By Dustin Long
January 22, 2013
Danica Patrick said a winter spent with her family has helped her find happiness despite an impending divorce.
David J. Griffin/Icon SMI

CONCORD, N.C. -- Even with a pending divorce, Danica Patrick says she's keeping a positive outlook.

Patrick filed for divorce Jan. 3 in an Arizona court, stating that her marriage with Paul Hospenthal was "irretrievably broken.'' She announced on her Facebook page in November that the couple would divorce.

At this week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Patrick opened up a bit about the decision.

"I feel really good, I do,'' Patrick said. "I had a really nice winter. I spent a lot of time at my parents house and got to know my sister's new husband, Chase, who works in IndyCar and is a really good guy. I hadn't been home for the holidays in a few years. It was really nice to be there. That put me in a good mood. I made a snowman. I hadn't done that in forever. I drove in snow for the first time, I hadn't done that in a long time.

"My family puts me in a good mood. My sister is so funny -- so funny; if I could only be half as funny as she is. I talked to them more than I have in a long time. Those kind of things put me in a good mood.

"Obviously, the on-track stuff and the team I'm with all puts me in a good mood. Life is pretty straight forward right now.''

Patrick enters her first full season in the Cup series with Stewart-Haas Racing. After working with Tony Gibson late last season, Gibson will return as her crew chief this year.

"We're just setting small goals, and we're achieving them and being proud of that,'' Gibson said. "We want to come out of each weekend with a positive. No matter what happens on a weekend, you've got to bring a positive home and we can build from that and have a great season.''

Though finishing her first Cup foray without a win, Patrick impressed teammate/car owner Tony Stewart, who said about his teammate: "What she's done in such a short amount of time has been impressive so far.''

Moving on

With his contract with Michael Waltrip Racing set to expire after this season, Mark Martin has turned his focus on helping someone else fill the ride in 2014 for crew chief Rodney Childers.

"My goal is to help Rodney make the 55 car a very, very sought-after ride for 2014,'' Martin said Tuesday. "That's my whole mission. It's not about anything personal for me. It's really important to make that a highly sought-after ride.

"I want to help Rodney achieve his ultimate goal, which is to be a champion crew chief.''

Martin arrived at MWR after the 2011 season following a tenure for Hendrick Motorsports.

Should Martin find someone to fill his seat at MWR, where would that leave the 54-year-old driver?

"That's way too soon to worry about,'' he said. "We're in discussions. I have really felt comfortable at MWR. It's such a great working atmosphere. I'll still be around. No need in worrying about what's next. What's next is my 25 races I've got onboard this year and having fun and being a part of the organization and build a stronger organization.''

Family discussions

It will happen again this season. Kevin Harvick will get mad at his team. Or car owner Richard Childress will get upset with his driver. Count on it.

It's a normal occurrence with these two, who have been together since 2000, when Harvick first drove for Childress' Nationwide team before taking over Dale Earnhardt's ride in 2001 after Earnhardt's fatal crash in the Daytona 500.

But this season brings a new complication -- it will be Harvick's last at Richard Childress Racing before he heads over to Stewart-Haas Racing. Many don't expect much from Harvick this season because of his lame-duck status, and any disagreement is likely to be overanalyzed as creating a rift within the team. The two believe history will allow them to express their emotions without sabotaging the season.

"Families get upset with each other, but you always end up sitting down and talking about it and working it out,'' Childress said. "I think we'll get through it OK.''

Harvick consulted Matt Kenseth on how to handle such a situation after Kenseth announced in the middle of last season he would not return to Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth gave him advice on handling the media's constant questions about the move and also what to do when what Harvick wants isn't the direction the team is headed.

"These guys are looking to build their company for the future, so there are going to be some situations that, obviously, you don't think are right, but they're doing what is best for them to take them into the future,'' Harvick said. "You're going to have to suck it up in a few different situations to do the right thing for everybody and worry about making sure that everything is going as good as it can to keep the performance right on track.''

Hype or hyperbole?

NASCAR officials continued to plug the introduction of the new Gen-6 car and what type of racing fans should expect this season after complaints by many about the quality of the racing in the past.

"We've been highly encouraged by the results that we've seen at the tests at Daytona and Charlotte earlier this month, and are optimistic that not only will the cars look great, we believe they will race great,'' said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "The teams have been doing a great job getting their cars ready. The drivers have provided excellent feedback. I really believe we're going to see some of the most competitive, intense and exciting racing that we've seen in quite some time.''

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said he'll measure the success of the new cars by lead changes, how the car races and what drivers have to say about it.

Not over

Kevin Harvick says he's not convinced the feud between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer is over, and he has proof.

Harvick was present when Gordon and Bowyer ran into each other at a New Year's Eve party hosted by music entrepreneur P. Diddy on his yacht -- "The party of the year, if you ask me,'' Gordon said.

"I probably have the million dollar picture that everybody wants,'' Harvick said of Gordon and Bowyer meeting. "I don't necessarily think you could call that making up. I wouldn't call that making up because the conversation I saw was OK, but I wouldn't call it making it by any means.''

Asked if he was ready for a fight between the two, Harvick said: "I don't think anybody was in any condition to do any fighting.''

New format

Sprint announced that fans can help decide the format for the Feb. 16 Sprint Unlimited (the race formerly known as the Bud Shootout) at Daytona. Fans can vote either online or via the NASCAR Mobile '13 app to determine how the 75-lap race will be divided into segments, if teams should have to pit after the end of the first segment and if any drivers should be eliminated before the final segment.

He said that

Tony Stewart was asked how his mother inspired him to achieve what he has. "My mom and I actually had a huge fight because she wanted me to go to college,'' he said. "Now she works for me. That is the truth.'' Said teammate Ryan Newman, a Purdue graduate: "I didn't fight mine. I went to college.''

He said that II

Clint Bowyer on teammate Mark Martin's workout and eating habits: "The only thing I've seen of Mark and his workout ... he comes into the competition meeting in a tank top every now and then. He's a freak of nature. He's like four-feet tall and just a rock. A hard rock. It's incredible to see that. He's so dedicated to it. He was showing me at Daytona, an app, his calorie counter, and how he goes about his diet on his phone. It's just incredible.''

He said that III

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join Richard Petty as spokesmen for Goody's this year, joining some of the most iconic names in the sport. Said Earnhardt about the pairing: "You get excited about the opportunity to be around some of the guys that you watch sort of build the sport and this is my chance to spend some time with Richard.''

Odds and ends

Denny Hamlin became a father Sunday night with the birth of daughter Taylor James Hamlin to Hamlin's long-time girlfriend Jordan Fish. Hamlin announced via Twitter that his daughter weighed six pounds, five ounces and was 20 inches long. ... Greg Zipadelli, competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, says the team plans to use one of its four NASCAR-allowed tests before the spring Martinsville race for Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick and then likely will hold on to the other three to see what type of track the team needs the most help with. ... Tony Stewart said Monday that more than 16,000 tickets had been sold for the inaugural Camping World Truck race this summer at Eldora Speedway, the dirt track in Ohio that he owns. ... New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced that Sylvania has extended its sponsorship of Sylvania 300 through 2017. That will mark 15 years together at the end of the current contract. ... Michael Waltrip said that Mark Martin is helping design a new gym at the team's race shop. ... BK Racing announced Tuesday that David Reutimann will drive the No. 83 car and Travis Kvapil will be in the No. 93 car this season.

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