For Danica Patrick and the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet team, it could be argued that the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season starts this week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
While the calendar will read November 4, 2012, Sunday’s AAA 500 Sprint Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile oval will mark the first race that Patrick and new crew chief Tony Gibson work together in preparation for Patrick’s first full season at NASCAR’s highest level.
Anyone in the Sprint Cup garage knows that the driver-crew chief relationship is the most critical to success during the 36-race schedule. But for a rookie like Patrick, having an experienced crew chief on the pit box like Gibson cannot be understated.
Gibson is a veteran who most recently won races and twice made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman. He now moves to the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet piloted by Patrick and brings with him a wealth of experience, including Sprint Cup Series championships as a crew member with Jeff Gordon (1998 and 2001) and the late, great, owner-driver Alan Kulwicki (1992).
While Gibson has worked with veteran drivers like Kulwicki, Gordon, Newman, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott either as a crew chief or crew member, he’s also worked with up-and-coming drivers like Aric Almirola and Steve Park. So while he can draw off his vast experience of working with established drivers, he can also understand the challenges facing drivers early in their career.
One thing Gibson won’t have to worry about this week is Patrick’s familiarity with Texas Motor Speedway as she already has competed in 11 races at the 1.5-mile oval. The downside is that nine of those races were in the IZOD IndyCar Series, which won’t offer her much helps as she makes her Sprint Cup debut at Texas this weekend. That said, the Lone Star State has been kind to Patrick throughout her career as she was second in the June 2010 IndyCar Series race and notched a third-place result in IndyCar competition in June 2007.
And in her two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Texas, she finished 11th in November 2010 and then eighth this past April.