Danica Patrick: ‘I want to continue racing if I have an opportunity to do well’

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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — While Danica Patrick’s future remains uncertain, one thing is certain.

She doesn’t have interest in racing full-time in the Xfinity Series next year.

“Cup only,’’ she said Monday after unveiling the throwback paint scheme her car will have in next month’s Southern 500.

Patrick’s future with Stewart-Haas Racing remains cloudy because of lack of sponsorship for next year. Nature’s Bakery was to have been in the second of a three-year deal with the team but terminated its contract in January. The team filed a $31 million lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery. A settlement was later reached in May.

Without sponsorship, Patrick could be out of a ride. She says she’s not fretting about her job status.

“I want to continue racing if I have an opportunity to do well,’’ Patrick said. “I have no interest, as I’ve said for years now, to run 25th. It’s not fun. So if I don’t feel like I can have the opportunity to move on from there and have a better opportunity, then honestly I don’t care. It’s just because it’s not fun. I don’t drive because I love the thrill of getting sideways. In fact, I don’t like getting sideways. That’s not why I do it. I’m just letting things evolve the way they can without being forceful about anything.’’

While some could infer that means she doesn’t care. Patrick says that’s not the case.

“When I was younger I used to get so mad all the time,’’ she said. “Trust me. I still get mad and throw things. I try not to do it in front of people. I still get fired up.

“But there was so much when I was younger that happened with me getting mad. I felt like if I didn’t portray a displeasure with anything but the best, but first place, then I was somehow showing people that I didn’t think that I could do it.

“I finally came to the conclusion a long time ago, and I’ve only just gotten better at it that I don’t have to look like I hate everything and hate everybody and be awfully unhappy about everything to do well on the track. In fact, sometimes it would get in the way if I was too unhappy. Me being more at peace with everything and not getting so fired up at certain points in time is just really because it’s unproductive, and I don’t need to prove to people that I care.’’

Since a run of four consecutive top-15 finishes — her best four-race stretch in two seasons — she has placed 22nd at Watkins Glen and last weekend at Michigan. She enters Saturday night’s race at Bristol 28th in the points.

“I think that we have finally got away from bad luck,’’ she said.  “I think we have finally found ourselves having clean races and staying out of trouble and getting lucky on top of not having bad luck, we’ve had some good luck, too.’’

Her team isn’t the only one at Stewart-Haas Racing searching for sponsorship.

Stewart-Haas Racing recently declined the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year because Monster Energy hasn’t decided if it will return to sponsor Busch’s car. The team expects Busch to return next year. Haas Automation, the company founded by team owner Gene Haas and that sponsors Kurt Busch‘s team, has been the sponsor on Clint Bowyer’s car in 13 of the season’s first 23 races.

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Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report