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INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 19, 2005
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll have four guests joining us this afternoon. Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Jay Drake is with us to start the call, while IndyCar Series drivers Patrick Carpentier, Scott Sharp and Danica Patrick will join us in a few minutes. Good afternoon, Jay, thanks for joining us.
JAY DRAKE: Thank you. Good to be here.
TIM HARMS: Jay is a rookie in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, but obviously a long-time veteran of USAC racing. Jay finished third this weekend at Nashville, his second third place finish of the season and his fourth top five finish of the season. He heads into this weekend's race in Milwaukee ranked seventh in the points. Noteworthy also is the fact that Jay is in the middle of a stretch of running 11 races in 11 days. Seven of those races are part of Indiana Sprint week, two of them are the Pro Series races in Nashville and Milwaukee, and he'll also be competing in the Silver Crown and midget races in Milwaukee. Jay is the reigning national Sprint car champion and is currently second in points. Jay, first of all, let's go back to this past weekend down at Nashville. You finished third but had to get back to Indiana for the Sprint car race so we didn't get to really hear from you much after the race. Let's talk about the weekend and tell us about the race. You were very fast in practice, missed the qualifying session, and then moved up from the back of field to third, which I think is very impressive, obviously since Nashville is not really an easy place to pass. Tell us a little about the race especially and how you were able to move up so fast.
JAY DRAKE: Like you said, we had a great race car. We were fastest in the first practice. I hit the wall in the second practice, which kept us from being able to make the qualifying session, and obviously we would have had a much better starting position if we could have accomplished that. So we had to start at the back. My guys, Richey and Brad, they virtually worked all night long on that car to get it back in running shape for the race. They did a great job obviously because the car was just as fast as it was before I crashed it. We were able to move up through the field and, as you said, it is a tough place to pass. I was worried about starting so far back because up until that point I hadn't even got the opportunity to try to pass anybody, and I didn't know exactly how it was going to be accomplished. We were able to move up through the field and get a third place finish, like you said. It was a great day for us.
TIM HARMS: How did you manage to do those passes then? Was it a matter of, did you have to spend a lot of time setting guys up and working on position or was the car just so much better you kind of breezed by them?
JAY DRAKE: No, it was -- you know, we had to definitely pick my spots to try to make a pass. Those Infiniti Pro cars, they tend to get really, I guess what they call aero-tight, when they're right up behind another car they'll lose the front end in the corner. You lose a lot of space to the car directly in front of you. So you really got to make a rhythm pass, so to speak. It takes a couple laps to set the guy up and you got to get a run just at the right time in order to make the pass down the straightaway. It was tricky. But as the race went on, I kept getting a little better at it each car I came to. It turned out to be a lot of fun actually.
TIM HARMS: That was your seventh race in a Pro Series car. You've kind of experienced about every type of track we run on, some of the short ones, some of the longer one, high-banking. What type of track are you most comfortable on?
JAY DRAKE: Well, I tend to like the larger tracks myself. It's just more comfortable. You run the cars wide open all the time. Actually, you know, it's faster and higher speed, but it's a lot easier to drive. The shorter tracks, it's a lot more technical and the cars are going to get away from you a lot more, so you've got to pay attention to that part of it. I like the faster tracks. I like the speed. It's more fun that way.
TIM HARMS: So Milwaukee then obviously is the opposite of that. It is one of the shorter tracks, being just one mile. I know you tested there and got a little bit of experience there last week. What do you anticipate for the race this weekend?
JAY DRAKE: Well, I think guys are going to have to be real careful. I think it showed there last year. There was a lot of adversity, a lot of cars went out, had accidents, because the track being so short, it gets a little slippery and the cars will start sliding around, and they start banging into each other. So you're going to have to be careful. I think we're definitely going to want to qualify there and start towards the front. I think that's going to be a big key to that race.
TIM HARMS: This weekend is going to be exceptionally busy for you, as we touched on earlier. Friday is the busiest day of all. There's practice and qualifying for both the Silver Crowns and midgets, practice for the Pro Series, then you fly to Terre Haute in the evening to race a Sprint car. Has there ever been another day where you've driven four different types of cars in the same day, and how do you really plan to make the transition from car to car?
JAY DRAKE: That will be a first for me. I've done three different cars in a day on a couple occasions, but this will be the first time for four different cars in one day. You know, I don't know really how I'm going to prepare for it. I guess I'm just going to wait till I get there and take it as it comes. That's the only way I know how to do things. I got a good bunch of guys on all four different crews that give me great race cars, so I've got to rely on them to keep me pointed in the right direction, and then I'm just going to jump in each one and do the best that I can and hopefully keep them all pointed straight for the day.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Jay.
Q. Jumping back and forth from car to car, what do you anticipate being the most challenging? I assume the midget and the Silver Crown car, while different, are a little more similar to drive than those cars to the Pro Series car, right? Is that going to be trickier going one way or the other?
JAY DRAKE: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely going to be tricky. I don't know which way is going to be more tricky 'cause, you know, you got to slow yourself down a lot when you go from the Pro car to the USAC cars because obviously without the wings and aerodynamics, you can't drive those cars down into the corner quite as hard. You got to be careful of that. That could get you in trouble if I get out of the Pro car and into the midget or the Silver Crown car and try to drive it down deep in the corner real hard. It's just going to keep on sailing until it hits the wall. That won't be fun for any of us. At the same time, jumping back from the USAC cars to the Pro car, you got to try to find -- it's different marks. You know, you hear that all the time in racing, "hit your marks." But the marks are going to be completely different in each one of the cars. That's something I'm going to really pay attention to and try and pick up on in the shortest amount of time possible to get as competitive back and forth.
Q. Look at your surroundings and make sure you remember which car you're in at which time.
JAY DRAKE: Yeah, there will be a lot to that.
Q. You're certainly well-established in the USAC stuff, a rookie in the Pro Series. What are your aspirations? Where do you hope to go, what do you hope to be doing down the road?
JAY DRAKE: Right now my aspirations are to win one of those pro races. Hopefully this weekend -- we keep getting closer and closer. I've been fortunate enough to win at least a race in every kind of car I've raced so far, so I definitely want to accomplish that. From there, you know, we're trying to win the USAC Championship again this year. After that, you know, honestly I don't know. We've got so much going on right now, we just kind of take it as it comes. Good things seem to keep happening. So hopefully more good things will keep happening.
Q. We talk about getting ready to race the cars in all these different categories. What about the logistics of just doing all this stuff and fitting it all into a 24-hour day or 12-hour window? That sounds like that's a bigger issue.
JAY DRAKE: Yeah, it's tricky. I mean, it takes a lot of planning, you know, right down from little things like packing a bunch of different suitcases and sending them in the right vehicles for this weekend. That's a tricky part in itself. But, you know, that's probably the smallest thing I've got to worry about. But just little things like that that you might not expect. But this past weekend from Nashville, I had a friend of mine from Columbus with a little airplane who was flying me back and forth between Nashville and the Sprint car races. This weekend in the IRL, they're actually furnishing us an airplane to get us from Milwaukee to the race at Terre Haute Friday night. A bunch of us are going to be jumping on that one and getting back and forth. It makes for some short nights and long days. It's still a lot of fun, right?
Q. Without question. Do the fans look different? Do you have a chance to even see the fans when you're jumping in and out of cars?
JAY DRAKE: Oh, yeah. I mean, the fans are everywhere, thank goodness, because without them we wouldn't be doing it. You know, everybody seems to be real interested in what we're doing, especially during these weeks when we got all these races going on. Especially with the Sprint week tour, there's a big group of fans that follow that series around in motorhomes. That's a lot of fun. And obviously, you know, we got larger crowds at the IRL and the Infiniti Pro races than what we're normally used to. But everybody's real friendly and wants to know how you're handling it all. It makes it fun, too.
Q. NASCAR is always looming on the horizon. You're having some success. You're in a few more headlines. Are you showing up on any NASCAR radar yet?
JAY DRAKE: Well, there's, you know, little bits and pieces and talks. I was contacted from Jack Roush's organization for their next Gong Show, but as it turns out, I was over the age limit they had cut off for that so I didn't get to go do that. Still, at least there's enough interest there to where I'm getting calls from people that at least want to know what my take on it is or if I would be interested. Other than that, no real opportunities down there as of yet. But I'm enjoying what I'm doing with the IndyCar side. I've always been a big IndyCar fan, Indy 500 fan especially. I'd sure like to get a chance to at least run that race once or twice.
Q. Physically how do you prepare for the series of races that you've been in, especially what is facing you this weekend?
JAY DRAKE: Well, physically, I don't know. I've raced upwards of 80 to 85 races in a season. You know, as far as the demands that the cars put on me, I stay in pretty good shape that way. When I'm not racing, I go to the gym every now and then to help keep myself in somewhat of good shape. I mean, you have to do that to be able to hang on to these things. Other than that, just during the actual weeks, you know, I try to drink a lot of water. I guess that's the most important thing, to keep hydrated and try to find time to eat once in a while. Other than that, you get in a mode and you keep going. Then when it's all over, you fall down somewhere.
Q. Is one of the driving points with this many races just to challenge yourself to be able to do it? I mean, winning is the ultimate end of the challenge. But just doing it, is that part of the challenge?
JAY DRAKE: Yeah, I'd say. But like the important point you made there is the winning is the important part. I guess the more races you run, the more chances you have to win. So I guess you got to take every opportunity you get. As it started out, you know, I said I'd race every day if I got the chance. Sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for because this is close to it.
Q. A question about the adjustment from breaking the back end loose on a USAC Sprint car on a clay oval, then going and running on asphalt where the driving application is so different. Some drivers do it easily; some never adapt to that change in the way you execute. Is that a tough adjustment for you? Obviously it isn't. Was that a challenge at one particular time, to learn the two different rudiments, how you get around?
JAY DRAKE: Yeah, it's just something that came naturally to me. I mean, when I first started out racing, I did mostly dirt track stuff out in California. Until I came back to the Midwest I hadn't had a whole lot of pavement experience, so it took a few races and a good part of a season back here before I adapted well enough to the pavement side of it to where I could get to where I could start winning races. And then again going from the pavement USAC stuff to, you know, the type of Infiniti Pro cars is a whole 'nother transition. I'm actually still learning the differences there and figuring out the characteristics of the cars. I think I'm starting to pick up on it fairly decent anyway, and I'm having a lot of fun at it for sure.
Q. When you break the back end loose on a Sprint car and you drive it the way you need to to get one of those things around a racetrack, do you think that teaches you maybe a higher degree of car control, that when you get to an asphalt car, if it's not actually handling that well, especially if it's loose, gets a little squirrelly in the back end, do you think a guy like you that can make that adaptation from the dirt to the asphalt makes you better in terms of car control when you're on the pavement?
JAY DRAKE: Well, it's got to help, especially when you're dealing with a loose-handling pavement car. I mean, knowing how to control a broad slide on a slippery dirt track, I think it has to help when it comes to trying to help a loose pavement car where the rear-end is wanting to come out on you. You just naturally go to things like your throttle controls and you're counter-steering into it, knowing how much to give it, how much not to. I'm sure it has help to some degree, for sure.
TIM HARMS: Thanks, Jay, for taking some time to join us. I know you've been super busy, going to be hitting the road probably in the next hour or so to head out for tonight's race. We wish you good luck in all of the races this week.
JAY DRAKE: Thank you.
TIM HARMS: We'll see you this weekend. Just a note to the media here. For a complete list of the races here that Jay is competing in, you can visit the Pro Series website, which is Indycar.com/pro. The lead story has that complete list. Right now we're joined by IndyCar Series driver Patrick Carpentier. Good afternoon.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: How are you?
TIM HARMS: I'm good. Thanks for joining us.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thanks for having me.
TIM HARMS: Patrick drives the No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. He's in his first season in the IndyCar Series and has recorded two third place finishes in the last three races much. He ranks 10th in points. Last weekend at Nashville, in addition to finishing third, he led 25 laps of the race. Let me ask you this, Patrick. You've had two third place finishes now in the last three races. How much of that is a factor do you think of those two tracks being shorter tracks, how much is a factor of maybe of team getting stronger, and is some of it also maybe you're getting more comfortable now in the IndyCar Series car?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think it's a little bit of everything. You know, for sure for us the short track, you don't necessarily need as much top end, we seem to be doing better. But every weekend, we got a new partner this year that came this year, that came with me, with the team, Mechacrome. They do a lot of work with Formula One and some teams. They've got a lot of experience. They've been making us quite a few parts for the car. We had some more coming before Nashville that I brought back from Montreal actually to the team. We just improve the car aerodynamically, with the suspension. I know Toyota, they're working pretty hard to make it better. All that put together, I think we're getting closer. At the beginning of the year, we were a little bit lost. Same for me with these cars. I mean, at first I thought, "Ovals, I like ovals, I'll come to the IRL and I'll be up at the front." But it's not the way it works. It's actually very difficult. It's extremely competitive. To learn to drive these cars, I mean, the guys push the cars very, very far to the limit. They're always sideways at over 200 miles per hour. The car always moves around. You got to keep it on the limit and you got to keep your foot in it, too, if you want to make a pass. It's kind of different racing. It's very close racing. Adrenaline pumping. It's getting used to all that. I think the team is getting a bit better. But I think we'll be good. We start to get better on short and longer tracks now.
TIM HARMS: Obviously, the success so far has been seen on those short tracks. The one-mile oval of Milwaukee fits into that category where you're the record holder a few years ago setting the fastest qualifying lap there. Just take us on a quick lap around the Milwaukee Mile and tell us what makes it so challenging.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I like those kind of tracks. I like the mile track or three-quarter or little bit past a mile. If you look at the beginning of the year, even if Phoenix where it was a mile oval, we were not that competitive. So the team is really improving. But Milwaukee is a nice track, you know. The only thing you got to be careful of, there's a small bump, you enter corner one and you can go really deep into that corner. When you go around what we call turn two, which is still the first corner, right towards the exit there there's a bit of a bump. You got to set yourself up to make sure you're well placed over that bump so you can accelerate very early. I suspect I'm not going to lift too much on that track. The car should handle pretty well. Three and four normally are fairly flat and you have to make a nice arc and try to go around that track and keep the scrub to a minimum. The difference with Milwaukee is there's not much banking, so it makes it a bit more challenging.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Patrick.
Q. In the recent success that you've had, has it almost been a calming influence that you don't have to push as hard, that now you feel as though you're a part of the car and you understand what it wants?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, more and more actually. When I talk to the engineer, and I've talked to Toyota quite a bit. Toyota has been working with us. They've been working with their engines and with us also. I'm starting to understand what it takes. These cars, you have to eliminate any scrub that the car has. You have to drive it on the edge. It seems like I didn't get how far you have to push these cars, you know, how you have to keep it right there. They're actually fairly comfortable on the edge. They move around all the time and you spend a bit of time sideways in the races, but that's the way these cars are. It took me a while to get used to that. Especially when you have a car on the inside that's been a couple of inches, and you got one on the outside within a couple of inches. But I like it. I enjoy it. I mean, in Nashville, I didn't sleep at all that night. Same thing at Richmond, because I'm so excited after the race. When you can battle up front, and now I think we stay on the same lap as the leader, so anything can happen. I'm very happy. We're getting more comfortable with the team, myself and everybody. It seems like it's getting a little bit more relaxed. But we just want to keep working hard. And I think every week there's a small improvement.
Q. Maybe I'm being a bit over-philosophical. Early in May you and Eddie had a disagreement. It seemed that after that was settled, all of a sudden the team started to move forward. In hindsight, was that a bonding moment for the team?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think it was either going to bond or split apart because at one point it got so close. I was mad. Eddie was not happy. We almost -- because his phone was not working that day, I think it was a good thing. We were just not understanding each other. But one thing that always kept us together is that I know Eddie really wants to win. He's pushing hard. He's going to take some chances with fuel and everything in the race to win the race. I really appreciate that. Sometimes I think it's hard because he hasn't won in such a long time, that you want it so much that it's almost worse. You know, you do things that you normally wouldn't do if you'd be relaxed. And now I think with those two podiums, I think it's going to be even better. You know, I think he's a bit more relaxed. I am, too. It seems like after that conflict we bonded quite a bit more and we really started focusing on the car and focusing on what we need to be faster. We got a few guys with Mechacrome, and my engineering and with Alex and so much input that every week we feel we're making small gains.
Q. You talked a little about Milwaukee. In fact, the next two tracks at Milwaukee and Michigan both have special places for you. Your fast lap at Milwaukee and your first win on a big oval at Michigan. Can you talk about how you're going to prepare for those two. Because they come like two in a row, it will be like the third race weekend in a row for you.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: This is good, 'cause those are two tracks I've done well. Even Alex, my teammate, did well, won Michigan before. So for the time I think it's good. I think Toyota, they're coming up with a couple of new things within the next few races. I had a talk with Mechacrome. I know they're coming up with some new parts for Milwaukee and for Michigan. I think our aero package is going to be a bit better in the car. It's really encouraging. I mean, at the beginning it was so tough. It seems like we were not having too much development on the car. Now that we're starting to get the wheel turned, we're going to two racetracks that I love. I mean, Milwaukee, I love that track. Finished second last year. I think we still have the fastest lap. It's a fun place to be. And Michigan, I'm looking forward to it, because I think we're going to start to be more competitive also on the longer track. For me I'm very happy because at the beginning of the year we knew the team had been struggling. We came in. We said we'd work on changes. At some point it was almost like it was not going to happen. At least now we see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think we're going to bring it up.
Q. Obviously you come from a background where you were with a larger team in Champ Car with Forsythe. Now you're sort of in a different situation obviously with Cheever. Do you look at teams like Penske or Andretti Green and feel not so much frustrated but just that you have a different learning curve? Also could you talk a little bit about the strength of Andretti Green, your familiarity obviously with Kanaan and Dario?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, no, this team has been strong all year. Also Dan Wheldon has been very strong since the beginning. It's been great, because the last, Richmond and Nashville, I had battles the whole race with Dario. At the end of the race at Nashville, I had some battles with him. So it's great to race Dario. He's a good racer. You know he always holds his place. It's fun to be back with these guys. I've raced these guys before, and it seems like it was not going to happen this year. But for sure when you look at a team like Andretti Green, they have four cars, so four guys giving feedback. They have very good personnel, good engineering and everything. And they're very well financed. So for us for sure on the Red Bull team, it's always a challenge to try to realize or try to be with these guys up at the front. But we feel we're working very hard. We feel we're the little kid or the little team that could. And I think we're going to make it, I really do. At the beginning of the year, it was kind of a challenge that I undertook, because I always liked ovals and I want to do that. I like the IRL. It's starting to work out. So I'm really, really happy. We're still going to have ups and downs. But, honestly, I really feel like whether it's a short, medium or a large-size super oval or superspeedway, I think we're going to start being faster and faster. We have the development parts. One of the good things this team has, our team, is not a lot of teams have a chance to have, is some of the best engineering in the world with Mechacrome. They're a partner with us, they're building us parts we need, anything we need. Anything they can improve or they can think of they're going to build. It's a great advantage because normally it's very costly to do it. But Mechacrome can do it at a much lower price.
Q. Obviously there are a lot of very talented drivers in the IRL who are not with the larger teams. Do you think looking at a multi-car team with three or four drivers, is it almost getting to be the point of NASCAR where you just need that many drivers to share information or do the teams have the ability, like a Cheever Racing, to kind of steadily get better as the season goes on and have a chance to even win the title?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think so. You know, I think the IRL, the way it's done, you still pretty much all the teams have a chance, you know, to do well. So for sure the larger team, more budget, they have a bigger chance. But the way they keep the rules, they keep the rules really tight. It's not unlimited, you know, as far as aerodynamics are concerned, and quite a few things. So that's why it gives a chance to a lot of teams to do well. But for sure for us we have to work very, very hard because we know the Andretti Green team are working extremely hard and the Penske guys. So for us we have to be careful, you know, like we have to try to stay clean all the time and try to keep (indiscernible) up and try to move forward. But I think if it's well-organized, if you have a team that has four or five, six, drivers, whatever they have, and three of them, the feedback they give or whatever happens is not necessarily very good, I think it's going to handicap that team. If you have a team with two drivers and both of them are giving good feedback and are working together pretty well and remain really, really open as far as setups and everything, I think that team has a chance to go very far.
TIM HARMS: Scott Sharp as joined us. We've had him on hold a couple minutes. I want to get to a couple questions for Scott. First of all, Scott, how are you?
SCOTT SHARP: Good, how are you doing today?
TIM HARMS: Thanks for holding on for a couple minutes. Scott, driver of the No. 8 Delphi/Panos/Firestone. This is going to be a very historic weekend for Scott. He has 107 IndyCar Series starts in his is career. The race in Milwaukee will be his hundredth consecutive race. Congratulations. That's a monumental achievement obviously. Tell us briefly just about the factors that have to come together to put a string together like that of a hundred consecutive races.
SCOTT SHARP: Well, you know, I'm just -- obviously I think a huge factor in all that has been Delphi. 92 of those races have been when I've been driving the Delphi car. It's just a tremendous relationship that I feel obviously extremely fortunate about. I think you don't find a lot of sponsor/driver relationships like that in motorsports, let alone open-wheel racing. I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had with the different owners. It started with AJ Foyt, and of course now has moved on to the Fernandez team, which I'm really thrilled to be a part of. I think it's all about -- racing is all about opportunity, period. It's great to have a run like that. For me, I'm an extremely competitive individual, so I don't really focus on how many races I've run; I'm much more focused on how many races I've won (laughter). For me, I would trade 10 wins for a hundred starts any day.
TIM HARMS: You mentioned you've won races. You shared the series championship a few years back. What is your fondest memory overall from the last 100 races?
SCOTT SHARP: There's so many. You know, there's so many. I think from a general perspective, I think to get in some of those very intense moments, especially on some of the mile and a half or bigger tracks where you're three-wide, big pack running, three or four rows deep, that's just really exciting racing, especially when you can of course win, but certainly going right down to the line, having a chance to win. Personally, of course, winning the pole at Indianapolis a few years ago was a big accomplishment, as well as each of the wins you get. You know, they're always special in their different ways. A lot of great memories.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and open it up for questions with Scott and continue with some for Patrick.
Q. Patrick, your first year in IRL. What have the changes been? And, Scott, how has it changed in your 100 consecutive races here?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for me it's a big change. I mean, everything changes: the series, the rules, the cars, the way you drive it, the competition changes. A lot of guys I knew from the past. But it's way more competitive than I thought it would be. And the attention to detail to bring the cars up to the front is unbelievable. So a lot of notes and a lot of details and studying and being careful with what to do with your cars. So it's fun. I'll tell you one thing. I've been so happy. At the beginning of the year was a little bit rough. But we're getting a bit better. We've had a couple of breaks in the last few races. Man, it's fun. When you battle with these guys at the front wheel to wheel, making some passes, getting passed, everything, it's adrenaline-pumping. I'm having the time of my life. I'm very happy about the decision I made. I think slowly we're going to bring the team, the Red Bull Cheever team, stronger and stronger. I think we're going to start running a little bit more on the front on the superspeedways also.
SCOTT SHARP: From my perspective, I think just the depth of the field, I mean maybe echoing a little bit about what Patrick has talked about. I don't think the series really gets the credit it deserves for just the amount of talented teams and drivers in the field. And certainly really you've seen that grow every year for several years in a row now. I think that's a lot of what went on at Kelley Racing was the fact we ran a stock car. It's a great example really. We ran a stock car, maybe one that wasn't as massaged or had the details of the little bits here and there, the lightweight pieces, whatever it was that made some guys a little bit better. I think five years ago you could do that and you were still in the top five. I think every year, the sort of more technically oriented engineering teams have appeared and excelled. You really have to work so hard. Like Patrick is talking about, to even smell the top 10. You know what I mean? It's funny. You work so hard, you'll end up qualifying eighth or ninth. You look at the list, it's some pretty big names you're ahead of. Even though you might be frustrated being eighth or ninth, you're still ahead of a lot of great cars.
Q. You've seen a lot of great names, including Patrick come in in the last few years. That's got to be good for the sport.
SCOTT SHARP: Absolutely. It goes with sort of what I was just saying. You want to race against the best. We've got just so many really talented drivers in the series, really strong teams. So, you know, it never ends really. Every team has such strength on it and different perspectives. I think that's just -- I mean, certainly, you know, it's great what Danica has done, what she's brought to the series, but I think there's a lot of buzz about the fact that just the kind of racing we're putting on, as well. You can go back race after race, and there's been some great wheel-to-wheel running all race long throughout the pack. I have so many friends that go to different races that call me afterwards, whatever race it is, and there's something about that race, regardless of where I was, that they were just charged up about the event itself, the kind of wheel-to-wheel racing that went on, just the action and the intensity. When you have people calling you and telling you that, you really know you've got a great on-track product.
Q. Scott, I know last year at Milwaukee was a little frustrating weekend for you. When you look at it coming back, do you go, "That's a different year, different team, whole different situation, none of that carries over"? How do you look at this coming weekend?
SCOTT SHARP: Absolutely. I feel like I was in a different series. We went there and we had a couple-day open test up there. Second day got rained out. We were like the fast car or one of the top two fastest cars in the morning of the open test. Really the car was great. Sort of from there on went downhill. It carried on through the weekend. Just couldn't get our hands around the car at all. But the track's really terrific. It's a real driver's track, I think. I think we all welcome the opportunity to go to a short track that has ample passing room that you can run different lines on. That's what makes I think Milwaukee pretty special, along with the tradition and the heritage of the track. But I think certainly to be able to run a high line, run a low line. If you're a quick car, you're going to find a way around people. So often we go to some of these short tracks, it can be really difficult. I think we've seen that in the last few races on the short tracks where there's been a lot of crashes because everyone is trying to go for the same piece of real estate. It's nice to go to Milwaukee and have a lot of track out there to make it happen. I don't even think about Kelley Racing. I mean, we have a pretty strong short track program right now. We were one of the quickest cars on the track at Phoenix, finished ending up fifth. But I think might have been deserving of a higher finish. Certainly we were running third at Richmond, catching the leaders when I got taken out by a car -- had contact with a car, was about four laps down. I think certainly that's a strong side of our program right now. I'm anxious to get on the track in Milwaukee.
Q. Scott, how do you feel about you're being sixth place in the points standing with 230 right now?
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah, we're pleased. Everyone wants to be No. 1. You know, everyone always wants to be better, I think. I think what the Fernandez team did last year, they missed the first race, and, boy, by the middle of the season they really hit a stride and went on and won a few races. In fact, I think they finished fifth in the championship. I felt with me moving over to the team and some of the subtleties that changed with the Panos chassis over the winter, it would take us a little bit to get the optimum communication going, you know, developing the best setups. I think we really have a lot of momentum right now. As we've reached the middle of that season, it seems we're peaking pretty well. I think we're going to continue to get better and better. I don't want to say like it's according to plan. I didn't plan on being crashed into three different races and taken out, or we probably would have been a couple spots, a few spots higher in the points. But everyone probably has some issues at this point they could moan and groan about. I think we're at a good stage. I think we're finding some areas we're going to be able to pick up speed in the next few races, whether a big track or a short track. I think we're in a great spot and we just need to keep being consistent .
Q. Patrick, I want to talk about this bonding issue with Eddie. At Indy, we talked a lot about the family, the farm, the maturity you're under going. What part did any of that have to play in your contribution to the bonding issue?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: You mean what part Eddie had to play?
Q. What part did your maturity as a driver, person, your family, what part did that have to play?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, I think one thing that was really good is the background where I come from. I think if I wouldn't have had a lot of experience, I think it would have been extremely difficult. But coming from a team that was well-funded, well-organized in the past, and having won races, a few top three in the championship, a couple of things, I think it really, really helped. I kind of looked -- I've seen quite a few teams in my career, and I was looking at Eddie. I thought that at Red Bull Cheever Racing, I could really bring something positive to that team to try to improve it. Every team has their way of functioning. Any driver has their way of functioning. I guess I had to change a few things on my side, and they had to change a few things. And we're all trying to stay open-minded. I guess that's what happened at the beginning of the year. I guess we were not as open-minded as what we are now. We kept arguing. Eddie, he wanted to win, but he had a way of doing it. I wanted to win, and I had a way of doing it. We finally came together and I think by staying relaxed and just looking at the situation from the outside. As long as I think as you stay detached from the situation where you don't really get affected by a bad result or something that happened or this and that, where you just kind of remain constant on the same line and you come back the next race with the same desire to win, I think it really helps move things forward. It's when you get involved emotionally, which I think is what we did at the beginning of the year, then it gets more difficult.
Q. You talked a lot about technology as being important to the success of the team. For Patrick Carpentier, don't you find relationships and people are just as important as technology in a team's success?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think so. I think people, the relationship you have and the respect people have for you and the respect you have for these people is extremely important. I think a lot of stuff goes down the drain when people on the team start losing respect about somebody or somebody starts losing respect about the team. Then it gets very difficult to move forward. We got to try to work together and be very careful about what we do. We're still going to have ups and downs. I mean, this series is so competitive, you know, we're going to be up front at times, at times we're going to be at the back. But if you keep working, we're getting closer. I mean, in Japan we were getting lapped four times in the race, and that was without a car problem, so it was really bad. Now at least we're, pretty much every race, we're staying on the leader's lap, having good battles at the end. So we're definitely getting closer. I think definitely the relationship you have with people and what you have is also very important.
TIM HARMS: Patrick, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate the time. Scott as well, thank you for the call, taking time out of your day to join us. To both of you, we wish good luck this weekend.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you. See you, Scott.
SCOTT SHARP: All right, Patrick. Have a good week, bud.
TIM HARMS: Now we're joined by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 16 Argent-Pioneer/Panos/Honda. Danica Patrick leads the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year standing, currently 11th, kind of flip-flopped with Patrick there for 10th the last couple weeks. Danica, how are you today?
DANICA PATRICK: Good.
TIM HARMS: We'll go directly to questions from the media.
Q. This I believe will be the first track on the series that you've actually raced at before.
DANICA PATRICK: Right. It will be the first and only (laughter).
Q. Obviously, the cars are much different. Describe what kind of help that is going to be, if any.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, it's always good to have seen a track before, just to kind of know where the little bumps are here and there, and just the general feel for the size. But everything seems to shrink when you go faster. It's obviously going to be tougher and it's going to feel different. From a view perspective, at least I have an idea.
Q. You did get to race here twice in Atlantics. Can you give an idea of the progress or how it felt different maybe coming the second time with the Atlantics car compared to the first?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, once -- to be honest, once you've driven around for about five, ten laps, you don't notice a difference. I mean, you've kind of got the track down, especially with ovals. The only thing that improves is that when race conditions come, you know what to expect slightly more from the track and from your car. But overall, just as a track, you know, based on the track, it's pretty predictable and you know pretty much what's going on within a good few laps.
Q. Traditionally when people have looked at ovals, they've often talked about Milwaukee being about as close to a road course as you're going to see in an oval, the way it's flat, kind of the way you drive it. Is that still the case? Do you still see that a little bit? It's a whole lot different driving here than in Texas, Kansas, those types of tracks.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, you're pretty much just turning left (laughter). It's pretty much just left. So I don't really see how it is a road course of any kind. To me it's just another short oval.
Q. I guess I was referring more to the style of racing. It's not the pack-type drafting so much.
DANICA PATRICK: No, which is pretty standard for short ovals. The mile ovals are more; in Richmond's case less. There's usually not two grooves. Usually you pass and you get by or you don't. There's not as much side-by-side racing around. From that point of view it's a little bit more like a road course in that when you overtake, you overtake. You don't run side by side for five laps and go, "Oh, I lost that battle, I guess."
Q. Obviously since the Indy 500, you've been inundated and overwhelmed with requests from every type of media in the United States. How do you stay focused on your job? Media who have covered you for several years realize your talent and know you've got what it takes, whether or not you're a man or woman. How have you stayed grounded in doing your job and not letting all of this just make you crazy?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I have to give so much credit to the team for organizing things, for making everything -- you know, everything we do is worthwhile, everything we do goes a long way. Everything we do, we maximize time. You know, it's just very planned out. At the beginning of the season, we needed to figure out where interviews fit best and where they didn't. We've really got it down now. I give so much credit to the team for not making me go crazy with so many interviews and so many different visits and appearances and stuff. I think we all have a very good understanding and grasp for the job at hand, and that's to race the car. That's when the stories really develop and happen, is when good things happen there.
Q. Do you think you get a fair shake in your job as a driver or is it just completely overshadowed by the fact that you're a woman?
DANICA PATRICK: I definitely think I get a fair shake. There's no question about that. I feel like I have a good shot, I have a good team, there's good support, there's good faith, good confidence. I feel like sometimes people, because of the amount of media, because of the amount of attention, people seem to think I have to do things. Like I have to win right now, I have to do certain things. But I don't feel like that. I take none of that to heart. I don't feel like there's anything that I need to do for anybody else. I want to win bad enough for myself anyway, that nothing anybody can say can make me want to win any more. I think that's one of the bad things that comes from the media and so much exposure, is that they can tend to think you need to do things to justify. And really it's just happening. I'm doing the interviews, you know, and turning down a lot. It's not like I'm just -- I'm not asking for everything. So much is coming this direction. It's what people want. It's the story that they want. You have to keep it all in perspective.
Q. Do you think your support network with your fiancee and parents have also been crucial in helping you stay on an even keel with your job and personal life and responsibilities?
DANICA PATRICK: Yes. I believe because of my family, because of my friends, because of the team that I drive for, you know, I believe that I am able to focus. I'm able to vent when I need to. I'm able to be myself and to relax. Without their support and without their, you know, help, just even with simple domestic things like sending a package for me or doing a call for me, contacting someone for me, getting my motorhome to the track, whatever it may be, it's some stuff you wouldn't think is a big deal, but when you have to do everything yourself, it's impossible, so I have a lot of help.
Q. The development programs for women in NASCAR, I do a lot of work with them. Do you feel more pride, or amusement that these other leagues all of a sudden are thinking they need their Danica?
DANICA PATRICK: Do I feel more pride that they need a Danica?
Q. Do you feel pride that now other leagues are saying, "We need someone ..." ?
DANICA PATRICK: I feel flattered that they feel they need someone like me. I definitely do. I was in the middle of nowhere just looking at the newspaper, and all of a sudden I open up the sports and a big topic or headline said, "Looking for Danica." I'm like, "Holy crap." I was shocked. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, I can't believe this." It was then in that article that I read that a lot of other women in sports, in racing, have been doing interviews since Indianapolis. I think that's great. But, you know, the good ones are going to come through. If I help, I help. If I don't, I don't. The people that are going to make it are going to make it 'cause they're good.
Q. You've had a while now to look back and reflect on Indy. I've read a few of the articles, especially by the women racers, that said they couldn't imagine what pressure you were under because sometimes women only get one chance. You were under such a limelight that if you didn't do well, everybody would say, "Women drivers," and dismiss them as a group.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, Indianapolis wasn't going to be the month that I had to do well. It just became the month that everybody wanted me to do well, and since then. And even before that. But I was doing well anyway, and that's why the media started getting so big. That's why everything started to build so much and so much attention was there, because I was doing well, I was doing what everybody was hoping someday would happen some day with a female somewhere or just from a standpoint of originality and attention. That's what was happening.
Q. Looking back, you didn't feel any extra pressure now that you said, "Whoa, I can't believe I went through that".
DANICA PATRICK: I just felt like a lot of people were hoping with me. I think that everybody hopes I do well. The smart people know that I'm very early in my career. I've done so little, and I've done so little oval racing, there's just so much things that are new to me. Smart people, people that are educated in motor racing, know where I'm at in the learning curve. They have a good grasp of what's going on each and every weekend.
Q. I'm wondering if you're hoping that the day comes real soon that the phrase "female driver" is redundant?
DANICA PATRICK: What do you mean?
Q. That it's no longer an issue, that it's just Danica Patrick the driver and not Danica Patrick the female driver.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I don't -- it's a tough question because so many good things come along with being a female, being original, being something different, so I'm not going to say that I don't like being a female. I do, I love it. I'm proud to be what I am and who I am and the character that I am. I think that over time as things, you know, progress and as the experience level goes up, as I do better and better, I think whether more females come along or not, they're not going to have -- they're not going to be saying, "She's good for a girl." I already feel like they're not saying that. If more females come along, that's fine. But, you know, they're going to come along for the right reasons, I hope, and not just because they're females. They're going to be out there because they're good drivers.
Q. Do you feel for Katherine Legg, who is following in your footsteps in Toyota Atlantics, and hears your name every week?
DANICA PATRICK: Do I feel for her? Do I feel bad for her?
Q. Like I say, she hears your name every week and she's sort of on the same development curve as you are, trying to learn as a driver.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think -- I don't know. I don't necessarily feel for her. It would be like saying I feel for a guy out there. It's no different. I think the good drivers are going to make it through and then we'll see what happens. You know, I guess I don't necessarily feel bad for her. I mean, I think that, you know, due to what happened at Indianapolis is part of the reason why there is more attention, and due to what's happened in my career.
Q. We in the media, sports media that cover racing, have done so much on how you've become a face for the league, maybe the face for the league. When you were out in public, how much recognition do you get?
DANICA PATRICK: Usually -- it's a question that people ask, and I don't really get much hassle until I sort of stop. If I stop at the checkout somewhere or if I stop and eat somewhere. You know, if I keep moving, people for the most part don't really stare so much. You know, when I'm in my hometown, people stare a little bit more because they're more familiar with the face. But other than that, I usually get someone at each place I go say something or look at me a little extra. But it's by no means not changing my lifestyle, it's not hindering being able to walk around at all, no.
Q. How strange was that at first, going from where you were a couple years ago, to being a bona fide celebrity?
DANICA PATRICK: How weird is it?
DANICA PATRICK: It's flattering. It's great. But it's something that, you know, I knew could happen if things went well and if I had the chance. I knew that great things could happen in motorsports. If I went somewhere and things went well, there would be a lot of attention. It's very satisfying. You know, I feel it's a rewarding feeling because it means you're doing those things right, it means you're doing a good job. It just makes you want to do even better all the time.
TIM HARMS: Thank you very much for joining us. We'll see you this weekend in Milwaukee.
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