Danica Patrick could take Newman's crew in 2013

Associated Press
Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick, left, talks with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., right, during qualifying for the OneMain Financial 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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DOVER, Del. (AP) — Danica Patrick appears set to work with Ryan Newman's crew for her fulltime Sprint Cup ride in 2013.

Stewart-Haas Racing would like to ease Patrick's transition by letting her work with crew chief Tony Gibson and his team. Newman, who drives the No. 39 for SHR, would then be in the market for a new crew chief.

"I'm just kind of looking at what's best for her, surrounding her with the best people we can that are upbeat and positive," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director and race strategist for Patrick.

Zipadelli said Saturday that all options are being considered and a decision could be made in the next week or two. But the move is all but official. He's been talking to crew chief candidates for 2013 that would likely work with Newman.

Zipadelli said Gibson's experience and upbeat approach make him a great fit for Patrick, who is 11th in the points standings in her first full season driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. She ran a limited Nationwide schedule in 2010 and 2011.

"It's easier to do that than to bring somebody else in that we don't know or know as well as we know him," Zipadelli said. "I think he'd add an awful lot to her and her program."

Patrick has made six Cup starts this season and will race her 10th and final Sprint Cup Series event on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway.

She'll make her seventh Cup start of the season Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Patrick said she's a Gibson fan and supports the pending move.

"I've always felt like he listens to me when I'm talking and that always means a lot," Patrick said. "I feel like I get the respect from him. I think that's the culture that Tony Stewart and all the guys there create. Everybody's happy."

Newman has one win this season and failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

He said after Saturday's qualifying he had "no idea" about Gibson potentially leaving for Patrick's team.

"I don't know that I am (losing him) or he is or whatever," Newman said. "I don't know what you're talking about."

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TESTING 1, 2, 3, 4: NASCAR will let organizations test at circuit tracks four times next season to go along with the season-opening test at Daytona.

The organizations can pick the tracks where they'll test. NASCAR had banned teams from testing at circuit tracks since 2009 in a cost-cutting move.

"We feel like it's time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back on facilities that host our events," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Saturday. "You'll see that as the year unfolds that teams will be moving around the countryside."

NASCAR will hold a test session for the 2013 car next week at Talladega. Pemberton said test will focus on the cooling and drafting packages.

There are also tests scheduled for Texas, Kansas, Charlotte, and Phoenix.

"We are developing this car and tires at the same time," Pemberton said. "It's something we haven't been able to do in the past. But because Goodyear has put the resources toward tires ... we're better positioned now to develop the car and the tire at the same time."

Team owner Jack Roush liked the move.

"As long as it's the same for everybody," he said.

The new testing policy is only for the Sprint Cup series.

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DENNY AND DOUG: Denny Hamlin has more in common with Michael Jordan than a love of golf and VIP treatment at Charlotte Bobcats game.

Turns out, they're both tight with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls coach, Doug Collins.

Collins, starting his third season coaching the Philadelphia 76ers, has forged a bond with Hamlin over the past 18 months after the NASCAR star visited the Sixers before their 2011 playoff run.

Hamlin was invited by Collins to address the team and played a game of HORSE with guards Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

"I've just enjoyed watching his career and how he's doing," Collins said.

Collins was impressed with Hamlin's impromptu talk to the team about having fun and enjoying the playoff chase — something he admitted to the Sixers he failed to do when he was runner-up for the 2010 Cup championship. Hamlin also shared a story about he stuck by his pit crew after a poor season, then was rewarded the next season with his crew was recognized as one of the best in the sport. That message of sticking together as a team through the tough times resonated with Collins because the Sixers had turned a 3-13 start into a playoff berth.

"He said he's my biggest fan," said Hamlin, smiling. "I think my mom is, but he texts us every week now during the Chase and congratulates us on how we've been doing."

Collins is a master motivator who has turned the Sixers into winners and Eastern Conference contenders. He requests smiley faces when he texts his players and gifts them with inspirational books.

"He gives you that pep talk similar to MJ," Hamlin said. "He's a lot like (owner) Joe Gibbs in the sense of how he is as a team leader."

Hamlin's stop in Philadelphia was no one-and-done meeting. Athletes meet other athletes or coaches all the time at awards shows, commercial shoots, or sponsorship requirement. But a bond forged like the one between Collins and Hamlin is pretty rare. Collins doesn't even watch NASCAR. Hamlin, while an NBA junkie, is a Bobcats fan. They met again last season with the Sixers played at Charlotte.

"I don't know what he sees in us," Hamlin said. "But he knows that I'm a huge basketball fan and I have the drive to win the championship. He's just behind me every week."

Hamlin, third in the points standings, was open this week about his disdain for racing at Dover International Speedway. Hamlin received advice from a sports psychologist that he needed to "fall in love with the track."

Collins read this week about Hamlin's struggles at Dover and was proud of how he is trying to overcome them.

"I just tried to reach out and gave him some encouragement," Collins said. "I just tell him to kick (rear) and that I'll be watching. More important, have fun with what you're doing. The thing I love about him is that he loves what he's doing."

Collins just hasn't quite persuaded Hamlin to make the 76ers his favorite NBA team over the Bobcats.

"It's tough being a Bobcats fan," Hamlin said. "But being the home team, you've got to root for them."

But he does root for Collins and the Sixers to do well — especially in the postseason.

"I'm just a big fan of Doug," Hamlin said. "I think he's one of those guys that has the respect of everyone at the NBA."

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