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.

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.