'Old Man': Danica Patrick will have to get used to that reference from new crew chief Gibson
FORT WORTH, Texas – Danica Patrick will have to get used to being called "old man" sometimes.
That's the phrase Tony Gibson, her new NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief, uses to refer to drivers he works with, like Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the past. That's not likely to change with Patrick.
"It just comes out for some odd reason," Gibson said Friday. "If I do say that, I am sorry and I don't mean it. ... I'm probably going to say it a few times, but if I do, I'm sorry, forgive me. As long as we are successful, we can call each other what we want to."
Sitting at a podium with Gibson at Texas, Patrick laughed and said she won't mind. She doesn't really care what people call her.
"(Former chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. would call me 'babe' and things like that on the radio, and he would apologize," Patrick said. "I'm like 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.'"
Gibson has been Ryan Newman's crew chief for Stewart-Haas Racing, but is going to be the chief for the No. 10 Go Daddy Racing Chevrolet when Patrick moves to the Cup Series full-time next season.
They are getting a jump on 2013 by working together her last two races this year, this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and then at Phoenix.
"We don't want her to adapt to our setups, we want to adapt to her driving style. These two races will be crucial in gaining a head start on that," Gibson said. "She has the capabilities of winning races. She's a winner, so we don't have to teach her how to win. We just have to make sure that our race team is solid and can comfort her and give her the things she needs to win in the Cup Series."
Patrick is going into the ninth of 10 Cup races in a partial schedule co-owner Tony Stewart set up to be challenging while getting her some valuable experience. Her best finish was 25th at Chicago.
Gibson has a long history in NASCAR, and was the car chief and a mechanic for Alan Kulwicki's championship team in 1992. He has also worked with two-time champion Bill Elliott and was part of two of Jeff Gordon's titles before time with Michael Waltrip and Martin. He is good friends with Eury from their days working together at Dale Earnhardt Inc., and believes the pairing with Patrick will work.
"It's a good fit for my race team, we're old-school redneck racers. We are the Tony Jr., Tony Sr., style of racers and I think that fits Danica pretty good," Gibson said. "They have done a great job as a company at Stewart-Haas putting the right people with Danica, and her with us, because we're going to grow together. We're going to grow fast."
Still, even Patrick realized the irony of how comfortable she is with old-school racers considering her fancy off-track persona and her previous time in the IndyCar Series.
"I buy fancy things, I eat at fancy restaurants, drink fancy wines," she said, trying to explain the differences. "I think back to being a kid growing up and go-kart racing. That sort of style is also why I love NASCAR in general, everything from the language to describe the car, to the style of people and the camaraderie. It just reminds me of growing up and racing all over the East Coast and the South."
When asked why Patrick and Gibson get along, Stewart quickly pointed out they're racing together and not eating dinner together.
But how will Patrick respond the first time she is referred to as "old man" by Gibson?
"Probably the same way we all did, kind of look at him funny," Stewart said. "And then realize that it doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, he calls you 'old man.' That's just Gibson."