Friday, December 16, 2011

Danica Patrick picks up a crew chief

   Greg Zipadelli's move to Stewart-Haas Racing as competition director was a much anticipated and expected one. However, his temporary role at Danica Patrick's crew chief for her limited Sprint Cup schedule in 2012 was a late addition to his job description.

   Zipadelli addressed his planned work with Patrick during a teleconference on Friday.

    Q.  Zippy, is one of your big jobs right now to get the 10 team kind of put together and is there any chance that you would end up crew chiefing that at least for the 500?
    ZIPADELLI:  Yeah, I think that is the plan now.  I mean, I will start immediately as soon as this afternoon, working on putting some of those pieces together.  I know Matt Borland has done a really good job of keeping that going already, so they're not behind.  And as far as Daytona, yes, Daytona test and Daytona 500, right now it looks like I'll be there to do that and just see ‑‑ most important is that we find the right person long‑term for that position.

    Q.  And when would kind of the target date for that be? 
    ZIPADELLI:  I think honestly, if it takes until the end of the year to make sure we look at everybody that's going to be available either now or coming available at the end of the year ‑‑ really see who that person is that fits with the other crew chiefs, fits into Stewart‑Haas's, under their umbrella and the mold and the way they like to do things, that's important is finding that right person.  We'll take as much time as we need.

   Q. The second part of the question is being on top of the pit box with Danica for Daytona, I mean, you know there's just going to be so much attention placed on her first Cup race, especially being the biggest NASCAR race of the year.  I mean, in a lot of ways it's got to be an enviable position but also a position that can be quite difficult.  
   ZIPADELLI:  I mean, when we talked about this, this wasn't part of it.  They got through it and they thought about it and they asked if this was something that I would do, and here's the deal:  I'm here to help this team grow in anything that I can do.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think it'll be fun, it'll be exciting, and like I said, it gives me a little bit of the ‑‑ helps with the withdrawal as far as being on that box.  The races are spread out throughout the year, so that'll be good.  It shouldn't take a whole lot away from the things I'm trying to learn and help with over here on a daily basis.
   With that being said, to me I'm just looking at it as, hey, it's a good opportunity, we're going to go and do the best we can with it, surround her with the best people we can and give her a great opportunity.

   Q. As the guy who helped Tony ease through the transition from IndyCar to stock car racing, how will that experience, 13 or so years ago, impact your assisting Danica through that same transition next year?
   ZIPADELLI:  I mean, I hope just the things that I've learned over the years, the patience and the things that I've had to ‑‑ going through those transitions, we'll be able to pull from those things.  I think Tony is going to ‑‑ and Ryan are going to be able to help her way more with that.  They've actually experienced it and felt it and been through a lot of that stuff, and as far as that goes, she couldn't have two better teachers, you know?  

JGR announces new crew chief for driver Joey Logano

   Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announces today that Jason Ratcliff has been named crew chief for its No. 20 Sprint Cup Series team, replacing Greg Zipadelli who is leaving the organization to pursue an opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing. 

   “We appreciate everything Greg has done for us here at Joe Gibbs Racing. He has been a big part of our success, but we felt the timing was right to make this transition for our race team which allows Greg the opportunity to pursue a director of competition position with Tony (Stewart),” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We also felt that the timing was right to bring Jason (Ratcliff) to our Cup operation. He is a proven leader with a tremendous track record in our Nationwide program and we think he and Joey will work well together.”

   Ratcliff spent the previous seven years as crew chief for JGR’s No. 18 Nationwide Series team. No team has been better over the past three seasons as the team won two consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Championships in 2009 and 2010. They narrowly missed out on a third consecutive title this past season finishing just a few points off the pace in second. Over the past three seasons JGR’s No. 18 Nationwide Series team has won an incredible 30 races, with 68 top-five, and 85 top-ten finishes. In addition, they have led an astonishing 6,124 laps over that time.

   “I’m excited about the opportunity to join our Cup operation and work with Joey and everyone on the 20 team,” said Ratcliff. “There is a great history with this program and we have two of the best sponsors in the sport with The Home Depot and Dollar General. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Joey a few times now on the Nationwide side so there is a familiarity there, but I’m looking forward to getting started fulltime and working alongside Dave (Rogers) and Darian (Grubb).”