Danica Patrick: 2014 was a success to build upon for ’15

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While she finished 28th in the Sprint Cup standings, one spot lower than she did in her rookie season in 2013, Danica Patrick considers her sophomore season in 2014 a success of sorts.

During Tuesday’s appearance on the annual NASCAR Media Tour, Patrick slightly bristled when a reporter said 2014 was a sub-par season for both her and teammate Kurt Busch.

“I think sub-par is a matter of opinion,” Patrick said. “I think in my second year in the Cup series, there were certain things I wanted to work on and things we wanted to work on as a group.

“I feel there was drastic improvement. Although the overall championship position didn’t really show that, there was a lot of improvements in areas we wanted to. So, I consider that a success.”

Despite sliding in the rankings, Patrick improved her average finish (22.3 from 30.1) and finish (23.7 from 26.1) and also placed a career-best sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September (after a seventh at Kansas Speedway in May).

Patrick had been mentored the past two Sprint Cup seasons by veteran crew chief Tony Gibson.

But in a swap with three races remaining last season, Gibson became Busch’s crew chief, and Daniel Knost, Busch’s first-year crew chief, was switched to oversee Patrick’s team and crew.

Patrick didn’t finish higher than 18th in the final three races with Knost, whose interim tag was removed after the season.

“Moving forward with Daniel brings up new possibilities,” Patrick said. “With a new person, there’s new perspectives and new ways of getting things done. We’re going to be working hard to put all of our best ideas together and stay positive and make our goals happen.”

And while Gibson was moved to Busch’s Chevrolet, he’s still available for advice if Patrick needs him. But Patrick believes she and Knost can build as strong a bond as she had with Gibson.

“It’ll be kind of picking up where I left off with Tony Gibson and his guys that taught me so much,” Patrick said. “They really helped me get much further to the front, qualifying much better and running much better.

“I’m sure there’ll be a little bit of a learning curve (with Knost), but I think we can overcome that sooner rather than later. … I’m really excited because of what was happening last year and the improvements made. And also to develop better relationships, obviously, with a new crew chief and a new group.

“We need to get to know each other sooner than later, so I’ll be putting a lot of hard work into getting our communications going as quickly as possible.”

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?