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.”