Danica Patrick's test on 10 of NASCAR's toughest Cup tracks with her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet comes to an end at Phoenix. Expectations for top-20 finishes really weren't expected, and Patrick didn't disappoint.
Her boss, Tony Stewart, just wanted her to get seat time and log laps. She is scheduled to run the NASCAR Sprint Cup season full time in 2013.
In four of nine races she finished no more than seven laps down. Other tracks found her far more deficient in laps completed because of accidents and other problems until last week at Texas where she finished on the lead lap.
Patrick has been racing under the guidance of Greg Zipadelli, who is actually the competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing. He acted as her crew chief until a person was permanently found for the position.
Veteran crew chief Tony Gibson assumed duties as the crew chief for Patrick's car at Texas. He will be her permanent crew chief for the upcoming season.
Gibson stated, " It was a great day and a great weekend for the first weekend working together. She ran with guys she's never run with before---Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin."
Gibson added, "To go to Texas and run on the lead lap and have a shot at a top-20 was pretty impressive." Patrick did finish on the lead lap in 24th position.
Gibson has set small goals for the 2013 season as the two grow and learn together. He doesn't intend to put any pressure on her to go for wins and top-five finishes.
Patrick was caught up in all the media hype and attention at the beginning of this season with her running a full NASCAR Nationwide season and the 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
She has found the season to be a bit humbling with all the variables that must be addressed between the two series, qualifying, adjusting the car during the race, downforce, effects of weather and so on.
Patrick stated, "There is a lot more transitioning within the weekend itself in NASCAR. So, getting used to that has been something I'm still learning."
Indeed, Patrick does still have a lot to learn when she starts racing for points next year.
She has improved in the Nationwide series, but since she has yet to win a race it probably would have been better to remain in that series another year.
Now Patrick will find herself in the last of those 10 tricky races she faced in February. She is racing some 30 miles from her home in Scottsdale.
The reconfigured track at Phoenix will test veteran drivers. With the AdvoCare500 being the next to the last race of the season, Patrick won't take chances that could jeopardize the title contenders.
Hopefully, the positive attitude of Gibson and his strength as a crew chief will at least keep her once again on the lead lap.
If Patrick makes any noise at Phoenix, she can only hope it is the sound of her voice thanking her team for helping her finish in the top 20 and not the sound of crunching sheet metal.
Quotes obtained in this article are courtesy of official press releases.