Despite a successful Daytona 500, Danica Patrick remains focused on a steady build-up to becoming an everyday contender in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Patrick became the first female to lead “The Great American Race” and was a threat for the win before having to settle for an eighth-place finish. But the Stewart-Haas Racing rookie knows that she still has a lot to learn before she can run in the lead pack on a consistent basis.
“I think that would be unwise to sort of start telling myself that Top 10 is where we need to be every week,” she said last Sunday at Daytona. “I think that’s setting up for failure. The list of drivers in the Cup series is deep. Daytona is a unique track. These tracks are different and unique — a lot about the car. I mean, you have to be smart enough to do the right thing at the right time. But it’s very much about the car.
“I feel like I’m still sticking to ‘Let’s see how these first five races go where we go to a bunch of different kinds of tracks, see where we settle in.’ Then start to establish goals from there on out.”
Patrick certainly made headlines last weekend in the ‘500’ with her great drive. But she must prove that she can remain competitive across the short and intermediate (1.5 to 2-mile) tracks that make up the bulk of the Sprint Cup schedule.
She can get started on that this weekend at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, where she has experience dating back to her IndyCar days. However, the majority of her experience at PIR is in stock cars; she has five career Nationwide Series starts at the “Desert Jewel” (best finish of 10th) and finished 17th in her first Cup run there last fall.
In the meantime, Patrick is sticking with her game plan and also looking to add on the foundation of her efforts in 2012.
“The only thing we can go off of is at the end of last year and running solid inside that Top 20, hopefully get inside that Top 15,” she said.
“That’s really all I can think right now…It might change after five races. It might be better. Who knows? It might be worse. We’re going to kind of pick up where we left off.”
Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.
Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.
However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.
Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.
This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.
“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.
“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.
“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.
“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”
Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.
In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.
Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.
“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.
“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”
Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.