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Danica Patrick’s goal for 2017 is simple: ‘Be my best’

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The question was posed to several drivers who walked into the room.

In 2017, I want to …

They said “win another championship” or “win more races” or some variation of those.

One response, though, was different. It was more open-ended.

“In 2017 I want to … be my best.’’

The speaker was Danica Patrick.

“I just want to be my best,’’ she told NBC Sports in a recent interview. “I want to know that I’ve left no stone unturned, know that I have made minimal mistakes in the races, that I dug deep and stepped outside my comfort zone to go faster and do better.

“Do my best. That’s all that I can do.’’

She enters her fifth full-time season of Cup after a frustrating campaign. She finished no better than 11th in any of the 36 points races last season. She has gone 64 Cup races since her last top-10 finish, a ninth-place result at Bristol in April 2015.

Patrick struggled as all three of her teammates each won at least a race last year. Kevin Harvick won four races, Kurt Busch one and Tony Stewart one.

She conceded during the NASCAR on NBC Podcast with Nate Ryan in November her frustrations.

“It’s just not much fun,’’ Patrick said on the podcast. “Running in the top 15 every weekend would be so much more fun.

“It breaks my heart every Sunday when it doesn’t go well.’’

The offseason also has had its ups and downs. She appeared at last week’s NASCAR Media Tour in her TaxAct uniform instead of a Nature’s Bakery uniform, raising questions about the company’s primary sponsorship. The company was slated to be the primary sponsor for more than 20 races this year.

Stewart-Haas Racing stated that it and Nature’s Bakery were in “discussions about how the sponsorship might look in 2017. Both sides have options, and it’s a matter of determining what is best for both parties.’’

Nature’s Bakery website, though, does not feature Patrick, and a press release on the company’s sponsorship of Patrick’s team from Aug. 2015 no longer is on the site. The TaxAct uniform Patrick wore on the NASCAR Media Tour did not include a Nature’s Bakery patch.

Patrick can’t control that situation. Her focus is on the track.

Patrick said she’s spent additional time with crew chief Billy Scott to discuss how they can improve her performance.

“What are we going to do to get the result that we want because if you want the same thing that you’ve had, then just go on and keep doing the same thing, but I want something different,’’ Patrick said. “I want more. I want to do better. I want to have fun. Running 20th or 24th is not fun and I don’t come to add a car to the field and just be out there.

“If I’m not having fun for a long enough time, then there’s so much more to life. This is a year to really see what we can do to have some fun out there and perform. I think they go hand in hand. When you’re having fun, you perform. When you perform, you have fun.’’

Patrick notes that Stewart-Haas Racing’s move from Chevrolet to Ford could lead to greater results. Previously, the organization received engines, chassis and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports. Now, Stewart-Haas Racing will use its own chassis and receive engines from from Roush Yates Engines.

“For me, as a racer, I feel like the best results are going to come from you being able to create your own destiny, your own future by working really hard and having something that somebody else doesn’t,’’ Patrick said. “It’s pretty tough to beat people when you’re getting equipment from them.The best you can expect is the same.’’

Patrick is looking for anything but the same this year.

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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 90: Roger Slack

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Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his track’s past, present and possible future with NASCAR.

Slack detailed the run-up to the initial “secret” test with Tony Stewart and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon that led to scheduling a Camping World Truck Series race that recently completed its fifth edition.

Slack also discussed the storied history of Eldora, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Stewart 50 years later.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: How Daniel Suarez found out he was replacing Carl Edwards (video)

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On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Daniel Suarez recalled the moment he got the call that he was being promoted to replace Carl Edwards in the NASCAR Cup Series at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Suarez was at dinner back home in Mexico with family and friends when JGR officials called and him to be ready for a teleconference in a few moments.

Suarez stepped away, telling his dinner partners he’d be back shortly — which ultimately lasted 40 minutes.

When he returned to the dinner table, he couldn’t tell anything about the phone call — JGR officials swore him to secrecy — but he eventually revealed that he had been promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series to replace Edwards, who had decided to take a hiatus from his racing career.

Check out the video above.

 

 

NASCAR America: What Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other (video)

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Daniel Suarez appeared on Wednesday’s live broadcast of NASCAR America from the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina,

One of the funniest segments of Suarez’s visit was a video and verbal collage of how much he and his fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates really think of each other — all in good humor, of course.

Check out the video above where Suarez, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch answer the “tough questions” about themselves, as well as how they feel about their fellow teammates.

NASCAR America: Daniel Suarez’s journey from Mexico and VW Beetles to NASCAR champion (video)

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In winning last year’s Xfinity Series championship, Mexican native Daniel Suarez became NASCAR’s first international champion.

It was the culmination of a journey that began with his father and, interestingly enough, Volkswagen Beetles.

Check out Suarez’s story and the thoughts about his success and prowess by our NASCAR America analysts in the video above.

Speaking of VW Beetles, Suarez’s father sold his restoration shop to fund his son’s racing dream. Years later, Daniel repaid his father by purchasing a new restoration shop for him. See the video below.