News & Media


Zipadelli cherishes family, anticipates opportunity

December 29, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

If Tony Stewart's former two-time champion crew chief Greg Zipadelli thought his preseasons were busy previously, he probably ain't seen anything yet. He's getting ready for a 2012 that will mix and match his new duties as Stewart-Haas Racing competition director as well as crew chief for Danica Patrick as she makes her Sprint Cup debut.

But first, Zipadelli took advantage of a holiday treat, a post-Christmas deer hunt in Ohio. He hopes it's a small preview of what he has to look forward to in 2012.

"I'm young but I ran hard as a crew chief as far as, I've been doing it a lot of years, even before I got to this level," said Zipadelli, 44, who won championships in NASCAR touring divisions in his native New England before relocating to North Carolina in the mid-1990s. "It was a lot of time and I missed a lot with my family. I think this [latest position] is gonna give me -- not a lot -- but it's gonna give me 10 percent more time with my family [and] a little bit more flexibility to do some of the things that I enjoy to do."

According to his Twitter feed, Zipadelli did just that as he bragged of going on his first deer hunt with his son, Zac, who's around 10 years old. They bagged a 240-lb. buck the first day and got one that Zipadelli said was "my biggest by far" the second day.

It's a good warm-down prior to Zipadelli's first test, scheduled in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 12., not only with his new organization, but also in running Patrick's team. Zipadelli had high praise for the former open-wheel driver who's prepped for the past two seasons with partial Nationwide Series schedules before planning to run the full 2012 Nationwide schedule for JR Motorsports while doing 10 Cup races for SHR.

"The last three months changed me, in the fact that I'm recharged and ready to go, like I never have been. I'm excited about racing again."

--BRIAN PATTIE

"She's got more determination than most people," Zipadelli said of his observations of Patrick and what he'd learned in his initial conversations with Stewart. "She has confidence in her ability and she's proven that in the past. The big thing about it is the want and the desire -- and that seems to be there, without any question at all."

Zipadelli didn't disagree with Patrick's reported contention that she would be the first female driver to win a Cup Series race.

Pattie more than ready to go after break

Brian Pattie was in street clothes at Indianapolis in mid-summer, and said then that his agreement with owner Chip Ganassi was keeping his activity pretty low-key. But at his first test earlier this month, with his new Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer, Pattie made no bones about how he really felt at being back in harness.

"The last three months changed me, in the fact that I'm recharged and ready to go, like I never have been," Pattie said. "I'm excited about racing again. You get in those low moments and it's just a struggle. [The split from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing] really was a blessing in disguise for me. But coming [to the test at Walt Disney World Speedway] ... if I could scream, I would; it's that exciting."

Does Addington have perfect demeanor for Stewart?

Greg Zipadelli spent several years working at Joe Gibbs Racing with Steve Addington, who after the 2011 season left Penske Racing to take the position of Tony Stewart's crew chief for 2012.

Knowing what he does about both men, Zipadelli said the chance for them to thrive and potentially defend SHR's 2011 Sprint Cup championship is good.

"Steve's a cool cat, he's a hard worker and he's a very, very good friend of mine, so I respect him a lot -- and he's got a thick skin, we know that," Zipadelli said, laughing. "He's won a bunch of races so there's no doubt in his ability or the things that he can do with a race car, or preparing one. I think it will just be a little bit of them getting to know each other."

And Zipadelli said there's one key element that's occurred since Addington was abruptly released from JGR while serving as Kyle Busch's crew chief late in the 2009 season.

"I think Tony has certainly matured a lot as far as the way he is with people," Zipadelli said. "Listening to [Stewart] for the last couple years on the radio -- it's completely different than what I had for 10 years. [Stewart] obviously has accepted the responsibility of an owner and a driver, the way he deals with those things, so I think that's gonna help Steve a lot and I think we're looking for great things from those two."

Pocono powers up with solar

Slightly more than 16 months after the dedication of Pocono Raceway's solar farm, the total amount of electricity produced by the 25-acre facility located across Long Pond Road from the facility has reached the 5,000,000 kilowatt hour (kWh) mark.

The Pocono Raceway solar installation consists of 39,960 American-made photovoltaic modules that will produce more than 72 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 20 years, which the track said will annually generate enough power to provide the electricity needs for more than 500 homes beyond the power needs of the 2.5-mile, northeast Pennsylvania race track.

"This is another important milestone for Pocono Raceway," said track president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky. "Pocono Raceway strongly believes in the commitment to operate in a more environmentally responsible way and is proud to be the first race track to power our sport with clean, renewable sunlight with the world's largest renewable energy project to power a sports facility.

"This solar power system, built with timber, steel and solar panels made in the U.S., satisfies all our raceway's energy needs, while helping to power local homes. This project demonstrates real sustainability and proves that any business that truly wants to 'Go Green,' can do it."

The raceway has been awarded a number of environmental awards for its sustainable energy efforts including the 2011 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards, Readers Choice Award presented by RenewableEnergyWorld.com and the 2011 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence, presented each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Gordon's latest Dakar adventure looms

As usual, Robby Gordon is letting this year's NASCAR plans take a back burner to his latest effort in the Dakar Rally, which begins in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, on Jan. 1 and concludes 14 days later after a point-to-point, multi-stage run to Lima, Peru.

Gordon, who had a Stage 6 win and the Open Class victory in the 2007 Rally, will once again field a pair of crowd-favorite Hummer H3s for himself and the rally's defending champion, Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah, who became available when Volkswagen dropped its off-road program that annually was a Dakar favorite.

"Toyo Tires and I have worked hard over the years to develop a tire combination that is right for the Hummer," said Gordon, who was third overall in the 2009 rally. "Their team has put a lot of effort into making a Toyo tire that is tough, durable and ready for the Dakar Rally. It has good grip and can sustain the varying terrain, from sand to slick gravel roads to hard rocky areas. I look forward to getting out there and racing on it."

Happy holidays for Harvick

For the first time in a decade, Kevin Harvick has spent the holidays preparing only to drive race cars and trucks in the following season -- not worrying about how he'll pay to operate Kevin Harvick Inc. and sustain all its employees.

Harvick and his wife DeLana dissolved the company at the end of last season and he'll now concentrate on racing for Richard Childress Racing. RCR will field vehicles in all three NASCAR national tours and, while he's coaching Childress' grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon, Harvick will still get to race in all three series, where he totals 68 career wins.

"Not much will change," Harvick said, "still do the Truck racing, Nationwide racing and all the different things on Sundays, so looking forward to it. I look forward to being a part of Austin and Ty's career as they move forward and trying to give them as much knowledge as I can give them and be a part of the shops and everything that's going on.

"So I get to do all the things I like to do, just we don't have to pay for it anymore."

You could easily argue that might be the best present a racer could get.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.