Editor’s note: This notebook will be updated periodically today, so check back for more news.
DANICA STILL AN OPEN BOOK — Danica Patrick will move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year, but Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said she’s not sure what 2013 will be like in terms of performance.
“I think it’s difficult to establish what my expectation will be right now for Sprint Cup next year,” Patrick said. “I think that it is going to be a build from where we are right now. I think Tony Gibson (crew chief) and I still … we should probably have a very specific conversation. I think it will happen over the winter about exactly what our expectation level should be at the beginning of the season. It probably varies track to track a little bit, but overall where do we hope to qualify then where do we hope to race and what do we hope that happens with lap time in the race and competitiveness with that.”
Getting those expectations set will be an off-season priority for Patrick and Gibson.
“I think that will be something that we will sort of establish over the winter when we have time to reflect and think about it and look forward to next year,” she said. “Right now I feel like it is just about getting familiar with each other and getting these two races under our belt.”
This year, Patrick ran the full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule, and said she was good with the long grind.
“I definitely showed concern years ago about the length of the season,” Patrick said. “That was kind of one of the things that really in my mind held me back from wanting to commit to NASCAR. Now that I’m in it and I feel like I’ve had a nice transition into it, I don’t mind at all. I like racing every weekend. The season could keep going or not. I never turn down off time, and there is definitely a lot of stress, for sure, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun at the same time. The season could keep going, which is surprising to me. I thought I would be very tired by this point in time, but I feel like I’m just kind of figuring it out.”
DILLON’S DAYTONA DEBUT — Austin Dillon will enter the 2013 Daytona 500 driving the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with sponsorship from Cheerios. In all likelihood, Dillon will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 field, although it’s always possible that RCR could strike a deal to get car owner points from someone with enough points to get him a provisional start.
“There’s going to be some pressure, especially if we don’t get points,” said Dillon. “But we’ll just take our time and really go into it prepared. We’ll build a really fast race car and see. We’ll do whatever it takes to try and get in the race.”
Next year, Dillon said he plans to run half a dozen or so NASCAR Sprint Cup races as well as compete for a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. “We don’t have a plan yet for where we’re going to run,” Dillon said. “I hope some places I got good experience on.”
PLAY FAIR — Ryan Newman will be the first to tell you that he’s an extremely difficult driver to pass at any time. But with two races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, a championship on the line and a close battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, Newman said other drivers need to be fair to the title combatants.
“I guess the best way to describe it is to race them equally,” said Newman, who is 14th in points right now. “… There are two guys that are in the contention right now for the championship, so if you’re in a position where you race the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) a certain way, race the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) the same way.”
Newman said other drivers are aware of how he races.
“They know me and they know my passion for not letting them go by,” said Newman. “That’s just the way I am. Sometimes it helps me and sometimes it hurts me. For the most part, race each other the way you would want to be raced. If it was you racing for a championship, give and take the way you would want to be given and taken to. That’s maybe the best way to describe it. To me, there’s not more of an allowance. There’s a level of respect in a situation.”
NOTES — Carl Edwards will make his 300th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start on Sunday. … Jeff Gordon needs to lead one more lap to tie Darrell Waltrip for sixth all time on most laps led. Gordon has 23,133 laps led in his career … Former Phoenix International Raceway owner Buddy Jobe said he likes what International Speedway Corp. has done with the track since purchasing it from him. “What they (ISC) did with PIR is fabulous,” said Jobe. “I love it. I was out there yesterday, and every time I go back I have déjà vu. I see stuff and it triggers memories.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.