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April 25, 2008

Danica Patrick

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Danica Patrick, winner of last week's Indy Japan 300 over in Motegi, Japan. It's been a whirlwind since we left you. You flew out of Japan a few hours earlier than was originally planned, and now here we are back in the comfort of a racetrack at a place where you won a pole a few years back.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, first pole here.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us about your week and what you're looking for here in Kansas this week.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it was an exciting week. It was a lot of fun. You know, I never mind doing a lot of those live shows and talking to people like David Letterman. It's not a bad gig.
But we wanted to -- you know, we want to make the most of this event for everybody, for the team, for the sponsors, like Motorola, and for just the league and everybody. You know, this is something that had a lot of avenues of benefits.
Yeah, I went and worked my butt off for a week. I feel pretty good, though. I think that everything happens for a reason, and if this would have come three years ago on the heels of Indy or something like that, you know, maybe I wouldn't have been so calm and prepared, prepared all around, from my standpoint and from the media and publicity standpoint. Yeah, I try and find reason for everything. It was a good week.
But I'm excited to be in Kansas. Hopefully we get some practice in so we can get ourselves a good race car, and you're only as good as your last race, so I'm starting from scratch here.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Danica, after all this week, and as you've said, you enjoyed it, but are you really looking forward to getting back in the race car?
DANICA PATRICK: As much as I would have if I didn't have it. This is the primary and this is the reason why I did all those interviews is because I did well in a race and did my job well. So you know, I understand what fuels this whole machine, so that's exciting, as well as just driving. That's what I love to do.
Yeah, so long as I kept my energy this week, everything was going to be okay, and I did, and I feel good.

Q. You've been in the media spotlight ever since 2005. How much of that, being used to that, did it help you go through the week that you just went through?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, good question. I think that that's definitely what I was talking about when I said that I think everything happens for a reason. We learned a lot from 2005 on, because it didn't go away after 2005, but we sure learned how to manage it and make the most of it. You know, I learned how I like to deal with all these situations best, and we got good people surrounding me over the last couple of years.
So I think that, again, we learned a lot. It's not like we couldn't have handled it, but I think at this point in time, just having hired a publicist over the winter and having had some time to think about what we wanted to do with the first win, gave us the best opportunity to go out and make the most of the event.

Q. Danica, your victory, the unification, Graham Rahal's victory, can you talk a little bit about how all those things are giving a bump to the series?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I think that you could ask anybody that probably. I think that there have been so many good things from the wintertime on with the merger and with Graham and me and just having more cars in general I think has been a good thing for the series.
All these things help. I don't think I'm the only one that can answer that question.

Q. I guess this is probably impossible to tell, at this point anyway, but do you feel like you're over the hump, that wins can come now, not necessarily in bunches, but you've got some momentum now?
DANICA PATRICK: I could deal with the bunches (laughter).
I think one of the things that was always hanging and lurking in the back of my mind, or the front or whatever, is out of the way. But I think that I really see this whole process as just going up, you know? I like what it's done more for the championship standings and just for morale and for everything. There's just been a lot of good things that have happened for it.
I'm hoping, and I think that it's up from here. You know, I think that, yeah, if there was a little bump along the way going up the hill, that was one of them.

Q. What's been the reaction from your peers, and has anything struck you in terms of what the other drivers have said to you or perhaps done in the past week?
DANICA PATRICK: They've been very nice, very -- a lot of them congratulated me, and that means a lot. I think as competitors we all want to win, and I know that -- for me it's hard to be happy for somebody and go, gosh, I'm so glad you won today and not me. But I think people were happy for me, and that meant a lot, especially coming from such peers as I have, being such great drivers and everything.
Their reaction has been, I think, very positive, and that's flattering. It means a lot to me as a driver.

Q. Your car owner, Michael Andretti, has seen the highs and the lows of racing. What did he tell you prior to the win to keep your spirits up, and what has he told you since the win to deal with the success?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, Michael has always been very supportive, very, very good. I've been very lucky. He's a great owner. He's always around. He's always paying attention. He cares; you can tell; that's obvious. I think anybody can probably say that, that he seems like a good boss.
You know, he didn't tell me anything in specific I wouldn't say, but just said, you know, don't worry about it, it's going to happen; just do your thing and we'll do our thing, and it's going to happen one day. I think that's really what he's told me along the way.
I would say that he's been around and been in my pit box a lot, and that's meant a lot to me, and I told him that, because there are four of us drivers, so it's just not me out there. So that was very nice.
But I think that we both always knew that it was going to come along, but we just didn't know when. It was a matter of doing your best as a driver and not letting that be something that affects you in a negative way, thinking about it.

Q. Two questions: One, did winning feel as good as you thought it would? Because I know you had that goal for a long time and you probably imagined yourself in the winner's circle; and number two, every time you do accomplish a goal, it makes history. Has that hit you yet, or is that something that will only hit you after all is said and done?
DANICA PATRICK: What was the first question?

Q. Did winning feel as good as you thought it would?
DANICA PATRICK: It was nice. You know, it was so -- that sounded so bland.
I was more emotional about it than I expected to be. I think that was probably what caught me off guard that was different than what I expected. But I would say I expected to be relieved, and I was. That was what I expected. But I didn't think I was going to cry and I didn't think that I was going to be so emotional.
As I've said, I believe that that was a clear indication to me, whether anybody else knows or not, but I mean, I always felt like I had a brave face because I was. I was like, you know what, I can't control it, I don't know when it's going to happen. I absolutely believe that I am capable. You know, it was surprising how emotional I was.
And then history, you know, I think that that's something that over time -- I do recognize that it's history, and I've heard somebody ask whether or not it was history, which confused me, but I do recognize that. And it's something that I always wanted to do for myself, for the people that have always believed in me. I thought that that was something that has been on my mind, not predominant but there.
And then I think time will tell what happens as a result and how I really, really will feel after five years and 20 years and looking back on it. You know, there might be girls that come along that start just blowing me out of the water, I don't know. I hope not, but I think that that's what's going to show in 20 years from now when I look back and say, wow, that was the start of a major wave. That will be something that will show itself later.
At this point it's the record that it is and the history-making moment that it was. I have to stay focused, though, too. These things are not to be distracting. They're only to make smiles.

Q. There's some people out there that said because it was a fuel mileage race that you kind of lucked into it. Now, with that being said, you as a driver, would you have rather had some of the elite drivers gnawing on your wing coming down to the start-finish line? Would you prefer to win it that way versus the gas mileage thing?
DANICA PATRICK: I think you're trying to trick me into an answer. I think there are so many of our races that -- even myself as a driver, I've only come to recognize over the years like how fuel strategy works and just how big of a part that it plays into the race. It's all you're thinking about -- it's all that your strategist is thinking about from pit lane, when to pit you, when not to, and it plays an enormous part. Every single weekend it's important, but some more than others.
And so I would never take anything away from any other driver that won on fuel strategy, so how can I look at it in a negative way from my standpoint? I feel like there's been so many great races over the past three years that I drove the heck out of the car and have done a great job and either caught bad luck or maybe I ended up having to come from the back, maybe it was only a third-place finish or something.
But you know, it's rewarding for all those times that you really, really drove well because I think a lot of us can say that. Some of our wins weren't our hardest races. No, you take every win you can possibly get.

Q. (No microphone.)
DANICA PATRICK: I believe that it definitely helps confidence and momentum for yourself, for the team. It's such a long month in May, and so much work goes into it. You know, your relationship with everyone and your mood, I think, dictates some of the result that comes as a result -- that comes from it.
So I think that that carries over. I think that somewhat, some of these early races, if you win one of them, do really well, it's just an indication that you're fast this year, that you're going to do well overall. I think every year we've got a couple of different ones that tend to be really fast, and that shows itself early on in the first few races. Indy does come early in the season. I think that's part of it.
But very much confidence has a lot to do with it, and I think that any driver will tell you, the more -- if they're feeling confident, then things go better.

Q. The past couple years some of the male drivers may be a bit jealous of the publicity you've gotten. Is there a sense of redemption, a sense that you've proved yourself, that you belong here and that you can win?
DANICA PATRICK: I believe that if I didn't prove that over the last three and a bit years that they won't ever think that I belong here, so they'll find some way to brush off any successes. I believe that I have the respect of my teammates, and hopefully others, too, and that's what matters most to me. Yeah, if they didn't believe last year or the year before, then they're not going to.

Q. (No microphone.)
DANICA PATRICK: A little maybe. We all recognize how difficult it is to win, and yeah, maybe somewhat. But I think that we as drivers, you know, we see each other in such a complete package, how we handle each other on the racetrack, how we deal with each other just in passing, seeing each other. I think there's a lot of things that go into how we see each other and our opinions of each other, and I think that we as drivers can already know whether or not you can win or not. I mean, just because Vitor hasn't won yet doesn't mean I see him any differently now than I would after he won because I know he can.
So it's things like that that we as drivers don't think as much of because we know each other in so many different ways as drivers.

Q. You talked about the support you have in your career. Can you talk about who was behind you when you were a child and what support you had in your family?
DANICA PATRICK: I was someone that didn't have role models and idols, really. I had people that I watched, sure, but I never said I want to be like or followed anybody so closely. I learned from my parents, from people, drivers along the way, owners, bosses that I've been close to and had a personal relationship with. I think those are the people that I've learned the most from. I view a lot of those people as just teachers along the way.
I think that we all have good and bad points, and I would never want anyone to hope that they're exactly like me. I would hope that they would want to be better than me. I always sought that from a young age, just I wanted to be the first Danica Patrick, not a remake of someone else. So I didn't really have those idols. I had teachers, and the biggest ones were my family, my parents.

Q. Other than the focus on you obviously this week, we're back with the former Champ Car teams here, and the field is going to be very deep. You've got a lot of guys out there who don't have a whole lot of experience on ovals. How is that going to change this weekend as far as the racing is concerned?
DANICA PATRICK: It's going to, I think, make the lap traffic issue that's going to come up as it did in Homestead. At this point in time it's still going to be the same leaders at the front as it was last weekend in Motegi. It was those same leaders in Homestead in the first race, as well. They just haven't had enough time, and they just don't have enough experience, I don't think, to run up front yet. And if they do, I will be extremely impressed.
I know that there are definitely capable drivers out there, but it's still so early in the season. I think that it's going to play a part when it comes to strategy, pit stops, just with anticipating more caution flags and different ways of getting to the end of the race on fuel, and I'm not just saying that because of last weekend. I would have said that in Homestead. And just dealing with the lap traffic, but we can run two wide here, so it shouldn't be a huge problem as it was in Homestead. Those are the two big ways I see it changing.

Q. In a way, now that you've won, is there more pressure to win again and win championships?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I've always felt the same pressure to do everything, to be the greatest -- the best driver I can possibly be, and all of that included winning and championships and everything. I've always known, like I said, that I could win, and this is a very public win, and as I talked about in the very first question, something that would help myself, the team, the sponsors, the league, everybody.
I mean, I feel like it's more possible. I feel like I've always known like I could win, like I said, but the championships, you don't win championships without winning some races. I don't know if that ever happened. I see that as being much more realistic happening this year than in the past years, so that's exciting to me. I look forward to that. I look forward to getting to the end of the season and having -- I was nervous for Dario last year and I wasn't Dario (laughing), so I can only imagine how much tension there would be then. But I don't feel necessarily more pressure.

Q. You talked about hiring a publicist, and then you've kind of mentioned, it sounds almost like there has been a business to almost have a strategy for your career. You have been very smart about this where other people might have tried things and you've never heard from them again. What has been that secret? I was out to your trailer and you have the biggest one out there with a lot of stuff. It seems there has been a big business plan here. Could you just discuss that?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, there's a "first win" tee shirt that's already made. These are things that I think we as a team and as a group saw sort of the mayhem that happened in 2005 at Indianapolis when everything came on, and my nervous breakdown at the end of it all and how messy everything can get, and knowing that we needed to just be ready. We needed to know what we were going to do, where we were going to go, who we were going to deal with and who was going to do everything, because we assumed that it would be a big moment and something that could -- we could capitalize on for us and everyone.
We wanted to just make sure we were ready just to keep a cool head. That's been the biggest thing. I thought about it right after the race, are we going -- are we off to New York now? We're in Japan, I don't know what the heck is going on now, but these were things that I had known were coming along. The best thing that you can do in business is be prepared, and that was one of the things that we had always prepared, both the league and my team of people.
I think that I'm glad that we did that because I think it made everything run so much more smoothly and maximize the event. So yeah, we've got plans for everything. Like I said, being prepared is important, whatever it is you do. But this is one that, as I've mentioned a million times, I believed it would happen. It was just a matter of when and what we were going to do after.

Q. I have a question and a follow-up. You haven't just been the story in racing, you've pretty much been the story in all of sports this week. How do you kind of feel about that, that as each day goes by, there's yet more Danica Patrick stories that are out there?
DANICA PATRICK: I've been surprised. I will say that it seems like I've been in USA Today every day, and those are typical things you have to do. I believe that one of the reasons why this is kind of -- I think even gone beyond a racing story, just with talking to the girls on "The View" and all these different things that I've done, is that it reaches out. It goes out and speaks to women and to people breaking the mold and people that are making history. That's why -- I mean, that's why I think it's been a big story, is because it's not just about a win in racing in IndyCar or in sports; it's about a bigger thing that happened and that I've been doing through my whole career. I think -- that's why I think.

Q. And also a lot of drivers that are always in the public eye, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., say the time they look forward to the most is when they put the helmet on and the visor down because then they're doing what they want to do.
DANICA PATRICK: It's so weird how when I put my helmet on and get on the track, I don't feel like anybody is watching. It's so weird. It's the same answer I had for Michigan. I got mad, I didn't feel like anyone was looking. You're in your own head and you're doing your own thing. You know, the real answer is, though, even more people are watching, but you just don't think of that. Maybe other drivers are different, but I definitely feel like I've entered a different space, and you lose the nerves and you just get on with what you do. It's kind of weird.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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