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.”
Ferrari has released a short video of the first fire-up of its new power unit for the 2016 Formula 1 season at Maranello in Italy.
Although there is nothing to suggest what the new car will look like thanks to some cannily-terrible camera work, it is nevertheless an interesting snippet ahead of the new season.
Ferrari is yet to confirm when it will launch its 2016 runner, but is likely to do so online in the days leading up to the first pre-season test in Barcelona on February 22.
There has been much speculation about the new car as Ferrari bids to overhaul Mercedes at the head of the field and secure its first championship in eight years.
Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to build on an impressive maiden campaign with Ferrari in 2015 that yielded three race wins, while Kimi Raikkonen remains keen to pick up more silverware in what may be his last season in F1.
Along with new Chevrolet aerodynamic components being tried out at the “it’s green in February and it’s never this green the later into the year we get” Sonoma Raceway, the other interesting storyline out of Wednesday’s six-car Verizon IndyCar Series test was that it marked Max Chilton’s testing debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 8 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chevrolet.
Chilton’s made the announcement, addressed the media and had his sponsor confirmed within the last week-plus.
But it was on Wednesday that the talking stopped and the driving restarted, for what was not only the 24-year-old Brit’s first time in an IndyCar but also his first time at Sonoma.
“It’s a bit of a shock today,” Chilton said, via a track-issued release. “I haven’t been in a racing car in six months and that was an Indy Lights car, so I’ve got to learn the track today and the car.
“But I think the morning went swimmingly well. I was quicker than I thought I would be. It’s a really nice kit and I can’t wait to explore it throughout the season.”
Here’s a few photos on social media, either ones he or the track shared, of his maiden day in an IndyCar.
Chilton’s next test comes later this week, still in California, at Auto Club Speedway for his first oval run in an IndyCar.
Chilton joined his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, for the test. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also tested on Wednesday.
Pabst Racing has added a third driver to its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda lineup, in the form of talented 19-year-old Australian driver Jordan Lloyd.
Lloyd raced the first two weekends of last year’s USF2000 season with John Cummiskey Racing before being sidelined due to financial woes, but he showed quite a bit of promise in those two weekends at St. Petersburg and NOLA Motorsports Park. He finished second in one of the NOLA races.
For 2016, Lloyd returns to the U.S. after winning the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 championship last year, and was thus awarded with the ‘Road to the World’ scholarship.
“I only touched the tip of the iceberg when I was here in 2015, so on a personal level there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be tended to,” Lloyd said in a team release. “I am looking forward to a strong season.”
Lloyd, who will drive the No. 21 car, joins the previously announced pairing of Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo at Pabst, the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based team, as the USF2000 field for 2016 continues to grow both in terms of size and talent.
Luca Ghiotto will step up to the GP2 Series with Trident in 2016 after an impressive season in GP3 last year that saw him finish second in the championship standings.
Ghiotto made his GP3 debut at the end of 2014 with a four-race run-out for Trident before remaining with the Italian team for 2015.
It proved to be a memorable year as he won five races – more than any other driver – but fell eight points short of the title as Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon was crowed champion in Abu Dhabi.
Ghiotto will remain with Trident for 2016, stepping up to its GP2 operation after a successful test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.
“I can’t wait to line-up for this new adventure,” Ghiotto said. “Last year, it was tough for me to fight so hard and not winning the title. However, it has been an extremely useful experience with the help of the excellent teamwork among the whole Trident stable.
“I want to thank once again Maurizio Salvadori and Giacomo Ricci for their support, and the Italian Federation for believing so much in me. I really look forward to be back on-track.”