Though Danica Patrick said she had a "really good relationship" with Tony Eury Sr., the former JR Motorsports competition director who was released last week, the driver also said she understood why the team made a change.
"I really like him," Patrick said Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. "He's definitely one of those old-school guys. It will be sad to see him not around, but that's a part of business."
Eury Sr.'s exit comes as JRM is mired in a winless streak that dates back to the 2010 season and has seen both Patrick and teammate Cole Whitt struggling this year to be competitive. In 25 Nationwide Series starts in 2012, Patrick has just two top-10 finishes with a best result of eighth at Texas and she has posted nine finishes of 25th or worse.
On Wednesday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said former Sprint Cup crew chief Ryan Pemberton has been hired to help bring some fresh ideas to a team which has fallen behind in terms of technology.
Patrick referred to Pemberton as "the new arrival" and said she didn't know him very well.
"I'm sure I will get to know him a little bit as the year goes on, but there is not too much left," she said. "With any organization, it's tough to turn the ship around instantly."
Patrick will focus on both her JRM team in the Nationwide Series and the No. 10 Sprint Cup Series car this weekend at Chicagoland, which she refers to as her home track since she grew up in nearby Roscoe, Ill.
But racing in front of her family and friends – some who came from as far as Canada – isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be, she said. The constant demands on her time can be a distraction.
"It is a bit more work and it doesn't make the weekend easier, but it doesn't mean I don't appreciate that people show their support and care and be a part of it and see it," she said. "Ultimately, I'm glad that they come, but I'm glad that they don't come all the time."
Compared to an IndyCar Series race, where Patrick used to compete from 2005-11, the atmosphere at a NASCAR event is far different. In IndyCar, there were numerous hospitality areas that helped pass the time for those visiting and help take the pressure off of Patrick to feel the need to entertain.
In the end, she said, it's all about managing expectations.
"You want to make time for them for making the effort and supporting you," she said. "But in my situation, I just try and create realistic expectations – low expectations – for the people coming to the track. Basically, (I say) 'You're not going to see me until after the race,' so that they don't get their hopes up thinking they're going to spend an hour with you hanging out, knocking back beers with me before the race."