Danica Patrick says she’s “open-minded” about crew chief swap

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Danica Patrick feels she has made some noticeable progress during the second half of this Sprint Cup season.

But with Stewart-Haas Racing still looking for better race results out of her, they’ve decided to switch crew chiefs between herself and teammate Kurt Busch.

Starting next weekend at Texas, Busch’s old CC, Daniel Knost, will serve the same role for Patrick in an “interim” basis for the rest of 2014 while Busch will be paired with Patrick’s old CC, Tony Gibson, for 2015.

The decision seems odd considering Patrick’s improvements in her race craft. But today at Martinsville, she said that she was intrigued to see how she’ll work with Knost, who carries more of an engineering-based feel as a CC that might be more suited to her background.

The two have previously worked together back when Patrick ran a limited Cup schedule in 2012, with Knost as her race engineer in that stretch.

“Really nice guy, very smart, and he’s definitely like the kind of engineers – in fact, in IndyCar, it was called an engineer instead of a crew chief – that I was used to dealing with,” she said. “We’ve gotten along anyway whether he’s been on my car or not. I’m definitely open-minded and looking forward to the opportunity to see how it will go with him.”

“I just think that [the approach] is something that I’m used to…I don’t think it has to be that way, but everybody’s looking for some magic and a relationship that takes you to the next level. Maybe getting back to something – actually, just having something I haven’t really had in NASCAR yet, I’ve had more old-school crew chiefs – maybe it’ll be something that will work better.”

With Knost currently listed as an interim that could become Patrick’s permanent crew chief for 2015, she’s hoping that their camaraderie in the shop will also mean that they’ll get along on the track.

“I think we click and the things that are felt in the race car and then conveyed over the radio and the changes that are made in relationship to that – if that takes a fast course in a good direction and we seem to click well and make progress throughout the weekend, then I think that will be a really positive sign,” Patrick said about what she’d like to see working with Knost.

Of course, SHR would like to see Patrick up front more often at the finish.

“She’s made a ton of progress,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said today at Martinsville. “Her speed on the racetrack, her qualifying is better, but her race finishes aren’t. And at the end of the day, that’s really what counts. So how do we help and encourage that?”

Also, Zipadelli hopes the changes will spark better results from Busch, who won this spring at Martinsville to make the Chase but was eliminated in the opening Challenger Round. In between, Busch often had sub-par performances during the summer months.

“We just can’t wait another year for that (relationship with Knost) to continue to grow,” Zipadelli said about the No. 41 team. “It’s as simple as that.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III