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May 19, 2011

Danica Patrick

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Danica Patrick.
Danica, this is your seventh Indianapolis 500. Seems like yesterday was your first day here.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, just a wee girl racing at Indy. Now I'm old. Seventh Indy, turning 29, those kinds of things. It seems like it was not that long ago that it was my first time here. I feel like I've always been some kind of an inexperienced driver at some level. I don't think I'm going to get away with this anymore after this being the seventh one.
That's a good thing. If I could go back in time with the experience I have now, I would. So having the experience is a good thing. Hopefully it pays off race day.
THE MODERATOR: Is there one moment that stands out or one race that stands out of the six that you've been part of so far?
THE MODERATOR: I need you to say. We need it on tape for the record. I'm not a mind reader (laughter).
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, the first Indy was definitely the one I remember. It's my favorite race I've ever done. It's the most memorable race I've ever done, for sure. Even more than when I won. I just remember everything about it. I just remember how the month went. I remember being fastest for the first time on Thursday or something. I remember making the decision on track. I remember what I said on the radio, Should I pick up tow or something? They're like, Yeah, why not. I just remember how it all went. I just remember so much.
Then there are years here, I guess maybe selective memory, us women have selective hearing, I guess we all have selective hearing, but that's probably definitely exercising some selective memory. I just remember everything about it. It was a great day, a life-changing day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Is there any chance this is your last 500 or do you expect to be back?
DANICA PATRICK: I suppose anything is possible. But I know for me I haven't made any of those decisions yet. This is a special event in and of itself. Indy is my favorite race in the world every everything.
So like I just said, I love everything about this place. I love the tradition. I love the race itself. So many times you can come away from this event, after 500 miles, and think of how your strategy could have put you in Victory Circle. I think that's why people love this place and so many people come back. So many people have that story as to how they could have maybe won the Indy 500, which is for me the ultimate goal. I would imagine for a lot of people it's the ultimate goal. It's definitely high up on the list.
But I just love this event. So I don't know where the future is going to take me, but I know those things.

Q. You've been thinking about this race since you were a little kid. Do you allow yourself to get more sentimental this time around?
DANICA PATRICK: I really am approaching this like any other year. Actually, I feel like I get more nervous every year. I'm more nervous coming into it this year than last year. Maybe it's because you're getting older and on some level you think you have less of them to do, I don't know.
I also think after this many years, being here, it starts to really sink in what this event is all about. Like I said, you have the chances where you could have won. You're thinking, How am I going to make that happen this year?
You know, I have high expectations. Like I said, I'm more nervous than ever. I don't know. Being nervous isn't always the worst thing for me, so hopefully it works.

Q. Any feel on how competitive your car will be?
DANICA PATRICK: I really feel so far, so good. I really haven't gotten a tow or anything like that, so I feel really comfortable right now with the car, with the speed, with where we are on downforce. We've been moving very slowly, methodically because the first time out we felt really good about it. So we have the ability to not panic and rush, make all of our changes on pit lane. We can go back to the garage, take our time. We don't have to be throwing everything at it to see what we can do to make it go faster, although we are going to be doing things to try to make it go faster.
Did plan on doing more and more of that as the week has gone on. Unfortunately, the week has gone on and we haven't run. I feel comfortable with it right now. Anything can happen. Anything can change. Sometimes you stall out at certain speeds. Sometimes you keep trimming and it doesn't really make it much faster, it just makes it more difficult.
We'll see how it goes. At this point in time I feel pretty comfortable.

Q. Simona told me you talked a fair bit. Have you talked much, given advice?
DANICA PATRICK: I would say our conversations are more casual really. We don't talk a lot about racing really. We might talk about the race, have discussion about that, catch up about that when we're in group gatherings, group things we have to do.
But, no, I think she does a good job. I think she's got good people on her side, people that help her. If she asked, I'd answer. We really kind of talk about the race, whatever else, maybe just simple things.

Q. Are you at all impressed with her start in IndyCar? Do you feel any sense of rivalry?
DANICA PATRICK: I think she's done a great job. She's very good on the road courses. I think she's shown that from the very beginning from last year even when she started.
As far as rivalry goes, I have a rivalry with every driver (laughter).

Q. Talk just a moment about what you need to apply to be ready for qualification Saturday, given the short practice.
DANICA PATRICK: You have to stay confident here. I think that's a really important thing. I think you have to feel comfortable with your car. You have to go into turn one, every lap, with confidence. You have to be sure of yourself and your equipment.
Like I was telling someone the other day, I don't make a decision if I'm pitting until I get out of two, because you have to commit to one and two.
I just think we have to work smart. Sometimes that means not going back on changes, maybe just leaving the car where it's at. I think drivers, engineers are inclined to make changes, make it go faster. Sometimes you can tune yourself out. I think it's about being honest with every change we do, make sure it's the right direction so we make sure we don't start down a bad path.
I have a feeling we're not going to have as much time to sort of do everything as slowly and methodically as we wanted to in the very beginning because there's only two days left.
Hopefully our changes are efficient and they're good and they do what you expect them to do. Hopefully every degree is a point six miles an hour you think it's going to be and you keep moving forward.
Time will tell. This is a very unique place. It's its own person, this track. You can go out there from one run to the next. You can go out there, come back to the garage, go back out with the same car, it feels totally different. You have to keep your head on straight and stay confident.

Q. You talked about the feelings your first time here at the Speedway. Do you find yourself trying to replicate that? And can you?
DANICA PATRICK: Kind of (laughter). I suppose that's superstitious, isn't it? Gosh, I think I really did in the very beginning. But I felt like after a couple of years that evolves, everything changes. You have to adapt, move on, take what comes at you.
I guess the one thing when it comes to Indy, I try not to have superstitions, I try not to have things that I need to do well to have good luck because they tend to mess with your head a little bit.
But I pull them all out. I'm going for all of them (laughter). This is not the place to not feel lucky or confident, so... Like I said, this is a special place.

Q. How would you assess how your season has gone up to this point?
DANICA PATRICK: It's better than last year. I think last year, I mean, everything from sort of the first lap I turned in an IndyCar to practice to the races, it was not great. This year I've made a lot of passes in the race, I've been fast in the race, I've even been relatively fast in practice. I'm just not great at qualifying. I get out there, think I'm doing a much better job. I should be much faster, and I'm not.
I don't know what it is, but I have to figure it out. It's obviously quite the roadblock on the road courses. I mean, passing five cars on a road course is a damn good day. That's not going to move you very far when you start 20th. I have to figure that out.
Other than that, I think it's been a good year. Also the NASCAR stuff I've done has been good, too. Having a fourth at Vegas was great, leading at Daytona in the Nationwide race. So far it's been a good year.

Q. Do you feel you're at a crossroads in your career with open-wheel and NASCAR on the horizon? How do you feel you've evolved as a driver and a personality as the most marketable person in this sport?
DANICA PATRICK: Am I at a crossroads? Yeah, I suppose so. And how have I changed?

Q. Evolved.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, hopefully I've gotten more savvy and wise with my personality, my tactics, my antics, as I've had some over the years (laughter). I guess I came to find out as I grew older that being really honest, emotional all the time, while it is me and I don't regret anything, it makes for work. It makes for work because people talk about it, people have opinions about it. As much as you don't care, they still affect you and you have to deal with the situation.
Kind of eliminating that kind of stuff as much as possible has been easier for everyone. It is easier. It's less energy put towards things that aren't about going faster. Kind of learned about that over the years.
And what I want as a driver in a racecar. You know, something that I feel like I always have to keep sticking to and reminding myself of is just being really honest with what I feel in the car, make the crew make the change, it doesn't feel like it made a change, then you just say it. Even though they did, you have to be very honest. That's the best way to keeping the car where you want it, is being honest with how it really feels, trying not to make anything up or anything like that.
Just getting older, hopefully wiser, I don't know. Hopefully I haven't changed, too. Hopefully my friends, people close to me would say I'm the same Danica when they knew me from high school or as a kid. I hope that's what they say, but I'm not the one to say that.
THE MODERATOR: This is the 100th anniversary of Indianapolis. Talk about what it's like to be part of something that has been around for such a long time.
DANICA PATRICK: I thought it was pretty cool that I was on the front of Sports Illustrated, like historic part of cars. That was pretty cool. Again, it reminded me of 2005, which I can't forget. It just makes you want to win that bad, that much more.
I think that's part of what makes me more nervous every year I come here, is just wanting to really be a part of that, really wanting your face on the trophy, being a part of the footage that they run on the track feed when it's raining, being part of that historic footage. Just achieving something that you worked so hard for. We do, we all work so hard for that.
I would go so far as to say I don't think there's any other event that any team works as hard as the Indy 500 because of what it really means, what it can do for a driver, a team, anybody involved in a good day or a victory.

Q. If you don't run this race again in the future, would there be a void in your life, in your profession if you didn't have another chance to do this?
DANICA PATRICK: I think whatever happens, I'll take into consideration that this is a huge event, like I said. I think I've had great memories here, no matter what. I don't know. I think that's a question I don't really have an answer to. I'm not there yet, so I don't know yet. I haven't thought about those kinds of things.
But all I know is I know I'm going to do my best to try to win this year and see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. Go put some laps in.

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