Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick react after their top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway.
Team communication, avoiding wrecks helped
Interim tag dropped from Knost; pair together for final three races of '14 MORE: Danica dons Mardi Gras mask " See who else in on the move in 2015 Daniel Knost will serve as crew chief for Danica Patrick in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. A spokesperson for her Stewart-Haas Racing team confirmed to NASCAR.com on Monday afternoon that the interim tag had been removed from Knost's title. Patrick , 32, completed her second full Sprint Cup season last year with three top-10 finishes and a final rank of 28th in the driver standings. She was paired with Tony Gibson for the bulk of her two seasons in the Stewart-Haas No. 10 Chevrolet until a late-season switch teamed her with Knost for the last three races of 2014. As part of her offseason travel, Patrick served as grand marshal of the parade ahead of Sunday's GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. During a break in the college football festivities, Patrick told the website AL.com that the potential for success with Knost has her anxious for what the new season may hold. "I think something new is both scary but also exciting. Until you go there you don't know how great it could be," Patrick told AL.com. "We worked together a little bit at the end of last season. I think that was a really good thing to do in preparation for 2015. Everybody at Stewart-Haas has been working very hard to make sure that every team is as good from top to bottom as possible, and we'll probably have some changes for next year within the team, but it's like I said, you never know what you can have until you dare to try something different. Daniel is a very smart guy and I'm excited to see what we can do." Knost, 36, began his first year as a crew chief in NASCAR's premier series working with Kurt Busch on the team's No. 41 Chevrolet. The pairing paid dividends early on with a regular-season victory at Martinsville Speedway that clinched a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff berth for Busch, but the two struggled to find consistency in Busch's first year with the team. Busch netted six top-five finishes in 2014, but was among the first four drivers eliminated in the new Chase format. Patrick showed signs of progress during Gibson's tenure with the No. 10 team as she twice bettered her career-bests during last season -- first with a seventh place at Kansas in May, then with a sixth-place run at Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. But consistency was again a precious commodity: Patrick finished on the lead lap in just 19 of the year's 36 races. Hoping to jump-start both teams, Greg Zipadelli -- Stewart-Haas Racing 's vice president of competition -- announced in October at Martinsville that for the year's final three races, Knost would pair with Patrick on an interim basis and that Gibson would work with Busch. Patrick closed out the season with finishes of 36th, 22nd and 18th; Busch posted results of eighth, seventh and 11th over the same span. With Monday's confirmation by the team, Patrick will enter her third full season at stock-car racing's highest level paired with Knost's deep background in engineering. Gibson, her former crew chief, will continue to bring his old-school sensibilities to Busch's efforts. "I think long-term it's the right thing," Zipadelli said last fall, after news of the switch was announced. "There might be a step back while they learn each other and they grow, but long-term -- a full year, two years from now -- I think their personalities between Daniel and Danica will work together much better, and I think at the same time, the same thing will happen on the 41 car." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver, sponsor 'Go Pink' to support breast cancer awareness RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Danica Patrick , at just a shade over 5 feet tall, was fidgety. Sitting on a couch overlooking the lobby of Stewart-Haas Racing , her feet failed to touch the ground. But there's no denying the big impact this diminutive driver has had on breast cancer awareness. In her sophomore season as a full-time Sprint Cup driver, Patrick and sponsor GoDaddy continued their "Go Pink" campaign in the fight against the disease. Patrick , as she did last season, competed in a pink No. 10 Chevrolet during the month of October. On a typically busy day, Patrick took time out between photo shoots to talk with "NASCAR Illustrated" about this year's program. NASCAR Illustrated: This has become a special initiative for you and GoDaddy. What are some of the highlights for 2014? Danica Patrick : Well, the same beautiful pink suit is back. I do love the rich pink color of it and what it signifies. If you go to GoDaddy.com/donate, you can donate $10 or more and you can put someone's name on my Martinsville car. To honor someone who's been affected or maybe not made it. It's a good way to donate and help the cause and be part of a NASCAR race. NI: Do you have any friends or family who've been affected by the disease? Patrick : I do. I have a friend who I grew up with who benefitted from the technology of being able to detect the breast cancer gene. She preventively had a double mastectomy in her mid-20s. For me, I'm grateful for everything that people have done for so long with donating and just making the general public so aware of this disease. NI: The pink color really pops and it's synonymous with this cause. How prominent is pink in your personal wardrobe? Is it a color you usually gravitate towards? Patrick : The pink and green go really good together. They're a nice color package. I probably stayed away from pink for a long time at least around racing anyway. It's pretty obvious I'm a girl. I don't need to slap pink on and make it even more obvious. It's kind of funny actually about putting this suit on and it being pink and saying I love it, how I steered away from making it so obvious I'm a girl. It just shows me how much I'm thinking about the cause as opposed to anything else, what it stands for to wear pink in October. I mean, if football players can go out there and wear pink on game day then so can I. NI: Do you get a different type of satisfaction from this compared to a typical sponsor relationship? Patrick : I see it as working with your partners to do more together and deepen that relationship by giving back together. For me, obviously, using the platform of racing and what I do and doing things like this to just having that pride that your sponsor is doing something to give back as well, giving up their whole car livery and color scheme to raise awareness for something else other than them. NI: It would seem one of the big perks of your job is being able to use your celebrity in an effort to help others. How gratifying is that for you on a personal level? Patrick : I feel like it's a responsibility maybe more than anything that so many people pay attention, that there are so many NASCAR fans and fans of mine, I'm very fortunate, and I feel like it's a pretty cool privilege to use that for other things. So I feel a responsibility to it. I feel it's part of the deal. I get so much from so many other people; it's a responsibility to give back. NI: You've done ride-alongs and met a lot of survivors. Has there been one story that's really resonated or is it more just a collective impact? Patrick : With breast cancer, it's just a vibe within the group. They're always in a great mood. They have such camaraderie, such optimism and they do really cool and empowering things along the way like go out and ride 130-140 mph in a car with me around a race track without a helmet on and just a seatbelt. They're doing things that I've been told in the past, that this is stuff that I'd have never done or been brave enough before breast cancer and now I am. It's just stuff to make them happy, smile and get together and have that sense of community around it because they're all going through the same hell, to be honest. There's a certain level of comfort for them to be around other people that are going through it and can share. NI: What's going to make this a successful campaign for you, how will you know you've made the impact you've wanted to? Is it numbers or feelings? Patrick : I've been involved in lots of different awareness campaigns and you don't see the fruits of your labor now, next year or the year after. It's stuff that just over time -- it's a movement. I don't think we're going to see the efforts that we've made in the very moment or right away in the immediate future. I think that's something that you see later on. Probably the most immediate stuff would be the funds raised to do more research and to learn more about the disease and to try and find a cure. But over time, 10 and 20 years later, what did that movement do to the general public and how much of an issue is the disease now? And we can't know that yet. Thanks 4 backing NBCF @GoDaddy Oct. drive 2 ‘Put the Brakes on Breast Cancer’ we raised $29K to add to the big check! pic.twitter.com/gYAH2BnZcs — Danica Racing Online (@danicaracing) October 31, 2014 SUBSCRIBE NOW!
With SHR and GoDaddy deals up, this is a big year for Patrick Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Moment MORE: Danica doubts she'll ever do the double Entering the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Danica Patrick is focused on the chance to build off the gains she felt she made last season. Even with that, there is plenty of other buzz around one of the sport's most popular drivers. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has a new crew chief as she enters her third season in NASCAR's top series. The third season is often the measuring stick for a driver with team and sponsorship deals often coinciding with that length. Coincidentally, Patrick's deals with Stewart-Haas and her primary sponsor, GoDaddy, are both up at the end of the year. For her part, Patrick does not desire a change. "Stewart-Haas is an amazing team, and I have no issues here," Patrick said during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "It's been the closest thing to family. "Obviously in the early days of wanting to run NASCAR, I've been lucky enough to have a great sponsor like GoDaddy and have the faith of the people around me that I could really name the team I wanted to drive for, and Tony and Gene made it happen, and GoDaddy made it happen. … I didn't even want to run anywhere else necessarily; I didn't pick to run anywhere else, and I still don't." RELATED: GoDaddy changes Danica , dog Super Bowl ad Patrick also dismissed any talk of driving a Formula One car. Stewart Haas-Racing co-owner Gene Haas is starting up an F1 team for the 2016 campaign. Haas sees great value in Patrick and would like to keep her in the fold. "We'd love to see Danica come back," Haas said. "She's a big draw, and we want to see Danica's success as much as anyone does. I think NASCAR wants to see her success. … We're very fortunate to have someone like Danica here." While her rookie season of 2013 brought a season-opening Coors Light Pole Award at the Daytona 500 , Patrick registered only one top-10 (an eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500 ), four top-15s and a 27th-place finish in the final point standings. Outside of the Daytona races, she never started in the top 12. That changed in 2014, when Patrick made several significant strides. She started in the top-12 seven times at a wide variety of tracks (ranging from restrictor plate venues to intermediates to short tracks and road courses). She scored three top-10 finishes, including a career-best sixth-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend. Her average starting position went from 30.1 in 2013 to 22.3 in 2014 and her average finishing position went from 26.1 in 2013 to 23.7 in 2014. And while the end result was a 28th-place finish in the final standings, her overall improvement was not unnoticed. "The results didn't show it, but she had speed at a lot of race tracks that she didn't have at the year before," said Tony Stewart , SHR co-owner, teammate and three-time champion. MORE SHR: For reigning champ Harvick, pressure is off " Stewart ready to win again Patrick considers the 2014 season a success, although she acknowledged that her final position in the standings wasn't reflective of how she felt she had run. "Progress is the standard," Patrick said when asked about measuring how she is doing in the sport's top series. "I don't think the championship standings really reflected what happened last year. There were many, many more times where I qualified in the top-12 or right there in the top-15 and that was a huge step in the right direction. ... Restarts were definitely much better, especially when we got the car a little bit dialed in. Overall speed in practice was much better. All I can do is look to those things that I want to improve on and see if they have." Now it is about taking that next step, where the speed is always there and those top-15s and top-20s become top-10s on a regular basis. And the key person in getting that progress out of the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet SS will be crew chief Daniel Knost. SHR made a crew chief swap for the final three races of 2014 with Tony Gibson moving over to Kurt Busch 's No. 41 team, while Knost came over to the No. 10 team with the interim tag. In their three races together, Patrick averaged a finish of 25.3, with her best result an 18th-place finish in the season-finale at Homestead. The interim tag was removed from Knost's title this offseason. Like all new pairings, hitting the ground running is easier said than done and Patrick is not blind to that fact. "I'm sure there will be a little bit of a learning curve but I think we can overcome that sooner than later," Patrick said. Patrick added that Knost's background as an engineer is something she is used to and she welcomes the new perspective that comes with a new pit boss. RELATED: Patrick's crew chief for 2015 revealed Greg Zipadelli, a former championship-winning crew chief with Stewart and the Vice President of Competition at SHR, liked what he saw from the pairing at the end of 2014 and said it was important to keep continuity within the SHR organization for Patrick . "It just seemed like they were working better together," Zipadelli said. "We didn't want to bring somebody from the outside, that didn't know our program, didn't know our tools. We didn't feel like that was going to be beneficial to her." Only time will tell if the pairing is the right fit. Eighty-two races into her Sprint Cup Series career, Patrick has yet to record a top-five finish or a win. Could a trip to Victory Lane be in the offing in 2015? "I can't guarantee anything," Patrick said. "... I have all the confidence that I need to do it. I definitely believe and know I can win." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Stewart-Haas Racing driver rallies from late wreck to make Daytona 500 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Daytona 500 starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the second time this week, Danica Patrick wound up with a wrecked race car and on both occasions fellow driver Denny Hamlin was seen as the culprit. And Patrick , driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet, wasn’t happy. MORE: @nascarcasm's take on incident Barely one day after an incident with Hamlin during practice had sent her bouncing off the wall, Patrick was once again going for an unintentional spin at Daytona International Speedway. This time it was in the second of two Budweiser Duel qualifying races. This time it was for keeps. A bad finish and Patrick's Daytona 500 hopes could have vanished. Although she rallied to finish 10th thanks to a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race four laps beyond it's scheduled 60-lap distance, Patrick wasted no time in finding Hamlin after the race. Moments after pulling onto pit road, she climbed from her damaged car and quickly headed for Hamlin’s stopped entry. Hamlin met her halfway, no doubt anticipating a confrontation. MORE: Underdogs make way into Daytona 500 field When Patrick reached up and grasped Hamlin's fire suit with both hands, Hamlin likely realized his expectations had been correct. "You did the same thing," Patrick said, referring to the Wednesday incident. "Tighten what up? Nobody else left me with a problem out there." "Nobody has your back like I have it," Hamlin said. "Stop. Listen to me. But I can’t give you an extra two feet because it’s you." "You give me nothing. You give me nothing. It spun my back end around!" countered Patrick . Hamlin: "I understand. It’s because you’re loose. It’s not my problem if you’re loose." Patrick : "Nobody else did it to me." Hamlin: "Then nobody else is getting close to you. We have to get close to you. To get you going forward, we have to get close to you. I know it got you loose." Patrick : "You spun me out. Just like in practice. When I looked in my rearview mirror and you were right here. You weren’t here; you were here." Hamlin: "Absolutely. You were loose entering the corners …" Patrick : “Because you … Denny. It happened twice. The same person, the same way.” Hamlin: "But guess what. I didn’t hit you either time." Patrick : "Well then apparently you don’t have to actually hit me. I like you Denny, you’re my friend." Hamlin: "Does it mean like, 'oh my god, she's loose. I can't run next to her?' What should I do?" Patrick : "It just means don't be up my ass on my left corner … you did it on the straightaway and then you did it in the corner that time. Both times exact same results." Hamlin: "I won't get close to you. I understand now." Patrick : "You can get close; I'm sure everybody gets close. But you don't need to turn me. That's what it did." Denny: "I know it did. I totally get it, but it's something they have to work on." At that point, Tony Stewart, co-owner of SHR, arrives and chides Hamlin. "Tony, I never touched her," Hamlin said. "I never touched her. What do you want me to do? Not run close?" "You watch the video," Stewart said. And with that, the party broke up. Patrick had managed to secure her spot in Sunday's Daytona 500. Because of the severity of damage in Thursday's crash, Patrick will be back behind the wheel of the car she drove to a 10th-place finish last Saturday's Sprint Unlimited for the remainder of the week. She’ll line up 20th for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Hamlin will start 42nd. PHOTOS: Best images from the Daytona Duels MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Patrick suffers minor damage from contact Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Complete Sprint Unlimited results Danica Patrick's car was dinged from some three-wide racing with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon in the Sprint Unlimited, but Stenhouse and Dillon took the brunt of the damage. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race The incident on Lap 62 brought Patrick to pit road quickly, and she would lose a lap. She had spent some of the race running in the top five but had to make multiple pit stops to repair the damage. Stenhouse Jr. smacked the wall, while Dillon went for a spin after the two made contact. Both Stenhouse Jr. and Dillon's car suffered enough damage to put them several laps down. Patrick would go on to finish the race in 10th place, while Stenhouse Jr. and Dillon would finish 16th and 17th, respectively, 14 laps down. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Patrick : 'Just having the intended (SHR) group together is good...'
Chase contender had run-in with Stewart-Haas Racing driver at Charlotte RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano said he isn't expecting any retaliation this weekend from Danica Patrick after the two were involved in an on-track accident at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago. The series moves to Martinsville Speedway , the shortest venue on the schedule and a site where drivers have often settled scores when they feel they have been wronged during the season. "We've actually talked about it since then and I feel like we’ve come to a good conclusion of what happened there," Logano said Tuesday during the Eliminator Round Media Day for the eight remaining drivers in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "That's in the past; that's in the mirror and we'll move forward." Patrick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) had restarted 10th in the Bank of America 500 at CMS following the fifth caution of the race. A few laps later, the yellow was out again after the two made contact, sending Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet into the wall. After telling her crew she'd "just love to go out and take him out," Patrick acknowledged that retaliation at that point was worthless since Logano was already guaranteed to advance to the next round of the Chase thanks to his win at Kansas, the week before. Patrick eventually finished 26th, three laps down to race winner, and teammate, Kevin Harvick . Logano placed fourth. "It was a racing deal," Logano said of the incident. "She got cleared, I agree, (I) saw it happen; I was right there on the edge of it. It was one of those points I think we were both being very aggressive. She was going to try to take the spot and come down across me and I probably should have (given) at that point and I didn't. I drove into the corner wanting the spot, too. When two people want the same thing, sometimes it doesn't work. "I told her really in all honesty I probably should have backed out in that situation. We're moving on from there." Patrick is in her second full season of Sprint Cup competition and enters Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (ESPN, 1:30 p.m. ET) 27th in the points standings. Logano, in his second year driving the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, has five victories this season, including two in the Chase. He is one eight drivers looking to advance out of the Eliminator Round and move on to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Championship Round, where four drivers will compete for this year's title. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Danica Patrick reacts to Denny Hamlin's explanation of their incident late in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona International Speedway.