm at.”

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