Danica Patrick has no illusions that one top-10 finish will fix her struggles in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Considering she’s still in the early stages of forging a relationship with a new crew chief, it’s certainly a positive.
Patrick finished seventh in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, her first top-10 of the season and fifth of her career. She is in her third full-time season in the Cup series, driving the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Patrick, in the final year of her contract with SHR and sponsor GoDaddy, began the season with a new crew chief, Daniel Knost, although the two did have the opportunity to work together for three races at the end of last season.
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Patrick spoke at length after Sunday’s race about her performance so far this season and what’s ahead.
Q. How did you feel your race went Sunday?
A. First time here I was two laps down and finished 11th. Well, we got a lap down, we got it back luckily, and we moved forward from there, and we made a couple of good changes in the middle of the race that really made the difference.
I’m proud of everyone for not giving up and for keeping their head in the game, and the pit crew did a good job. They were frustrated last weekend after making a mistake on the last stop, and it’s team effort, you know. I’m going to make mistakes at the very end, too.
Q. What do you feel this finish says about the communication between you and Daniel, the fact that you were able to get a car better during a race?
A. I’d said after the race that I’m really proud that we got it better instead of what has been happening most of the races, which is we start really good, find ourselves somewhere in the top 15 for sure, and then all of a sudden we make a change on a stop and we go slower, and then we make a change and go slower. I think this is a step in the right direction of a better trend of our communication and what we’re doing, and we still learned out there.
Q. How would you characterize your relationship with Daniel overall? Do you guys feel like you’re trending in the right direction?
A. Yes. I feel like we have a very good business relationship. We laugh and hang out and make jokes, and yet I feel like it’s very matter of fact, the things that are going right and wrong when we go through our weekend. I feel like there’s not a lot of emotion or nobody feels like it’s personal as we go. It’s really just about making it better.
Q. We’ve seen Kevin (Harvick) run well, we saw Kurt (Busch) run well, Tony (Stewart) was running well, you ran well. What does this say for the entire Stewart-Haas organization?
A. I’ve been driving for a good team the whole time. The car has to be good or I can’t go fast, and the first half of the race was a perfect example of that. When the car is right you can go fast, but if the driver is making mistakes and not doing a good job and crashing or getting off line, that also won’t help you have a good result. And then overall, we can’t do well, I can’t do well if the team doesn’t provide the people and the equipment that I need to perform.
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter