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May 14, 2010

Danica Patrick

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to today's Indy Racing League conference call. We're joined today by IZOD IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick. She was with us earlier this week and didn't get to all the questions from the media. She has graciously offered to join us today. Danica, how are you?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm fine. I apologize for all the issues the other day.
THE MODERATOR: Tomorrow starts the month of May, the shortened month of May. Can you talk a little bit about the compressed schedule. Do you feel more pressure to get up to speed?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, yeah, it's kind of hard to almost call it a month of May because it's not. It's like half of a month.
But, anyway, I always enjoyed everything that was the whole month before. So, you know, I didn't have really much criticism for it. I think that one of the issues that tends to come up is rain issues. You end up feeling like you're pretty ready by the end of the month, but as a driver, practice is practice, and you can always get better.
I think it will be an interesting balance this year between qualifying runs and race runs, trying to kind of get in sync as a group and go out there and run in packs. So, you know, being on a big team will probably help because all five of us can coordinate and have a good pack to run in.
Hopefully the weather will hold up. It's supposed to be all right this weekend. Hopefully that continues through the rest of the month.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned qualifying. Can you talk a little bit about the qualifying format. Could be a little extra stressful trying to get in the top nine and then making the run for the pole.
DANICA PATRICK: I think it will end up being like two qualifyings because the track usually just gets quicker at the end of the day. So there's that period in between the beginning and the end of qualifying that it does go slower.
I guess it will be interesting. You know, I mean, you can go out in the morning and run a decent time and end up being, I'm tense now. You go back out there and, Do I risk it or not, but then you're going to have to end up having to if you think you can go faster.
We'll see how it works. I didn't have any criticism for the way it was done before. The only thing that for me kind of was a little unfair because if the end of the day came at qualifying and you had cars that really didn't even have a shot, probably weren't even going to qualify anyway, and they were getting in line, then it was a little bit unfair to be taking up that time.
But also that's part of qualifying, is being smart enough to get in line at the right time. So it will be interesting. I hope I'm on the upside of this and we can get into that top nine real easy and go for another run. Maybe there won't be any activity because everybody will be like, Top nine is pretty good, first three rows, let's go home.
It's going to be interesting.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Danica Patrick.

Q. Following on the theme of the shortened month, attention is what all race drivers like because it means more air time for your sponsors. At what point does it get in the way of preparing for the Memorial Day weekend? At what point do you say to your team, Cut down the number of appearances, et cetera? Has that started already?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. We always kind of know going into this shortened month that it's about scheduling and making sure that there's enough time to drive the car. With the fact that it's a condensed schedule, I've been in town -- actually, I was in New York doing media stuff on Wednesday, so I was here Wednesday night, just getting things out of the way so they don't have to be done during the month.
The first year I came here, it was kind of crazy, the whole first year, how well I was doing and everything was creating just so much chaos with the media, so much stuff, so many requests coming in. It sort of happened the week of the race I went, I'm not doing any more interviews, absolutely everything is a no, don't even ask me. They would come to me, asking me things. One time they came to mere, Good Morning America wants to talk to you. I said no. If I say yes to this, I have to say yes to something else. I have to say no at some point.
That was the first year. Now it's kind of like knowing how the month goes. You're like, All right, I don't want to start media before 10:00 in the morning because then I'll never get a chance to work out, I'll never get a chance to do anything I need to do. It must start after 10. Practice starts at noon, so that means it has to get done.
10 to 11 or it doesn't get done. So you learn a little bit every year. It's always a matter of juggling it all. I'm no fool. I know how important it is. I know what it's done for my career to be available, have exposure and do interviews. It's a balancing act. They're both important. But at the end of the day, if I don't do well with track position, there will be nothing for you guys to talk about.

Q. Danica, how much of this practice helped you and how much is too much practice?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, there's never enough practice. I think sometimes you can go in circles a little bit, changing the car, adjusting it. A lot of times you're also chasing the track, too. As the track changes and gets more rubber down, you need different things. So, I mean, I never get sick of practicing. I think it's important.
I also think that the more practice, the sort of better race we have because everybody is more comfortable with their cars, they are more comfortable running close to each other because they've tuned it in to be able to do that.
It will be interesting to see how the racing is with less practice, to see if there's any effect.

Q. Danica, five years later, how much if at all do you think about your debut, specifically, when you led this race, the result, how your life accelerated right after that?
DANICA PATRICK: What I've thought about it?

Q. Yeah, five years later. Usually in time there's perspective when you look back on things.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I guess I would have to view my career really as pretty blessed really. I've been really fortunate along the way. You know, some really great things have happened. So, you know, I guess that's really how I feel.
I guess I've learned over the years how much hard work pays off, just how really blessed and lucky I am to have this career and, you know, to get the breaks that I do, things like that.

Q. So specifically how much did your life accelerate from that day forward?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I remember coming into the first year and thinking, Well, you know, there's no guarantee that I would stay if I don't do well my first year. Who knows what's going to happen. You know, kind of after the first part of the season, which included through Indy and stuff, I went, I think maybe I'll get another job next year.
I think it was a really pivotal thing for that, as well as in the media, in the fans' eyes, as well. It was a game-changer.

Q. The other day Bruton Smith threw an idea how in which you suggested it should be made easier for drivers to attempt to run both the Indy 500 and the Coke 600, the Sprint Cup race. He suggested adjusting the start times, having transportation ready and so forth. He also suggested having a very large cash prize for any driver who could pull off winning both races. He suggested $20 million.
DANICA PATRICK: I think that would be about right considering how hard it would be (laughter).

Q. Is attempting to run both those races something you would ever think about trying to do? Do you think having a large cash prize like that might encourage more drivers to try to do that?
DANICA PATRICK: I suppose so. I think, you know, anytime there's a goal, something to be achieved, for sure. Something like $20 million is definitely worth trying for. I think it would be incredibly difficult as people try for their whole entire career just to win Indy, to then take a flight down to win the Coca-Cola 600. I'm not sure you'd ever really see that happen.
But, you know, I guess with that kind of a number on it, it would make people think twice a little bit.
You know, yeah, I think it's always a great story line. I think it's always interesting. I just think that it's incredibly challenging. If you win the Indy 500 and you're sitting there with a bottle of champagne, it would be pretty hard not to take a drink of it because you have to go down to the Coca-Cola 600. But for $20 million, I'm sure you'd think twice.

Q. Is that something you would someday consider doing?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. I don't know. My schedule is set for this year and next year. Who knows what will happen after that. But I think it's an interesting thing. It's an interesting accomplishment. You know, it's worth some thought.

Q. Danica, if you win Indy, you'll be drinking milk, not champagne.
DANICA PATRICK: It is milk. I'm sure there's champagne somewhere, too.

Q. Do you feel blessed, I don't know that you call it your driving style, that your approach seems to fit Indianapolis, the smoothness? Do you feel blessed that fits basically the world's greatest race? Do you understand what I'm saying?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I do. I get the question definitely every now and again about what it is about Indianapolis that makes you good there. You always do really well, you've always been up in the top 10, qualifying in the race every year.
I don't know exactly. But, you know, you've probably hit some of it. I am smooth and patient. I try and drive a smart race. It's important to get to the end. It's important to have a car that you're confident in. So I'm sure, you know, those things must attribute to it since I tend to come here and be in contention.
So, yeah, I guess it is a pretty darn lucky situation to have a style that accommodates such a grand place as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As I got here the first day, I was looking, I had to do something down on pit lane, I'm riding a golf cart down to do this thing, I'm looking at the windows. It says, The greatest racecourse in the world. I'm like, Yes, it is.

Q. You're sitting on this team with five cars in this race. Is this team stretched a little bit, that it's challenged with this? Maybe a hard question, but do you feel everybody is getting everything? With that in mind, how disappointing has the start of this season been for you from a competitive standpoint?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, you know, I think I would hope the bosses make decisions that would be in the interest of the primary drivers when it comes to something like an Indy 500.
But, you know, we haven't been in this situation very long. It's only been Kansas. But I get to Kansas and apparently my seat belts were taken out of my car that were supposed to be in it to go on the new car. It's like, you know, get your own stuff, we got ours.
So I don't know how much of that is really how much stretching is going on. I usually don't get much of a feel for that. That's more in the details with the mechanics and everything.
But, you know, I guess I'm going to trust that the appropriate decisions are made. And at the end of the day I don't really have anything I can do about it anyway if it wasn't the right thing to do.
Yeah, and as far as the tough start, it is what it is. I don't know. I can't put my finger on it exactly. There's a couple of things that we've been changing to try to make it better. The best thing we can do is buckle down, stay positive and keep working ahead 'cause it will turn right. If we're not in the right place mentally, we don't be able to be much help to it. Just staying positive for now.

Q. Just to get a timeline beginning with your Tuesday call, do I have this right that you were in your car going to the airport trying to complete the call with us?

Q. Now you're in Indy, right?

Q. The question I have is, when you came back from NASCAR, was there a sense of relief that you were going back to what you know best, do best? Was there maybe a false sense of security going into this season and that could that contribute to the slow start?
DANICA PATRICK: No. I really don't think there's any way I can put my finger on why this season hasn't gone so well. I'm sure any athlete will tell you when they have a bad stretch.
If we all had the answers, we would fix them, we would prevent them, and they wouldn't be very long-lived. It has nothing to do with my expectations. To be honest, the only thing my expectation levels have done is create some disappointment because I expect to do well. But I do that every year and every race.
When you hope to go out there and win the race or finish in the top five, get into the top 12 in qualifying, and you don't, you know what, it makes you mad. So expectations are a son of a gun. But you got to have 'em. If you don't expect to do well, you probably aren't gonna anyway.

Q. In the last year since the last time you ran the 500, there has been an unprecedented level of management and leadership change both at the Speedway and within the series. Could you tell us if during that period of uncertainty, especially last summer and fall, how that may have affected you in terms of your own judgments about the future of the series? Do you feel that the situation now has stabilized, and does that increase your own level of confidence in the future of the series going forward?
DANICA PATRICK: Let's see here. Good question.
I don't think the decisions specifically internally with who's doing what is a game-changer for me with what I think about the series. I mean, for me I look at more than anything just the schedule. I'm not going to lie. I don't love the schedule. I really don't. I don't like all the road courses. I don't like that we don't go to any more than one short oval. So that's the stuff that I see.
I mean, I can talk till I'm blue in the face about what I would like, but there's a bunch of other drivers and there's the bookkeeping to the IndyCar Series. So, you know, I don't know how all that plays into the decision to go to the places they go. There's a lot of other tracks I wish we were going to or still at.
So, you know, that's really the only thing that affects me. I mean, you know, I think that Randy Bernard is a great addition to the series. I think he's got some imagination. He's a dreamer. He has some great ideas, some ideas that have never come up before to draw attention to us and create some buzz and interest. So that's a great thing.
But for me, you know, the schedule is what I really look at.

Q. Have you ever had an opportunity to speak to Randy or maybe Terry Angstadt about trying to bring the series back to Phoenix?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I feel like I've heard something about maybe we might be coming back to Phoenix. Maybe they're looking at it. I think that we've always really, you know, wanted to be here. I say 'here,' I'm from Phoenix. The problem was, I ran it in 2005, the last year we were there. There wasn't anyone there. The stands were pretty empty. You think about the time of year. It should be full. It's spring training. There's more people than ever in Phoenix.
You know, I don't know what it's going to take. Some advertising dollars, some people talking about it, articles written, radio stations talking about it. I'm not sure. But, you know, the bottom line is, if there's nobody in the stands, it's difficult to justify coming back.
So, you know, maybe we'll get it back and they'll work hard to make sure there's as many people as we can get there.

Q. With the understanding that you're concentrating on your own team and driving, could you give us a comment on how Simona De Silvestro has done so far this season?
DANICA PATRICK: She's done pretty well. She's been pretty fast. She seems to be pretty comfortable right off the get-go.

Q. Speaking of road courses, I was at a test this morning where one of your new teammates in the Nationwide Series was testing at a racetrack near Toronto. He wanted me to pass on a message to you, JR Fitzpatrick. You haven't met him yet, but if you meet him at Indy this year, he's willing to carry your helmet, get you water, whatever you wish him to do.
DANICA PATRICK: Is it a presumptuous my new teammate or a real new teammate?

Q. Real new teammate. He's going to do all the road courses.
DANICA PATRICK: Okay, cool. I well, I wish him luck. Hopefully he gets some good points for us.
THE MODERATOR: That is all the time we have for Danica today. Danica, we appreciate you taking the time today to answer as many questions as you could.
DANICA PATRICK: Absolutely. I apologize for the other day. But I think we ended up tallying more time than if I had been on the call the whole time the other day.

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