2011-12-15 / Sports

Patrick Plans To Be “Aggressive”

By Gerald Hodges
THE RACING REPORTER


Danica Patrick Danica Patrick In a recent interview on ESPN, Danica Patrick said she is an “aggressive” driver. But other statements by her make me question the sincerity of her motives.

“NASCAR reminds me of growing up racing go-karts and how much I loved it,” she said. “The fact that stock cars have bumpers invigorates the rougher side of me that’s been tempered by the inability in open-wheel racing to touch anyone. To be able to go out on the track and stake your place excites me. The crazy thing is that I didn’t even drive a stock car until I’d already signed a two-year deal to run a partial Nationwide schedule. I had friends in NASCAR who knew my driving style and thought I’d fit in there. So I took a huge leap of faith.”

“When I was a kid, I was one of the most aggressive drivers out there. I’d go from 30th to winning a heat race in eight laps because I’d come up behind someone and bump him entering the corner. You don’t have to make contact to be aggressive, but when you make a move, you stick it. You take the car to the limit. It’s about confidence but respect at the same time. I race everyone fair. If they’re not fair back to me, well, then I know where it’s going.”

Patrick’s long-awaited debut in the Sprint Cup Series will come in the 2012 seasonopening Daytona 500.

She will race a No. 10 Sprint Cup Chevrolet, bearing the number she first used in karting, during Daytona’s Speedweeks, where she currently will need to qualify on time. Her schedule will also include events at Darlington, Bristol, Atlanta, Chicagoland, Dover, Texas and Patrick’s home of Phoenix.

Her home is currently in Scottsdale, Ariz., near Phoenix. She has no plans to relocate, even considering she’ll have 43 stock car races on her docket next year.

“I go to the shops when I need to go, and I’ll go when they install a new seat in the car and get to be friends with everybody,” Patrick continued. “But let’s face it; we’re going to spend 33 weekends together in Nationwide and eight to 10 weekends in Cup together – so we spend a lot of time together.”

“I’m always available by phone and if they need me to fly to Charlotte that’s exactly what I’ll do. But I don’t feel the need to setup shop near Charlotte – I don’t get that many days off smiling so to be honest I probably wouldn’t be at the shop that many days.”

Which leads me to believe Patrick might not be as serious as she lets on about her racing.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. hardly ever came to the race shop during the week, but he knew his stuff.

Patrick has yet to start a Cup race.

Her statement about not moving to the Charlotte area might be a signal that she is more interested in being able to stay home and market herself than race. Go Daddy, her sponsor, is located in Arizona, which means she will be available for weekly publicity shoots and stunts.

It seems to me anyone just getting into Cup racing would want to learn more about the sport by associating with other drivers away from the track, in addition to establishing a comraderie, which would help her during a race.

Apparently Patrick has other plans. Her schedule doesn’t appear to be that of a serious Cup racer.

Will her role be a sexy, laid-back, dominating female constantly appearing on television as a wannabee racing star, or will she be a real hands on, in-your-face type racer?

For the fans sake and her own integrity, I hope she doesn’t disappoint.

Darian Grubb, who guided Tony Stewart to the 2011 Sprint Cup Series title, will become crew chief for Denny

Hamlin nearly won the 2010 title, losing the championship lead in the final race, but in 2011 he went from an eight-win season to a onewin season where he finished ninth in the final standings.

That led to the hiring of the 36-year-old Grubb, who was offered a position in the Hendrick Motorsports engineering department. But Grubb still wanted to crew chief after spending the last three years with Tony Stewart.

“I’m thrilled to join Joe Gibbs Racing,” Grubb said. “The chance to work with Denny is something I’m excited about. When you sit down with owner Joe and team president J.D. Gibbs, you can’t help but be excited about this opportunity and the team aspects of JGR.

“There is no question about the level of support you get here, and I’m looking forward to working with everyone across the entire organization.”

Grubb said he does not plan to bring anyone from SHR with him to JGR, and he hopes to attend a track test with Hamlin soon so they can get acclimated to each other before the January test at Daytona.

While the crew chief situation is settled for Hamlin, JGR still has to make a decision whether to keep crew chief Greg Zipadelli with Joey Logano after a year where they struggled to 24th in the standings.

Zipadelli has been rumored as a candidate to rejoin good friend Stewart as his competition director.

“We put a good bit of effort into making sure we made Darian feel like this could be a great fit for him,” Gibbs said. “That’s all we’re really focused on right now. I’m sure we’ll have other discussions with Zipadelli in the future, which we do every year.”

Racing trivia question: What year did Johnny Benson win the Nationwide Series title?

Last week’s question: Mark Martin has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. How many times has he finished as runner up? Answer. Four times (1990, ’94, ’98, 2002).

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