News & Media


Danica intrigued by prospect of 16-driver Chase

January 27, 2014, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Danica Patrick sees a door of opportunity opening if the Chase expands

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The notion of a 16-driver field in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and a possible "win-and-you're-in" format certainly got Danica Patrick's attention. 

And it crystallized the game plan of her crew chief, Tony Gibson. 

No, NASCAR hasn't announced the specifics of possible changes to the 10-race playoff format, but the unquenchable rumor – based in part on the sanctioning body's preliminary conversations with its stakeholders – is that major change is coming.

Most of the speculation has centered around a 16-driver Chase, with race wins as the path to qualification for the playoff. 

"I think that the more drivers in it, the more opportunity," Patrick said Monday during the opening session of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "And for me, as a new driver in the Sprint Cup Series, that definitely plays into my hand. 

"And having some of the qualifications being to win [races], to me, I've been decent on the (restrictor-plate) speedways. Those are also 'anything-can-happen' kind of tracks. So that's exciting. That puts a little bit more of a realistic perspective on it."

For Gibson, it means honing in on the plate tracks. Patrick won the pole for last year's Daytona 500 and was fast during Preseason Thunder testing at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in mid-January. 

"She's already proven she can damn sure win one of these restrictor-plate races," Gibson said. "If she can do that and get in this Chase, that's huge. That'd be huge for our sport. We focus hard on every race, but I'm focusing really, really hard on these restrictor-plate races. That's where I feel like I'm going to have my best shot to make the Chase.

"Last year, we knew there was no shot in hell we were going to make the Chase, but now we've got a shot at it. You show me a little bit of a crumb, and I want the rest of the cookie."

Gibson said Patrick was nervous at Daytona as a rookie last year, but this year he expects her to have plenty of drafting partners, including fellow Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

"I know that we've got four people that like her right now, and I know the Hendrick guys, they like her, too. We were third coming down to get the checkered [flag last year], and we just made one wrong move. If we'd have moved left instead of right, we'd have won the Daytona 500. 

"She knows that now. She's logged that in her memory banks. She's going to have more confidence, and she's going to know who will draft with her and who won't draft with her. And when it comes down to those situations again, she's going to push the issue, because, she knows, too, 'This is my shot to get in the Chase.'"

MORE:

WATCH: NASCAR ’14 trailer:
Stewart’s comeback

READ: Kurt Busch compares
new, old teams

READ: Twitter crew:
Favorite NASCAR follows

READ: Top 10
rookie campaigns