Stewart-Haas Feels Knost Set for Success with Patrick
By Kelly Crandall – Daniel Knost has a bright future as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief. Stewart-Haas Racing is confident of that.
But the rookie crew chief, admittedly, was thrown to the wolves in 2014.
For one final weekend, Knost will lead the No. 41 Haas Automation team of @KurtBusch, which was formed during the offseason when Busch was signed. The two won a race, Martinsville in March, and subsequently qualified for the Chase though they were sitting outside the top-16 in points.
But Knost and Busch just didn’t work. The radio never sounded friendly, and frustration appeared to have mounted as time went by. Now, Greg Zipadelli, the director of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing, is focused on making both Busch and @DanicaPatrick’s teams better.
The two will swap personnel beginning in Texas with Knost taking over the pit box for the last three races in the sophomore year of Patrick.
“I think long term it’s the right thing,” Zipadelli said Friday at Martinsville.
“There might be a step backwards while they get to learn each other and they grow, but long term, a full year, two years from now I think their personalities between Daniel and Danica will work together much better.”
Patrick had been working with Tony Gibson, who now will head over to the veteran and sometimes-volatile Busch. The Patrick and Gibson pairing continued to improve as the weeks go on with Zipadelli acknowledging how far the driver had come in two years of Sprint Cup Series competition.
Speed and qualifying have seen better results, but not the finishing sheet. Currently sitting 27th in points, where she finished 2013, Patrick and Gibson have earned four career top-10 finishes. She also captured his career-best finish of sixth at Atlanta in August, a mile-and-a-half, which has been the GoDaddy team’s strength this year.
But 2004 Sprint Cup champion Busch is in the prime of his career, perhaps promoting the change. Giving him an experienced leader like Gibson is what the organization feels will quickly get him back to a consistent manner of contending for wins.
“We’ve got to give him (Busch) that and we have to give Danica the ability to continue to grow and build a relationship with somebody, because she plans on being here a while,” Zipadelli said.
“We just look at that and it’s kind of the best of both words right now. We have people in house. One thing we don’t like to do is bring people in from the outside and try them. We like to try to promote and give the people at Stewart-Haas the opportunity. That is kind of why we elected to do what we did.”
Knost is also expected to thrive in his new role. His pairing with Patrick is coincidence seeing how Knost has something that Patrick wants: an engineering background. Having coming from IndyCar and the open-wheel world, interacting with individuals of that pedigree are what the 32-year-old Patrick is most comfortable with.
“She actually, a while ago, talked about having the opportunity to work with a younger engineer and build the relationship over time,” Zipadelli admitted. “I just kind of feel like it was time to do it. We have three races with us not sure what the testing policy is for next year. This is a good opportunity for us to switch things up for Texas. The last three races and just see how things go.”
Patrick meanwhile is carrying whatever is best for the company attitude about the changes. It is much better for her and the team to be on the right footing heading into the 2015 season than having to start from scratch.
Patrick, however, appeared conflicted when asked if she wanted the change. Though says she will approach it with an open mind because of the pre-established relationship between her and Knost, which extends beyond more than the in-house association.
“I know Daniel, he was my race engineer when I did the 10 races with Zipadelli for Stewart-Haas in 2012. Really nice guy, very smart and he is definitely a lot like the kind of engineers and in fact in IndyCar it was called an engineer instead of a crew chief that I was used to dealing with,” she said.
“We have gotten along anyway regardless of whether he has been on my car or not. I’m definitely open minded and looking forward to the opportunity to see how it will go with him.”
For now, Knost is listed as an interim crew chief for Patrick. Though both she and Zipadelli are confident the relationship will last into 2015 and beyond.
“I think that we click and the things that are felt in the racecar and then conveyed over the radio and the changes that are made in relationship to that,” Patrick said he would be looking for over the next three races.
“If that takes a fast course in a good direction, and we seem to click well and make progress throughout the weekend then I think that will be a really positive sign. I think that is always a challenge. If that is good then that is I feel like a good sign for the future.
“I know I already get along with him as a person … Now it’s time to see if we get along in a competitive atmosphere where it becomes more technical than just friendship.”
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