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The Logano project was far different. While they slowly made gains, the success never came. After one win over three seasons, Zipadelli said he was leaving JGR to reunite with Stewart as competition director at SHR.
Zipadelli’s new job came with the task of running Patrick’s program this season. Stewart hand-picked 10 races for her _ he tried to pick the most difficult ones on the schedule _ to prepare her for next season.
Based on what he’s seen with Patrick so far this season, and compared to where he’d been with Stewart and Logano at similar stages of their careers, Zipadelli believes Patrick is doing just fine. He thinks she’s just judged too harshly.
“I remember Joey Logano going to Texas for his first race and he was six laps down, but nobody picked on him,” Zipadelli said. “People today underestimate how hard this is. They underestimate how good these drivers are. She makes more gains over the course of a weekend than Joey ever did at a race track. Even Tony, I remember going to Atlanta, he hated that place and there was nothing we could do. But she makes more gains over a course of a weekend than I thought humanly possible.
“She just starts too far off. So you have to be very methodical and let her learn, and let her make those steps.”
Zipadelli had expected to finish the season with Patrick, who will run the Cup races at Texas and Phoenix to close out the year. But Tony Gibson and his crew are moving from Ryan Newman’s team to Patrick next season, and will start with her the final two races of the year. Newman will be reunited with Matt Borland, who spent five seasons as Newman’s crew chief at Penske Racing.
“Tony is always very positive and that’s the type of person she needs around her,” Zipadelli said. “We didn’t want to bring someone in from the outside we didn’t know. Tony is an SHR guy forever, he wants to be there. Through the issues with Ryan, he’s remained upbeat, his guys are upbeat, and he’s not running through employees. He’s got a real solid foundation, and I think that’s important.
“That group understands this is a work in progress and her wins will be measured differently and they will take a sense of pride in being a part of it next season.”
By David Keene
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