Danica Patrick's NASCAR Crew Chief For Daytona 500, Rest Of 2012 Likely To Be Greg Zipadelli

When Greg Zipadelli decided to join Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing as the team's competition director, he figured his career as a crew chief was likely over.

But in the last two days, as the announcement about joining Stewart-Haas neared, Zipadelli and Stewart added another duty to the new job: Interim crew chief for Danica Patrick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series efforts in 2012.

Zipadelli told reporters Friday he expects to be Patrick's crew chief for the Daytona 500 and perhaps all of the former IndyCar driver's 10-race Sprint Cup schedule in the upcoming season.

"I'm looking forward to it," Zipadelli said. "I think it'll be fun, it'll be exciting. Her races are spread out throughout the year. We'll go and do the best we can with it and give her a great opportunity."

The former Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief (most recently for Joey Logano) has yet to speak with Patrick, but believes he can help build her No. 10 Cup team this season until he hires a permanent crew chief.

Zipadelli said it could take "until the end of the year" to find someone and added "We'll take as much time as we need." His goal is to find a crew chief who fits in with the rest of the organization, and he wants someone who can work with Patrick on a long-term basis.

That comment and some of other remarks indicated he may be atop the pit box for Patrick's entire first Cup season, which is scheduled to consist of 10 races.

"I know I'm going to get to do a couple races and be actively involved in getting her cars built and getting some people hired, putting that group together," he said. "It'll help me wean myself from that passion and daily fire to moving into this new position. (Leaving the crew chief role) won't be such a culture shock to me."

While the two haven't met, Zipadelli said he believes Patrick has an intense passion for racing and a great will to win.

"Talking to Tony and why he agreed to do this, she's got more determination than most people," he said. "She has confidence in her ability – she's proven that in the past. The big thing about it is the want and the desire, and that seems to be there without any question at all."

As far as why he decided to leave the comfort of Joe Gibbs Racing – where he believed he could have had a job for life – Zipadelli said there were two main factors: A new challenge and the opportunity to work for one of his best friends.

"The opportunity was there now; would it be there again? I don't know," he said. "We've always had a unique relationship where we've just really respected each other. We can be harsh with each other and not worry about each other's feelings. I trust and believe in him as much as I do anybody on this earth. ... He knows I'll always have his back, and he can just concentrate on racing."

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