An Interview With Danica Patrick

More About Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick signs all kinds of memorabilia during IndyFest in Kansas City, Kan.Friday, June 24, 2005

THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome to Rahal Letterman Racing’s media availability for Danica Patrick. Before we get started, just want to cover a couple of things. First of all, we are fairly tight on time today so this will be up to 30 minutes open questions here. Just raise your hand, I’ll call on you.

We will not have time for one-on-ones, unfortunately. As you can see with all the cameras and media that’s here, unfortunately, we just cannot accommodate everybody. Thank you for your understanding on that.

At this point we’ll open it up to questions for Danica.

Q. Did you have the opportunity to ride around the track in a go-kart yesterday?

DANICA PATRICK: I went around last night in a golf cart. Yeah, you know, definitely the front straight’s a little bit different. I think the team ran strong here last year with qualifying in the front row, playing the strategy right in the race, finishing second. So I’m optimistic.

Nothing like getting out there in the actual car and going a whole lot faster than a golf cart.

Q. What are your goals for the weekend?

DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think definitely being in the lead lap is something that we’re good at. I don’t know what’s going to happen going into this race. You know, I know we’ve made some changes with the car trying to make sure it’s better, it’s more consistent, predictable in race condition, but I think you don’t know until you get out there. I think, you know, if all those changes are positive, we should be able to run strong.

Q. What kind of race do you expect? Different from the other races?

DANICA PATRICK: I mean, you know, every race we do is competitive. I mean, to me this looks a little bit more like a one-groove track, I mean, to me. So, you know, from that standpoint, it’s a little bit more like get to the inside, overtake, pass them. It’s not side-by-side, who’s got the grunt for three laps straight to get around someone. From that point of view, it’s a little bit more racy, I guess, than what we’re probably used to, some of us from road racing and other stuff. You know, I guess I don’t completely understand what you mean. But I haven’t been here. I’ve been racing for 14 years, so I think we’re all pretty racy.

Q. Has all the exposure been overwhelming?

DANICA PATRICK: It hasn’t been overwhelming, I wouldn’t say. I’ve always done as much as I can for myself, for sponsors, for the team, for the series that I run in. And that’s no different right now. It’s just, you know, now instead of doing all local media or mostly national media instead of a local show, you know, it’s CNN. So I think the level of the things that we are doing has just kind of gone up a little bit.

But other than that, you know, I mean, I keep steady busy, but I knew that was going to happen whether or not all the stuff at Indianapolis or before that happened.

It’s a big year. I run for a strong team. There will be a lot of people talking.

THE MODERATOR: You asked about the national media. If anybody wants to see a comprehensive list of what she’s done, some of the non-traditional stuff that we’ve been done, see me.

Q. (About the burden of being popular with fans)

DANICA PATRICK: Goodness, no. Absolutely not. No, that’s awesome. You know, I mean, for the most part all fans have a favorite driver. I’m flattered, just happy that it’s me. There’s a lot of other ones to choose.

No, absolutely not, it’s not a burden. I think that’s what needs to happen in the series. You know, along the way with new fans coming to the track, they’re going to have their favorites. If I draw them in, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to stay my fans. They might go out there and see Tony Kanaan ripping around and go, "That’s my guy." I don’t know.

No matter what draws them to the racetrack, that’s a good thing.

Q. (About the t-shirt that Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira wore during the drivers’ meeting at Texas ).

DANICA PATRICK: To a certain extent, it’s funny. I made sure it was funny and they weren’t making fun of me because that wouldn’t be very cool. But, you know, it is true. You know, I mean, the media buzz has been very much about me, I would say, in the past few weeks, month or so. They’re drawing attention to themselves, and that’s okay. That’s fine. I mean, it’s just a joke. We’re all just trying to have fun out here. As long as they’re not making fun of me, they can do what they want.

Q. Do you feel like you have to win?

DANICA PATRICK: No, no. But if it happens, that’s great. If that happens, it’s great. But I by no means feel like I have to do well or I have to do certain things or I have to do more media because it’s going to save the series.

I think that we’re all going to save the series. If I’m the only driver out there, but it’s still me, that’s not a good race. Nobody’s going to watch that. It takes everybody in the series to make a good one. And I think that, you know, no matter, like I was saying earlier, no matter what draws people in to watch their television or come to the racetrack, that’s what matters.

And I think they’ll see it’s good racing and it’s very exciting. I’ve heard that a lot of times through fan mail and things like that, you know, that people had stopped watching IndyCars, had never watched it, didn’t like racing. All of a sudden they came to an IndyCar race and all of a sudden, "This is amazing, I love this sport now. Thank you."

I don’t feel the burden.

Q. You finished fourth at Indianapolis and are 10th in the points. Has the season been good so far?

DANICA PATRICK: I’m still not leading, I’m still not winning. As a driven person, I mean, I’m still striving for the top. But so far there have been great things that have happened. You know, things that I’ve done have been good, from a rookie especially. Obviously, the female parts of it come into play and the records, too.

I mean, I obviously want to win, but I think that we need to look in realistic terms as to how long things have taken for past rookies and the past drivers that are really great. How long did it take for them to win a race? How are my teammates doing? I think that’s still really important. How are they doing race to race? Are we all in the game or are we all a little off? We’re all usually in a little bit of a group. Sometimes I’m a little bit behind and sometimes I’m a little bit ahead.

It’s important to keep that stuff in mind, too, because it’s not always my fault. You know what I mean? Like Phoenix, we were a little off in Phoenix as a team. It took me a little bit more to handle the car because I wasn’t used to it. But, you know, probably wasn’t going to win that race and nobody on the team was. Sometimes you have to look at it, it’s not just me being a rookie. Obviously, I want to blame and say it’s me being a rookie. But there’s tons of other elements to put into the picture. Then you have to make a conclusion.

Q. Has anyone said anything to you about the exposure you’ve received?

DANICA PATRICK: Not to my face. I have to hope and pray that everybody realizes that the attention to the sport is at the end of the day where it matters. It’s like, you know, Tiger Woods bringing attention to PGA golf. It’s made everybody, you know, more money and brought the sponsors in, the viewers went up, you know, everybody kind of wins in the long run.

I just hope along the way that the media also gives attention to the people who do well, too, people that are winning races and stuff. If it’s not me, you know, I think we all can agree, very hard to win every single race.

You know, I just hope, because I’m not always going to be the one that’s done something really great that weekend, but IRL and IndyCar stays in the media, and there are always stories. I mean, you see that in NASCAR. I mean, you know, obviously there are certain people that make a bigger splash that do well, but they’re always winners in the interview. I hope that happens with IndyCars.

THE MODERATOR: Just a reminder, tomorrow night will be the eighth oval race she’s run in her career, so she’s still very early in the rookie curve. Also touching on some of the national media that’s come out. The last few weeks in Texas , CNN was out, 60 Minutes was out previewing the piece they will be doing probably in the fall. We have TV Guide here this week. Outside the Lines from ESPN is coming out this week. Again, the attention that’s been focused on her has brought national media to the track, media that hasn’t necessarily been here before, but it’s also fallen over to the other drivers. Sports Illustrated was at back-to-back races. That hasn’t happened for a number of years. Sports Illustrated sat down for a lengthy interview with Dan Wheldon at Texas . While they came to talk to Danica, they certainly discovered the other drivers, so that helps the series.

Q. (About Bernie Eccelstone’s comments)

DANICA PATRICK: I don’t think in this situation he’d get mad if I told you this, and he called me again yesterday, you know, I didn’t answer the phone because I was on a plane, saying that he wanted to be friends. You know, he said that it wasn’t -- he said that it wasn’t -- he didn’t mean that to be harmful to me. He said, "I wasn’t trying to insult you. Quite the opposite really."

So, you know, I’m not sure exactly what happened. But maybe ask Bernie because I’m surely a little out of the loop and confused. All I know is he seems like he’s trying to make amends. You know, I guess that’s nice of him to try and at least make an effort to call and correct things.

But on the other hand, you know, where that may be proper slang or a good joke in another country, we obviously didn’t get it here.

He said it to me. You know, followed it up by other very nice things and complimentary things to me. So, you know, it was like in the middle of the conversation. I mean, I didn’t really -- I just didn’t put it all together and think somebody would purposely insult me over the phone. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe he wasn’t trying to.

Like I said in another interview, I don’t know if he was talking necessarily about me or, like he said, quite the opposite. You know, I’m not really exactly sure what he was implying by that comment.

I don’t know. Maybe in the future I’ll have an answer for you or maybe you should try to get ahold of him and ask him exactly what he meant because I’m a little confused.

Q. (About racing in Formula 1):

DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I would never say no to anything, nothing in my life, because I don’t think that’s right. I just think you never know where the world can take you or where the road takes you. I mean, I am so very pleased, happy, grateful to be driving for the team that I drive for, to be in the series that I am, to be driving against the amazing drivers I’m driving against. They’re great situations I’m in. I have the lovely fortune of having my friends and family nearby - especially my family, who this summer has come to every race. My sister is living with my fiance and I. It’s all five of us. I just love that. We kind of go out every night. It’s just a great atmosphere for me.

And I will say about moving or if I ever went to England or Europe or whatever again, and I did try to push through Formula One, I’d have to go there in a place where I felt I was comfortable and I was surrounded by people that I cared about and cared about me, and my life and my soul didn’t change because I was away from them.

I think a lot of things would have to be in place for me to want to change where I’m at right now, for sure.

Q. (About racing in NASCAR)

DANICA PATRICK: Sure. But that’s a lot of weekends. That’s a lot of weekends. I think it’s about 40 races a year, 36. I mean, that’s an incredible amount of racing. And so, you know, I also do like to travel and I like to spend time and lay by the pool every now and again. Kind of struggle for that time, don’t you? I’m not saying it’s a no, but it’s another thing that you’d have to be pretty comfortable with a lot of your surroundings to be gone that much.

Q. (No microphone.)

DANICA PATRICK: Well, you know, I mean, until this point, and I don’t know, it might stay the same, it might change. Probably likely that it will change and get a little worse. You know, unless I stop, unless I like physically stop where I’m at, and I’m sitting at a restaurant, I’m fine. I can walk through the airports, I can walk through the grocery store. Nobody says a thing to me. It’s probably because I look like crap (laughter).

No, I don’t feel any different. I really don’t feel any different. It’s difficult for me to understand it.

Q. (No microphone.)

DANICA PATRICK: I’d be afraid, because I’d just keep running and running.

Q. (No microphone.)

DANICA PATRICK: The fact that you set out to do something, you set out for a certain lap time or a win or a top five or whatever it is with the situation and accomplishing it. For me, that’s the best part. It’s not going 200 some miles an hour or anything like that. It’s succeeding at something you try.

Q. (No microphone.)

DANICA PATRICK: I think that, you know, I try not to ever look back and ever judge anyone for the decisions that have been made along the way. And I definitely don’t look back and think I would have liked to do something else. I’m pretty darn happy where I’m at.

I’m glad if along the way someone said no because it’s put me where I’m at today.

Q. (About Erin Crocker)

DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I know that she’s on the path for NASCAR, and a Ford girl, which I was. I was sponsored by Ford a long time ago. Before I drove Atlantics, they wanted me to kind of go that route. They took me, took me to a midget test where I was, you know, fastest, and they took me to a Busch test where I was fastest. They wanted to then take me to I think it was here actually.

I mean, that’s all I know. I can imagine what they’re doing with her.

Q. (No microphone.)

DANICA PATRICK: I don’t know them. They’re no different than any other driver to me, no.

Q. (About attending Hollywood premiere over the weekend)

DANICA PATRICK: Well, I went to the Herbie: Fully Loaded premiere, met Lindsay Lohan. You know, things like that are fun. I mean, it’s exciting to dress up for a day. I just showered obviously and didn’t even decide to put makeup on or do my hair, which I’m not going to, because I’m at the track. It’s completely opposite from what I do every day at my job. For me it’s kind of like a day out at the park or something. I’m just dressing up, hanging out, meeting some interesting people. Celebrities and famous people are interesting, they’ve done some great things.

Yeah, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s something different.

THE MODERATOR: For those of you who may not know, Rahal Letterman Racing and Walt Disney partnered up on a promotion for the Herbie: Fully Loaded premiere. The Herbie: Fully Loaded logo is on Danica’s car. Part of the promotion was that Danica would attend the premiere. That was last Sunday in Hollywood .

Q. Have you developed any relationships with other drivers who aren’t your teammates?

DANICA PATRICK: Yes. I’ve gotten to know them, especially because of Indianapolis and all the different things that we do together throughout the month, the fact that you see each other all the time. You know, camaraderie, just hellos, joking around, just getting to know them. I’d say a majority of them have gotten to know the Team Green guys pretty good.

I’ve known a lot these people from before. It’s just whether you have time to stop and chat for a while. Motegi, we had a lot of time in Motegi. Indianapolis . Most of our weekends are pretty wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am quick. I’m sure we won’t have time to talk this weekend. Along the way you do. The events you do, you do. It’s nice. It’s very nice.

THE MODERATOR: We’re very much trying to balance the schedule for her. When we go into a market now, we have this kind of availability. Obviously, we do the competition PR, media stuff afterwards. For the most part we’re really trying to balance the schedule so when it’s time to drive the car, it’s time to drive the car. I don’t know if that answers the question.

Q. (About changes to her schedule):

DANICA PATRICK: No. I think that, you know, at the track, other than sitting in this setting right here, out there it’s no different. There’s a lot of fans. You know, definitely at Indy and Texas , it was difficult to walk places. You don’t get time to sort of walk back from the track and walk to the garages and say anything to each other.

We’re just really busy on these weekends, so...

Q. (About Watkins Glen test):

DANICA PATRICK: For me, I mean, I wasn’t, you know, at the top of the charts, that’s for sure. But my teammates moved up. After lunch, they had changed some things on the car, which I didn’t. They went faster, and that’s what matters. Nobody wins the test. Come race time, you do. I think they figured out some things and I’m really excited to go there. I think it’s a really fun track.

Q. (About the weight issue)

DANICA PATRICK: I think that’s a series decision. They can do whatever they want to do.

Q. (About learning curve that comes with a new track)

DANICA PATRICK: Well, definitely when you’re put into race mode, which pretty much is where you go from 11:45 a.m. when we start testing today. You know, you push a little bit harder right from the beginning and you don’t necessarily even do it quite as easy, and you’re pushing hard. You know, the curve will be hopefully shorter. But, you know, I’m probably still going to learn the next time I come here and the next time I come here.

So hopefully we have good cars and, you know, they’re easy to drive and the racing is always more fun that way. Some of the times when I learn the most is when things aren’t perfect. One of the easier ones was probably Motegi or Indy because things felt good. When things aren’t perfect, that’s when you really learn. That’s when it’s really hard.

Q. (About comfort level)

DANICA PATRICK: I feel completely comfortable. I mean, probably pretty hard to put me in any kind of situation and make me uncomfortable, especially when it pertains to media. I’m just used to it. It’s just something I’ve been dealing with since, well -- really since I was 14 is the time when it really started. There were a couple of specials, one on ABC with me, Anna Kournikova and Tara Lapinski, then MTV came to my school. You just kind of get used to walking around. You’re telling your friends, "Just pretend like they’re not there. It’s okay."

That’s definitely a media sort of extravaganza. I guess the questions are slightly different. Kind of like, somebody said, "Who is your crush?" I’m like, "I’m getting married actually." They’re like, "Who are you wearing?" I’m like, "I bought this dress actually." The questions are just different.

Q. What was the TV show called?

DANICA PATRICK: It was called “The Passion to Play: The Making of a Champion,” on ABC. One Sunday afternoon in 1996 maybe. Yeah, it was Kournikova, Lapinski. It was a great piece because I think Lapinski, they were filming her, she just went out and won the World Championship or the gold medal. I think she won the gold medal. Worked out pretty well. It was a good show.

Q. Have you met Anna Kournikova?

DANICA PATRICK: I didn’t, no. I met Anna Kournikova since then.I met her at the GQ Awards where I went for Spike TV because they put it on about two years ago.

THE MODERATOR: Danica hosts a program on Spike, The Power Block, on the weekends.

DANICA PATRICK: It’s all a little unscheduled right now, but soon.

Q. If you can’t win, what you consider a success this weekend.

DANICA PATRICK: Second (laughter).

Coming to a new track and especially coming to one different, like this, and everything, I don’t really know exactly what to expect. I hope and pray that the car is good. I think it will be. You know, it proved that it could be fast in qualifying last year. I’ve heard it’s a bit of a fuel race - just like every other one really. But, you know, that definitely helped the team last year because they’re very smart and they always do a good job in that department.

It’s very difficult for me to put, you know, brackets on what I think would be good positions to finish in. But, you know, I’m sure anywhere on the lead lap is going to be, you know, a good success. It’s 250 laps around here, right? Wow!

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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