Even with struggles, Danica Patrick wouldn’t change a thing about move to NASCAR

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Although Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career has had its struggles going from open-wheel cars to stock cars, she does not look back on her decision to leave IndyCar with regret.

“I do not second-guess any of my decisions about being in IndyCar, leaving for NASCAR, not doing the double (Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day), nothing,’’ she told reporters Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. “I just don’t really live with a lot of regrets. I’m happy with where I am. If I would have changed anything, I wouldn’t be right here right now. I don’t think there’s any reason to look back.’’

Patrick, in her fourth full Sprint Cup season, enters this weekend at Pocono Raceway 24th in the points. She has six top-10 finishes in 131 career starts. Her best finish this season is 13th at Dover.

Among the challenges she has faced is finding the right crew chief. Tony Gibson served as her crew chief for two races in 2012, all of 2013 and most of 2014 (for a total of 71 points races) before a switch was made. Daniel Knost became Patrick’s crew chief for the final three races of 2014 and all of 2015 (a total of 39 points races) before another change. Billy Scott became Patrick’s crew chief this season.

“With Tony Gibson, it took a year and half before we really kind of fell into a good sync pattern where he knew me and I knew him and the car was close every weekend,’’ said Patrick, who was in Daytona to promote a ticket package for the July 2 Coke Zero 400, which will be shown on NBC. “So I know there’s no substitute for time on some level, but it doesn’t mean you can’t push. For me it’s about approaching things in a different way and seeing if we can improve our results.’’

While changing crew chiefs can lead to better results immediately, that’s not always the case. Some pairings take longer. Kyle Larson entered this year with Chad Johnston as his new crew chief. Larson is 21st in the points (he was 20th at this time last year), scoring a runner-up finish at Dover and a third at Martinsville along with four finishes of 34th or worse. Carl Edwards is in his first season with crew chief Dave Rogers and is fifth in the points (Edwards was 16th at this time last year) and has two victories.

“I feel like when a good combination comes together it tends to stick for quite a while, so I hope that Billy and I …  can be consistent from year to year and build and build and build, especially with the limited amount of testing we get these days,’’ Patrick said.

With a new crew chief comes a new way of looking at things to be better.

“Can we pinpoint a couple of things that we can do to at least just change our approach for now, whether it be in the car or out of the car, how we structure the weekend, which direction we go with things?’’ Patrick said. “Do we focus on our teammates or do we go on our own path?

“There’s a lot of different ways to approach the weekend and a lot of areas you can change the approach. It’s a matter of picking a couple of things that we can do different and seeing if they work. If they don’t, we’ll try something else. By no means will it be by a lack of effort if we don’t have a good race.’’

Among the lessons she’s learned since moving to NASCAR is just  what it takes to be successful.

“It’s not just the team, it’s not just the driver, it’s not just luck,’’ Patrick said. “It’s all those things. Everything has to be on and I feel like why there’s so much pride and so much excitement when you do run up front and get to victory lane because it’s so hard.

“I feel like at any point in NASCAR you could see great drivers struggle for a year and then all of a sudden they come back. We as drivers don’t forget how to drive. We don’t just learn how to drive. It’s just a matter of putting all the puzzle pieces together.’’

Then it’s a matter of performing in a race.

“Every now and again I may feel like it’s a little tougher out there for me, and I feel like I’ve heard some people say it looks a little harder for me to get by cars, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and it makes me a better driver,’’ Patrick said. “At the end of the day, my job as a driver is to pass a car that is in front of me, so if it’s difficult then it’s just difficult and I have to work that much harder. That is my job. I’m not looking for a handout or anyone to move over unless you are lapped traffic.’’

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. BuildSubmarines.com will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”