Patrick said Gibson appreciates and accepts her personal driving style, and is intent of tailoring the team’s cars to her preferences. She called him “someone who is open, ready and smart and knows that every driver has a different style. It is just a matter of how to maximize that. It’s kind of music to my ears as a driver. I know that there is a lot for me to learn about these cars and Tony is extremely smart.
Hopefully, I can convey exactly what I need and be able to point them in the right direction. Every driver has a unique way of describing the car and how it feels. When I say the car is `two out of five tight,’ that is not the same for anyone else. So learning what that really means and how big a change you need to make to fix it is the kind of stuff that we are going to get a really good head start on now.”
Gibson said pairing with Patrick for the final few races of the 2012 campaign will give them an important head-start on next year.
“To get any kind of time in is crucial,” he said. “Not only on the communications side, but as far as the balance of the race car we have to learn. We don’t want her to adapt to our set-ups. We want to adapt to her driving style. These two races will be crucial in gaining a head start on that. She has the capability of winning races… so we don’t have to teach her how to win. We just have to make sure that our race team.
Gibson described himself as an “old-school racer;” similar to Patrick’s former Nationwide Series crew chief, Tony Eury, Jr. “Tony and Danica got a long really well and I’ve worked with Tony Jr.,” he said. “We are great friends and worked together for several years at DEI, so I think putting us together is a really good fit.
“My race team (is comprised of) old school racers,” Gibson said. “We are Tony Jr., Tony Sr.-style racers, and I think that fits Danica pretty good. We are going to grow fast. There are going to be some bumps in the road, we know that. But, my team is ready for that and we are ready to grow and we are excited about this new venture for us.”
Patrick agreed that after working with Eury for most of the past 18 months, she is comfortable with Gibson and her new team.
“The personalities are cool, laid back and get down to business, but still have fun,” she said. “I think that is a great attitude to bring to the track every weekend. I feel like it gets a really good team to rally around (and) it speaks volumes that the guys stayed all together to come onto the No. 10 car."
Gibson said every member of the team had an option whether to work with Patrick in 2913. “It took them 30 seconds to answer back that they were on board,” he recalled. “Everybody was excited for it. Hopefully, that is comforting to Danica and sends a message that we are behind her 110 percent and ready to move forward.”
Gibson admitted that there may be one pot hole in the road when he reverts to his longtime habit of calling his driver, “old man.
“It just comes out for some odd reason,” he laughed. “I have no idea (why). Hopefully, she will forgive me. I was Mark Martin’s crew chief, and everybody was like, ‘man that is really insulting to him’. I had no idea. I didn’t realize I was saying it to him. I was the crew chief for Aric Almirola and Dale Jr. and it was the same way.
|Crew chief Tony Gibson|
“I’m probably going to say it a few times, but if I do, I’m sorry. As long as we are successful, we can call each other what we want to.”
Patrick agreed, saying, “I don’t really care what people call me. Tony Jr. would call me ‘babe’ on the radio, (then) apologize. I really don’t care what you call me. I don’t care if you pronounce my name wrong as long as it starts with a ‘D’.”
Patrick said the first three years of her NASCAR career have been filled with “a lot of transitions, a lot of changes and a lot of things to get used to. Whether it is new cars, new schedules or a new crew chief, it’s just been a lot to get used to. But I think it all helps me adapt quicker. It helps me focus on what being more specific with my words and being more poignant with what I want. There has been a lot that I have learned for sure, and I have a lot left to learn.
“There’s no pressure on us,” insisted Gibson. “I think the communication will get better and smoother. Every driver I’ve ever had is different. Even Stewart and Newman are totally different. Learning what she needs going into qualifying trim, as the races go on how to adjust, and me learning the tone of her voice (are all important).
“She puts more pressure on herself to do good, because the media puts pressure on her to do good. For us, it’s all about learning and growing together. Like I told her, we are going to set small goals and achievable goals for us; goals that we can achieve together as a race team. I’m not putting any pressure on her. I’ll judge everything off how we are getting along and how our team is building, more than I will results.”
Gibson said his experience with high-profile drivers will almost certainly serve his well next season.
“I was with Bill Elliott for a while, and he was probably one of the biggest ones in the sport then. It’s difficult, it’s different, but at the end of the day you still have to do your job. No matter who is driving the race car, you have a job to get done. My job is to fit a race car and a set up to Danica’s driving style, and that’s what we are going to work hard on.
“She is in the lime light all the time,” acknowledged Gibson. “Like last weekend, the deal with Landon Cassill (at Kansas Speedway), I don’t want her to lose that fire. That’s the fire you need. There have been guys that have spun people out and done things like that when they were rookies, and nobody talks about it. But being a female, it gets blown out of proportion. I hope she keeps that fire and desire, and we’ll work on the rest of the stuff.”Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America, Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR