Despite a dismal performance in 2015, Danica Patrick isn’t out of NASCAR — yet.
Danica Patrick finished 24th in the season-ending point standings, and now Patrick has a new crew chief for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. This week, Stewart-Haas Racing released a statement that Patrick has a new crew chief, Billy Scott, who is her third crew chief in four seasons, reports Sporting News.
According to Sport Act, Scott was previously a crew chief for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will no longer compete in the Sprint Cup Series.
“We have great people at Stewart-Haas Racing and these changes prove that,” Tony Stewart, who heads Stewart-Haas Racing, told the media. “We were able to promote from within while also adding new talent.”
The role as crew chief for Danica Patrick has been filled by a rotating cast of characters, who, according to Sporting News’s Jeff Owens, have made little impact on improving her NASCAR performance. It’s well known that Patrick has struggled to make it through her transition from IndyCar to NASCAR, and her first two crew chiefs were replaced by Daniel Knost, whose engineering background and technical expertise were supposed to help Danica improve her performance.
Alas, that hasn’t happened, and Knost has been now placed in the role behind the scenes at Stewart-Haas Racing, reports the News Wheel. Kost will now support Danica Patrick as manager of vehicle dynamics and will oversee the team’s technical efforts, reports Sport Act. Knost will focus specifically on track simulation and race car performance.
According to Sporting News, however, a new crew chief is unlikely to improve her driving, and after three seasons, Danica Patrick “is what she is — a 20th- to 25th-place driver with little hope of getting much better.”
After finishing seventh, 16th, and ninth this year in her best three-race streak, Danica shows all the signs of being a “long way from figuring out NASCAR” or possibly isn’t good enough to compete at the NASCAR level, reports Sporting News.
She followed those placings with stretches of 25th, 21st, 27th, and 21st finishes, despite her “elite team” and support from Hendrick Motorsports and champion teammates in Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch.
Despite her less-than-stellar performance in NASCAR, she has never won a race, according to Sport Act, but Patrick is still the sport’s most popular driver. Danica Patrick is also is the fourth most searched athlete, according to Fox Sports, which provides an indication why Patrick was able to lock in a new sponsor after Go Daddy dropped their support.
Although, according to Sporting News, Patrick needed to show “vast improvement” to either entice GoDaddy to return or to land another sponsor, Danica still won the support of her new major sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, who are looking to cash in the driver’s high-profile persona.
By affiliating themselves with Danica for several years, GoDaddy transitioned from a company seeking growth to one of the largest web hosting companies in the world. Naturally, any other company in a similar position looking for growth would jump at a chance to work with Patrick, who is one of the most popular athletes globally.
Of course, Danica herself has been cashing in on her popularity, and according to Sport Act, while Patrick only led seven laps the entire season, Danica still earned more than $3.9 million this year, thanks to lucrative sponsorships and endorsement deals.
Prior to her NASCAR stint, Danica Patrick competed in the Indy Racing League, where she was the first woman to win an Indy Car race.
[Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images]