Stewart-Haas Racing is expected to announce that drivers Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch will swap teams and crew chiefs, with the change taking effect prior to the Nov. 2 Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Patrick, who is in her second season as a full-time driver for Stewart-Haas, failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and is 27th in the standings – the same place she finished as a series rookie in 2013. Patrick has worked with veteran crew chief Tony Gibson since making her Sprint Cup debut with a part-time schedule in 2012.
Busch joined Stewart-Haas ahead of the 2014 season after spending last season at Furniture Row Racing, where he led the single-car organization into the Chase for the first time. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion made this year’s Chase by virtue of his win in the spring race at Martinsville Speedway, but was one of four drivers eliminated in the Challenger Round from which the championship field was whittled from 16 to 12 drivers. Busch has been paired with rookie crew chief Daniel Knost.
Gibson told FOXSports.com in an exclusive interview during the recent race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he believes Patrick is much improved over last season. Despite being in the same position in the points, other statistics give credence to Gibson’s suggestion. For example, Patrick has three top-10 finishes this season – including a career-best sixth-place finish recorded at Atlanta on Labor Day weekend – compared to just one last season.
Gibson believes her improvements can be traced in large part to getting more comfortable in the car, and figuring out which changes improve the car and which ones don’t.
“It’s gotten better because she’s started to build a little bit of a notebook of her own about what changes do, whether it’s in the race or in practice, that seemed to help the car,” Gibson told FOXSports.com. “I try to keep her up to speed on what we’re changing so that when she does feel it — whether it’s a spring or a shock or a track bar — that she can kind of correlate that to, ‘OK, well, that helped me here or hurt me here,’ and that way during the race and during practice other places she can say, ‘Man, I remember when you dropped that track bar and it really helped me here.’
“So she’s starting to build that little bit of a notebook for herself, which will help her long-term, so that is a key to her feedback getting better, too.”