NASCAR's new poster girl Danica Patrick announced herself “comfortable” in a Cup car, after participating in her first NASCAR Sprint Cup test at the Daytona International Speedway last week. Patrick, who will dovetail her full-time Nationwide Series campaign for JR Motorsports with a part time schedule in Cup for the Stewart–Haas team following her switch from Indycar, impressed crew chief Greg Zipadelli with the ease with which she got on with the job.
“She did a lot better job than I thought,” Zipadelli said following the Saturday running.
“I didn’t want to put any expectations on her coming down here. So I was very relaxed and just kind of stepped back with a game plan and we worked through our things. She responded very well, very good feedback [and] did a really good job in the draft, which was great.”
Patrick likened the experience to her first day at school, and was pleased to progress unscathed when the likes of Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. came unstuck.
“Just like going to the first day of school, you want to make a good impression, you want to do a good job,” she said.
“And probably missing pit-in on pit road and having to back up is probably not what you want to do at school. I didn’t want to trip like that. But it’s probably not that big of a deal. It’s finding your way around, finding my locker, literally. There’s no combination for it, of course, but it is a locker that I needed to find, getting in sync with that. … [It’s] just getting familiar with all the little things and getting comfortable and setting everything up, so when I hop in throughout the year it’s simple and straightforward.”
Patrick pledged to adopt a “honey badger” attitude to racing, and refuses to be intimidated by anyone.
“The honey badger, he doesn’t give a crap; he takes what he wants,” Patrick said. “And that’s how I’m going to be this year, like a honey badgerâ€¦ he eats poisonous snakes, and he falls asleep and wakes right back up.”
The next stop on Patrick's 10-race Cup calendar will be a visit to the fearsome 'the Lady in Black' – Darlington Speedway – before trips to the Monster Mile of Dover and Thunder Valley in Bristol. Unsurprisingly therefore, Patrick is relieved that she can get to grips with the nuances of the Cup car around the 2.5 mile speed bowl before getting to the more technical circuits on the tour.
“I’m really kind of glad that the first time that I’m in a Cup car is here at Daytona,” Patrick said. “I can get the fit right and get all the little things right so that when we go to a track that’s a little more challenging from a driver’s perspective, that stuff is all good to go, and there’s no concern or no distraction. Overall, I’m feeling comfortable, as comfortable as I could imagine myself in this situation.”