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2014 NASCAR Driver Review: Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick

2014 Ride: No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2014 Crew Chiefs: Tony Gibson (33 races), Daniel Knost (three races)
2014 Points Finish: 28th
2014 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 3 top 10s, 0 poles, 15 laps led, 4 DNFs, 22.3 average start, 23.7 average finish
2014 Best finish: Sixth (Atlanta)

High Point: Danica Patrick scored her best result of the season at Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, but perhaps her most impressive performance came at Talladega in October. She brought the crowd to its feet after racing to the front and surging into the lead. Patrick has always done well in the draft and she flexed some muscle in that race, rubbing fenders with Chase contenders until a late fade to 19th.

Low Point: Every driver wants to excel at the biggest races of the year, but it was not to be for Patrick in February’s Daytona 500. She crashed out of the race, the innocent victim of a wreck triggered by rookie Austin Dillon and kicked off her season with a 40th-place result. Her worst finish came in another crown jewel race, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, where she was only able to post a 42nd after suffering mechanical issues.

Summary: There were some shining moments in 2014 for Patrick, and perhaps some glimpses of potential with the occasional strong performance, but there was also wild inconsistency. While she ended up one spot lower in the standings than 2013, there was improvement in both her average start and average finish as well as finishing more races on the lead lap. Crew chief Tony Gibson, after nearly two seasons appeared to have developed a setup Patrick liked on intermediate tracks.

But then, with three races remaining in the season, Stewart-Haas Racing pulled a 180. Executing a swap between Patrick and the No. 41 of Kurt Busch, Patrick lost her head wrench and struggled with replacement Daniel Knost. The two didn’t mesh, leading to a rough ending to 2014 and questions as to whether they’ll even stay together this coming season.

2015 Outlook: Patrick is set to return for 2015 with Stewart-Haas Racing, along with sponsorship from GoDaddy and Aspen Dental. Still somewhat of a marketing gold mine, Patrick is filming a commercial to air during the Super Bowl and has high hopes to keep improving, especially with SHR capturing the Sprint Cup title with Kevin Harvick. However, with the attention she commands slowly beginning to fade, 2015 may be the year she either steps up or just fades away.

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