By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick has 118 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to her credit.
She has no victories, no top fives.
But as Patrick starts her fourth full season in Sprint Cup, paired with new crew chief Billy Scott, she points to her ability to get up to speed more quickly in practice as a source of confidence that the results will be better this year.
“I’m far more confident,” Patrick said on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway during NASCAR Media Day, the annual media event that serves as a preview for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX). “I’m far more confident and comfortable. I’m understanding the car properly and able to help in making it better quickly on the race weekend. Also the comfort of getting up to speed fast helps that learning curve, too.
“I remember there was lots of times in the very beginning when I wasn’t able to drive the car to the very limit. We’d come in and make changes based on the way that I was driving it. Once I was driving it the way it needed to be, all of a sudden we ended up back where we started. We wasted all practice for me to learn how to do it.”
That’s one area where Patrick has made significant improvement over the past three seasons.
“(I’m) much better at getting up to speed,” she added. “But always room to improve. I’m still working on doing a better job at that. I think, as a driver, we all tend to have our general weak areas and general strong areas. I know mine. I’m sure everybody else knows theirs, too.”
Patrick already has established a bond with Scott, who most recently worked with Clint Bowyer at now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing.
“Billy is just a very relatable guy,” Patrick said. “He’s very easy to talk to. He’s just a really normal, normal guy. I think that’s important when it comes to a team, that everyone can talk to him, communicate, and feel like they cannot only say what they want, but have a good time, as well.
“I feel like it creates a good environment. Even last weekend (in the Sprint Unlimited) when we were faced with quite a few different things, with accident, crash damage, overheating, things like that at the end, the team did a great job of working together, even though it’s the first time we’ve all done that.
“I think that’s a reflection of everybody being comfortable and confident based on his leadership.”
Image: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images