Exclusive: Danica Patrick dishes on new crew chief Billy Scott

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CHARLOTTE – Danica Patrick didn’t have input in choosing new crew chief Billy Scott, but a few days around him in the Stewart-Haas Racing shop last week have her encouraged.

“Billy’s great; I feel like he has a lot of common sense about everything,” Patrick told NASCAR Talk Saturday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in her first public comments about Scott, whose hiring was announced Nov. 30. “I feel he’s going to do a really great job. He’s crafting a good team.”

Scott will become the third crew chief in three seasons for Patrick, whose No. 10 Chevrolet team was involved in an offseason overhaul at SHR that also ushered in a new crew chief (Michael Bugarewicz) for teammate Tony Stewart.

In her lone full season with Daniel Knost, Patrick finished a career-best 24th in the Sprint Cup points standings. But she slipped to two top 10s (from three in 2014, including a career-best sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway) and didn’t finish higher than 15th after the May 31 race at Dover International Speedway.

Knost, who has a doctorate in engineering, will remain at SHR as manager of vehicle dynamics. He took over from Tony Gibson in October 2014 after Patrick had indicated to SHR that she wanted more of an engineering-based approach more similar to her background in IndyCar.

Scott, a 2005 graduate of UNC Charlotte, also is a degreed engineer, but Patrick said she wasn’t involved in his hiring process.

“I really left it up to the team,” Patrick said. “I did everything I could last year to make the most with Daniel wholeheartedly, and the team just thought that it would be a better fit and good adjustment to change that.

“I trust them. I have to; that’s what they do. I drive the car. The best thing I can do is make the most of every weekend. When they ask my opinion on things, I give them the opinion on what I think is good, what I think is bad, and let them do their job.”

Though she hasn’t worked with Scott yet at the track (testing is banned in the offseason), Patrick said their rapport already is solid.

“We’re not into too much setup stuff yet,” she said. “The cars are just being built, and it’s the big items right now, but once that gets closer, I fully intend to spend the time talking to him about those things.

“I’m sure he’s already kind of looked at setups from what I ran last year, and he’s got an idea for sure of what I like, so he’s not just starting from scratch.”

Scott, who worked Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip as a Michael Waltrip Racing crew chief last season, will be working with engineer William Lee, one of several holdovers from last year’s No. 10 team.

Patrick said the continuity should ease Scott’s transition.

“We’ve changed a couple of players within the team — not too many — but everybody that we’ve shifted has been a great fit,” she said. “I feel like we already are having a lot of fun in the shop just standing around the car talking and things like that. (Scott’s) a really relatable guy, realistic, cool, and he’s a hard worker.”

Scott also has a good working relationship with fellow workaholic crew chief Rodney Childers, who left MWR two years ago to join Kevin Harvick’s 2014 championship team at SHR.

“Billy and Rodney were talking about who left the shop later the other night,” Patrick said with a chuckle.