There are two big news items as we roll into New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend — it’s, meaning the Chase, and she, meaning Danica Patrick, are both back.
Starting with “it,” the Race to the Chase is a ten-race prelude to NASCAR’s version of a ten-race playoff, entitled the Chase for the Sprint Cup — you know the thing that Jimmie Johnson has won for the last four years … yeah, that thing.
Johnson, currently second in points, says the Race to the Chase has actually taken some of the emphasis of leading the points before the start of the final ten races away. Although, he and his team still would like to lead it as much as possible.
“It’s definitely a goal,” Johnson said. “I was very excited about having the lead when we did earlier in the year and hated to see it slip away. It’s kind of a funny thing though, if you’re not leading and you’re still in a comfortable spot in the Chase, I guess you start telling yourself, ‘I don’t want to lead right now.’ At the end of the day, we all want to lead as often as possible and as much as possible. I think it’s good for the team to experience that pressure and to have that mindset on the outside chance that it sends a message to the garage area that you could potentially be in the other competitor’s heads, I think it’s an advantage. I think (Kevin) Harvick has done a great job this year leading the points and making a statement that he and his team are championship contenders this year.”
[media-credit id=2 align=”alignright” width=”400″][/media-credit]“She” is Danica Patrick, a NASCAR media phenomenon that has only raced in three Nationwide Series events but has had more stories written about her than Jimmie Johnson has — I think you are beginning to remember her.
“I’m eager to learn the Nationwide car,” Patrick said. “And I think that — I think that the best thing I can do for myself on the NASCAR weekends is really come up with some realistic expectation levels instead of having them be like IndyCar expectation levels where I’m hoping to win and I’m hoping to finish on the podium, those kinds of things.”
Obviously the cars used in NASCAR are much different than those using in the IndyCar Series, leaving Patrick to believe that switching back and forth between the two won’t cause her any issues. She also doesn’t believe that racing in the Nationwide Series has hurt her IndyCar Series efforts.
“I don’t see how racing cars can make you a worse race car driver,” Patrick said. “So I put every ounce of effort into everything that I do. And you know the IndyCar Series has become the most difficult field I’ve been in. The drivers are so good and everybody’s so equal out there that you have an on weekend, and like at Texas for me last weekend, or the weekend before, I almost won the race. Then you have an off weekend and you find yourself in 15th.
“I guess it’s a little bit maybe more like NASCAR. The fields are so good and everybody’s so close, and everything needs to go right. So I’m enjoying the two of them. I think it’s best — I think it’s good for any race car driver to be in the seat a lot, and that’s definitely what I’m doing.”