With Tony Stewart’s recovery from a broken leg and the additions of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick has wound up being a somewhat forgotten figure at Stewart-Haas Racing.
But as SHR expands to a four-car operation for the upcoming Sprint Cup campaign, Patrick believes that there is a “new energy” at the team that can help her shake off what was a tough rookie season.
However, she also knows that her No. 10 team has its work cut out for them, too.
“We’re gonna be better because I have more experience, and more experience together as a team,” Patrick said when asked about what will make the No. 10 better in 2014. “Because we have more resources, more people. Because we have a new energy, because we’re going to use our resources better as a team – I think those are all reasons why we’re gonna do better.
“Beyond that, it’s going to be hard work. It’s not like you can just say, ‘Well, we have all of these things going for us so it’ll 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.”
After finishing eighth at the Daytona 500 to open last season, Patrick was unable to claim another Top-10 finish the rest of the way and wound up 27th in the Sprint Cup standings.
Going into 2014, she sees several areas that she and her team can improve upon, from her qualifying efforts to fine-tuning what she called the “tiny little things” on her car to gain better balance and set-ups.
“The core focus is preparing better cars, bringing as good a car to the track as possible,” Patrick said. “That comes through using resources and being able to build them more similar to each other as they come out of production, so that we can keep up with the cars and we’re all driving the same thing.”
As she continues to grow as a stock car driver, Patrick is also continuing to manage her expectations. Before visiting with the media, her boss, Stewart, mentioned that he’d be disappointed “if all three of us don’t make the Chase” – the “three” referring to himself, Harvick and Busch.
However, he also noted that Patrick has the potential to one day become a regular contender for wins. Patrick herself admitted she’s not at that point yet but that she is grateful to learn from such a strong group of teammates in the meantime.
“What you’re always going to get from all of us [at SHR] is honesty and that’s the truth – I’m not there yet,” she said in reference to Stewart’s comments. “I’m not in position to win every weekend, and that’s gonna take some time.
“[But] I’m in a fortunate position that I have three teammates that can win every weekend and make it into the Chase. That’s incredible for me to learn from those [drivers], and that they’re very strong characters that are going to push the team in the right direction and teach me how to do that.”