INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 26, 2005
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks again for joining us. We're joined now by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 16 Argent Pioneer Panos/Honda. Danica leads the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year standings and ranks 11th overall in points. She has two fourth place finishes this season, including the Indianapolis 500. Thanks a lot for joining us today, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Hi.
TIM HARMS: Starting with Motegi, you've turned in some very strong qualifying performances, starting on the front row three times then the second row twice. Michigan is another big track where you and your team have been pretty strong. As we head there this weekend, do you have a lot of confidence you'll have another very fast car?
DANICA PATRICK: Definitely. I don't think there's any reason to think anything different. Year to year obviously things change a little bit, but the team is strong. No matter what, I think we'll be vying for that pole position and let's hope for a win one of these times.
TIM HARMS: Earlier in the season I kind of got the sense that as much as you wanted to win races, it was also very important for you to stay in the race, get as much experience as possible. Perhaps a bit of a conservative approach. Now that the season is further along, you had some success in going to tracks similar to ones you've been to before, does the balance of getting experience and being conservative versus racing a little bit harder, does that start to shift at all?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I don't think so. I think that as a driver, you have to try and stay in the race. I mean, you can't win it unless you're in it. I think as you go on, though, your comfort zone and how much you think you can do with the car expands a little bit. Maybe as a result, things are a little bit more risky, but you don't go into things, an overtaking maneuver, with the situation or the thought of, "I think I might crash here." The thing is, you can't control what other people do.
TIM HARMS: Let's open it up for questions for Danica.
Q. How much do you know about MIS, and what sort of chance do you give yourself of doing well there this Sunday?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I know it's a bigger track. That's about it. And do I think I have a good chance of doing well? Of course, I do. I think we've been pretty strong so far this year overall. Even this past weekend at Milwaukee, with the troubles we've had at the short ovals, we walked into that and we're hoping to do better than what we did at Richmond. We did a lot better qualifying sixth, running in the top six or seven for the whole race until I fell out. Big improvement. We're the strongest at the big ovals. I think the successes are hoped for there.
Q. You took blame Sunday when your car snapped around you, but other team managers and engineers were saying that there was a slick on there, maybe even oil. Has your team done any further analysis to see what happened, if there was a problem down there on the track surface?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know actually any data information. That's something that they'll definitely collaborate over these couple of days. I'm sure we'll touch on that either this week on the phone or when we see each other on Friday at the track in Michigan. You know, I have heard some things about it being slippery. I talked to Dario after the race. He said he drove through the corner and had to catch the car. Right away a yellow flag came out. He thought, "Shoot, there's oil down in turn two." I had heard that people were talking about it even in the yellow flag that it was slippery down there. I guess I'm not quite as much at fault, but then again other people did save the car and mine came around. I was definitely leaning a little more towards oversteer in the race. Maybe that kind of emphasized the problem. As a driver, it's always good to hear there's other reasons why you spun than just "I lost it." I'll take those kinds of things when I can get them (laughter).
Q. Is there any concern that this might make your team back off a little looser setup? Are you going to continue on with the quicker setup that you had there?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that no matter what, you go for the faster car. You learn to deal with it. I was definitely dealing with it in the race, where it seemed like sometimes I would gain ground on people during the first 120 laps or whatever that I was in, came on the radio, my engineer Ray asked me how the car was. Might have looked like it was going okay. I come on the radio and say, "It's all over the place." You go for the faster setup overall because you have the best potential to move up. You deal with the car as it comes.
Q. Might this be a track that's on the real good end for you as Richmond and Texas were kind of on the tough end? Would Michigan be a place where you might prosper as you were for Kansas?
DANICA PATRICK: I keep my fingers crossed and I hope that. I hope it's a good weekend. I definitely think I have a good feeling. I think it could be. I think that at the end of the day, though, every one of these weekends has been a little success in itself, just improving one area at a time. Sometimes we improve two and lose out in another. You know, it's just trying to bring them all together. I think we've done well in all areas, whether it's race condition, qualifying, earlier in the year pit stops, we improved again in Milwaukee over the last couple weekends. They've come together. They just need to come together at the same time. I think we have a very good chance as the year progresses and as our experience levels go up and as time goes on.
Q. I'm doing a story for your upcoming race at Kentucky Speedway. How do you prepare for a track you've never raced on?
DANICA PATRICK: There's not a whole lot you can do really. You can watch some video footage. You can obviously ask people what it's like. It's becoming easier and easier to compare it to other tracks as I've driven on other tracks. I'd only driven on one oval before the year started, so that was kind of difficult. Testing helps. Kentucky is a place I got to test at last year. Those are the kind of things you can do in preparation. For the most part it's really developing the race car and getting it to the point where you feel comfortable and you can put it where you want on the racetrack. That happens through the weekend.
Q. Is it easy dealing with all of the attention you get because of the impact you've made on IRL with its popularity?
DANICA PATRICK: It's all balanced out. I'm not going to take on more than I can handle and more than I can deal with. We all keep very in the front of our minds what's important, and that's racing the car. If I put my hand in the air and say we need to back off, everybody, they respond. That's nice that you have people surrounding you that have the big picture in mind, and that's driving the race car.
Q. As I'm sure you know by now, the Andretti Green drivers boycotted the autograph session last week in Wisconsin. They claim you got special treatment, they were upset. They decided to boycott. Does that sort of thing, is it beginning to annoy you that you seem to be the target of these types of things? Are you sensing a creeping jealousy or anything of that sort?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I don't think so. I think for the most part we all just want everything -- everybody just wants it to be fair. I have nothing against the guys. I think they recognize the fact that I don't control the autograph sessions or anything like that. That's riding on the hands of the series and the tracks a lot of times. You know, it's out of my hands really. All I do is kind of show up where I'm supposed to and sign as many autographs as I can and hopefully put a couple smiles on some people's faces.
Q. In a week's time, how many autographs do you think you give, how many interviews?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. I don't know. I'm sure I sign a thousand or so autographs. I suppose I do, I don't know -- it depends. I mean, an interview, there's a few of you on the telephone right now, so if you consider each of those an interview, I do quite a few of them, including the weekends with the press conference format that we do to impact as much as we can in a short period of time. So I don't know. I guess there's a lot of people standing there. I guess it depends how many people show up to the race and how many people show up for the teleconferences. I think the people monitoring this will tell you how many people are online right now.
Q. Do you ever have to weigh the needs of the IRL, they need you to be out front, versus maybe the feeling with other drivers that, "She's getting all the attention"? I know you've tried to balance things out. Do you ever have to fight that internal war?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I don't really think about -- I don't think about -- I mean, the attention that's happening is good. I think a lot of people recognize that, drivers included, and teams, the more people that are watching, the better. The sport will grow. Not everybody's going to be a Danica fan. My family members from Canada came down to Milwaukee. My uncle is a really big Tony Kanaan fan. Not everybody's going to be a Danica fan. I think as the sport grows, the fan base for each person will grow, too. I think that everybody is excited about that.
Q. The preparations you make for the physical demands of the sport, maintaining your strength on race day, dealing with heat like at Milwaukee, what kind of training regimen do you follow to prepare yourself for that?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I take it very seriously. In racing there's so very few things you can control, one of them is you and your body, how well-prepared you are. I work out every day and I lift weights every other day. I run. I do no less than 40 minutes of cardio activity each day. A lot of times it's more like an hour. And I'm just consistent. I think the consistency really pays off with the strength, endurance and your efforts to improve them. I'll say that. I run on a lot of days where I'm going to go out and go on the track. The last race, Nashville, I went running in the morning before the race. You know, just depends on the weekend and the effort load and what I'm doing during the week. It's obviously difficult with travels, but you make do. You bring your running shoes. I've learned to become a pretty good runner considering the fact that's the only thing you can do when you throw one thing on your body and you just head out. You know, consistency.
Q. Are your teammates still willing to help you as they probably did early on this season? Is a win something that you have to achieve or are you happy to be competitive and let that win come when it may?
DANICA PATRICK: On your first question, will they help me as much?
DANICA PATRICK: I think so. I think Vitor is such a nice guy. He's such a help. If I ask anything, he will answer. And Buddy, as well. I think we all understand the more we help each other, the faster we all go. So we do our best to communicate what kind of things we've tried with the race car in hopes that we'll all go faster. Your second question was about?
Q. Do you have to win?
DANICA PATRICK: The win. I don't have to do anything. At least that's not the feeling I get from the exposure, the attention or what people say. A lot of people say that, "She needs to win or this is all a bunch of crap." Well, let's look at the big picture here. It takes a lot longer than eight or 10 races to win a race for the first time most of the time. I think that as much as I go into each weekend thinking I really want to win, there's never a have to. I think it will come when it comes. You need the experience. You need to be able to know what's going to happen in all situations. That takes time.
Q. If you were visiting Roscoe, Illinois, for the first time in your life, what sights would you see or recommend people see?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think we have more than one stoplight now. I guess I have a few more corners to pick from. Gosh, let's see. We have a lovely forest preserve in the Roscoe area. There is a great coffee shop that we once sold that was called The Java Hut, now it's called Meg's Daily Grind. That's right in Main Street Square off of, what is it, 290. I don't remember what it is. It's near Elevator Road. Goodness, there's not an extreme amount of things to see in Roscoe. It's your typical small little town. That's about it. You know, one of the good breakfast joints in town is called Jessica's. That's right near the main stoplight.
Q. Michigan, a lot of people have gotten their first IndyCar wins there, Emerson Fittipaldi. From what you know of that track, what do you think lends itself to newcomers doing well there?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think it's probably slightly easier than some other tracks because it's large. You can run two cars wide for sure. I'm sure that helps. Depending on where it is in the schedule, might be late enough in the year all the time that people have enough time to get in a groove, get comfortable, then win their first race. That might play -- as simple as it might sound, might be a scheduling thing.
Q. Sunday you were clearly moving forward when you had your mishap. How much are these two-day weekends hurting you as far as like getting a feel for some of these places you've never been to? Do you feel yourself on a fast learning curve when you jump in the car Saturday morning?
DANICA PATRICK: I think for me the more amount of time I can have to develop the car and get comfortable with it and fine tune it for me is -- because I think each individual driver is different. While there might be one base setup that works the best for everybody, there's variations within that will work best for each driver. The longer weekends and more sessions give me and my engineer Ray a chance to develop that. Realizing a lot of times the better weekends I have are the longer ones, the whole month of Indy, I think that it helps actually.
Q. Do you feel you and Ray are developing that language that is so important between the driver and the engineer? Do you feel things are happening quicker, relaying information quicker now?
DANICA PATRICK: I definitely think that's part of it. But I think another big part of it is knowing what I want, knowing what the car should and shouldn't do. For most of the time at the very beginning when we started testing last year and then the first two races, I just thought if a car handled like this, that was just because that's what this car does instead of going, "No, it's not supposed to have that much understeer. The car is supposed to feel much more balanced than that, much more stable than this." I think that's something you can only develop over, a lot of times, making mistakes or for me feeling a good car. Once I've felt a good car, I know what it needs and I can say, "No, that was a bad change, go back. I remember the rear is not settled. This is something I know I can have, let's fix this." It's a matter of having a good car, knowing what that feels like, then keeping that in mind for the future.
Q. Are you sensing a personal momentum? Nobody ever guarantees victory. Are you sensing a personal momentum that is leading toward something big?
DANICA PATRICK: I have a good feeling. I think it's a bad idea to get too excited and too optimistic. You must be humble. You must work hard 'cause there's 22 other drivers that are going to be working hard. But optimism and confidence to a certain extent can carry you a ways. I go into this weekend with a little bit of that and just having the momentum off of what I'm building through the year, excited about how well I'm working with my engineer and everything else. Yeah, excitement.
Q. Could you take us into the driver's seat and explain what goes through your mind when you're racing, and how do you keep focus.
DANICA PATRICK: That's a difficult question. I don't know how simply I have to put it. I don't really know if I have a great answer because it's so natural. I think that a lot of times with athletes, professional athletes or with people that are good at their job, whatever it may be, it comes naturally. You can't even describe what it is that goes through your head a lot of times. It's instinct and you don't have to think about it. I think that's what makes you good. In the race car, in a lot of things, there's not enough time to think. It's just natural ability and knowing what needs to be done and when. It's adrenaline. At the same time you try and keep yourself calm because it's a long race. I just think a lot of it's so natural that we don't think about it.
Q. How long do you think you felt this natural ability to be a good driver? How long do you think you've had it?
DANICA PATRICK: I think ever since I started. I mean, the first time I got into a go-kart I think is the first sense of it. Everything down to now where I do all kinds of things with my feet when I'm coming in for a pit stop. You got to push the clutch in when you stop and when you pull away, but you don't need it when you're coming in. I could think of the order of everything, but you just get confused. It's all so natural that it's complicated to think about it. I think from the first time I had it and I think everybody who's good at what they do has that in them for their job.
Q. How old were you when you first jumped into a go-kart?
DANICA PATRICK: 10.
TIM HARMS: Thank you very much, Danica. As always, good luck this weekend.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
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