Danica Patrick looks forward to when she can be ‘stressed out’ in the Chase for the Sprint Cup

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Like many of her fellow NASCAR drivers, Danica Patrick didn’t really know what to expect when the revised Chase for the Sprint Cup format was announced a year ago.

But as the 2014 season played out, particularly during the 10-race Chase, Patrick became a big fan of the format.

She especially loved the excitement, drama and the stress that the Chase drivers felt and went through during the four elimination rounds before a champ was crowned – which just happened to be Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick.

Appearing on Comcast SportsNet Chicago on Tuesday in a national video promotional tour for new sponsor TaxAct, Patrick would love to feel that Chase excitement, drama and stress herself.

“Hopefully I find myself in a position some day where I’m in that Chase format and I’m the one stressed out,” said Patrick, who grew up about 100 miles northwest of Chicago in tiny Roscoe, Illinois.

Patrick also is looking forward to the 2015 season with new crew chief Daniel Knost. The pair spent the last three races of last season together and has developed a synergy that should work well in the upcoming season.

Patrick especially likes that Knost, who spent the first 33 races of the 2014 Sprint Cup season as Kurt Busch’s crew chief, has an engineering background.

“I’m used to that from IndyCar,” Patrick told host David Kaplan. “The titles are different from IndyCar to NASCAR. … To have a crew chief that’s basically an engineer is much more of where I came from. … I think the sport is definitely getting more and more complicated.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for us and we’re going to have some learning to do with each other and how to work together best and get the most out of each other and the car, but I think there’s a real potential for us to have great finishes (in 2015).”

TaxAct will sponsor Patrick’s No. 10 SHR Chevrolet during the preseason Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, as well as the spring race at Martinsville Speedway.

TaxAct will also be a secondary sponsor for Patrick’s effort in the season-opening Daytona 500 in a little over a month. To promote the new sponsorship, TaxAct is also sponsoring a contest where two lucky fans will be able to hang out with Danica at DIS during 500 weekend.

“Come see me, hang out with me and have an all-expense paid weekend,” Patrick said.

Fans can enter the contest by clicking here or going to TaxAct.com/Danica

By the way, you have to give Kaplan some points. When he told Patrick, who is now 32, that she still looks 24, she responded with a smile, a slight blush and a pumped fist.

“Awwww, thank you very much,” Patrick said.

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New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500