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.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski