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August 14, 2005
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Danica Patrick here in the Bluegrass Hall. Danica Patrick, 16th in today's race, and Dan I can a, the last six races, three Top-10s and now three times outside the Top-10. You had a pretty decent start, you hung around in the Top-5 for a while and then ran into some problems. Do you want to describe your run today?
DANICA PATRICK: The balance was a little bit off for the first stint, but, you know, we made the car handle better in the pit stop by making a change, and we went back out there and the car was really balanced. It was great. Other than the random lifts, catching a bad set of cars that are blocking all of your wind, I was moving forward and the car was good. You know, just yellow flag came out and we were going down in the pits, and I put the pit speedometer on early and it was making the noise, it was on the perimeter, like brrrgg, and it was like 66 miles an hour, which that's not the speed, 60. I hit the brakes and when I hit the brakes, it just stalled and the wheels stops in the rear and the car thought it was done, so it shut off. Then when I went back out, something happened and I must have damaged the gears because fifth and sixth were gone, so we had to change gears back. There you go.
Q. Just describe the feelings, a little disappointment, obviously?
DANICA PATRICK: Disappointment, yeah, starting on the pole, you know, running up front and being racy and feeling like I was having the car come to me as the race went on. Then, you know, I mean, to have the fastest lap of the race, as well, and to be able to -- you know, it was very frustrating when I went back out after I got the gears back in. I was told I could not pass anyone, which if anybody watched it after they told me I could pass somebody, I passed all the way up to the lead pack and it's really frustrating when you can't, when you're not up there dicing with the leaders like I should have been. It's very disappointing. I feel bad, the team worked hard, they were great on the pit stops, and I'd love to get a win for Honda and Pioneer and Argent and Team Rahal, and myself.
Q. Is your race strategy to start and then to fall back and feel comfortable and start to move your way up as you learn the track?
DANICA PATRICK: No. Strategy is not to move back. But, you know, when you start unfolding, it's almost like going backwards; it's harder to stay up there. Whenever you're in the very front you're racing with the toughest of them because everybody deserves there be there for a reason. So, you know, I think that -- you know, I think that the car, it's a little bit less crisp than the other cars, and so we struggle, I do, anyway, on initial green flag. I'm sure there's something I could do for sure, just getting the tires warmed up properly and just learn to hang it out there. But I promise you, I did hang it out there. I was hanging it out there at Milwaukee, and at some points today, correcting it in the corner, and you have to run on the edge. But you also can't go past your comfort zone because that's when you finds yourself on the wall. It's those first two laps, just making sure that I don't do something stupid, because if you do have a good car, you know, you can pass them back. But you can never pass anyone if you're in the wall. You know, it's getting better. I mean, my last pole at Kansas, I went from like first to ninth, I think, or something on the start. So this one, I dropped back to third. You know, the one I dropped back, fourth, fifth, sixth, whatever after that, that was just because I didn't play fast enough. It wasn't because of the start. It was just the car was off on balance a little bit. Like I said, after I pitted that first time, made an adjustment and we went faster, a lot faster. The car was much more comfortable and predictable and consistent. It's just I'm extremely disappointed.
Q. Are you feeling some frustration after the success you had in Indianapolis, and now are you really striving for that win; or is this just going to be a learning season for you?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, you know, after a race like Indianapolis, to do what I did, what the team did there, it's a hard act to follow. It's a big one. It is our Super Bowl. So it's a big one. You know, we've had some success after that. We've had two poles; we've led at a bunch of tracks. You know, it's a matter of everything coming to the. I think other than Motegi and Indianapolis, this race is definitely extremely strong for me. I felt like I was running up front comfortably and definitely, you know, had a Top-6 in mind for the end for sure, which when I'm running against these guys that I'm running against, it's hard. They make it really hard, there's four guys and they have all won this year, and not to mention my teammates. You know, am I striving for that win? Heck, yeah. Oh, my gosh, I'm trying to win every single time. That's why I'm so disappointed. I had pole and fastest lap of the race. I should have been up there. Am I treating it like more of a learning year? I'm going to treat every year of my life like a learning year. I hope I keep learning the last year I race. But this one is going to be proportionately more than others. It's a matter of running as fast as I can while trying to win.
Q. Your problems a couple of cars experienced; is that something the track maybe caused or something that happened in the pits?
DANICA PATRICK: It's probably coincidence that it happened to other drivers, too. I don't think there's anything particular at this track that would contribute to extra gear box problems. You do shift a little bit here, but, you know, I think there was one part down the back straight before the pits, it was right before the pit stop which I slowed down and locked the rear up and stalled the engine. So it was right before that that I had a bad gear change and I didn't know what was going to happen. You know, I think it's just a mistake, just a leggy shift or certain electronic things that, you know, tell you when you can and can't shift due to how much throttle you have and all kind of things. You know, there's a lot that has to be going on. I might have been partially on the throttle and it just didn't want to come out of gear, and when it did, the gear box, for sure.
Q. Is it difficult to express your disappointment when people can't get to victory lane and you've been second quite a few times?
DANICA PATRICK: Hey, I finished second a few times. That's good, still. I mean you've got to be in position to win and I hand it to Vitor, he's a very strong racer and he's very strong. He's always tough to race side-by-side with, but always fair. So that's the description of a great driver is somebody who can, you know, who can race you fair, not stuff you and not give you room, but somebody that's run from the front and gives you space. So I respect him a lot. I would imagine that he shows frustration, too. He would love to win a race, just like all the rest of us. So, you know, in our own way, it's proportionate to the first and my disappointment today, you know, could very well be his disappointment, too. I definitely feel for him. He's a great driver.
THE MODERATOR: We have the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 second-place finisher, Vitor Meira. For Vitor this season, this is his fifth Top-5, his seventh Top-10 and equalling season best today which was second at Indianapolis. You had a pretty strong run through the Top-5, talk about the run through the field those last laps with Scotty Sharp.
VITOR MEIRA: Everything was pretty good. We started to be a little conservative just trying to save everything and be there at the end. We knew we had a good car. I mean, it was just, the car was good. Honda supplied us with very good engines again. We hanged on, we were leading at I think with 120 left or so. We were leading with a really good car. The next stop came on, I got a little bit too loose and kind of lost the first spot and hang on from there on. Again, we just had to position ourselves a little better to have the win. I mean, again, we gave it a shot, we positioned ourselves good enough and we'll see if it works next time.
Q. Any shot in those last laps, did you feel you had a chance to get around Scott at any time?
VITOR MEIRA: No, it was pretty quick on the bottom. I tried inside on the last lap in sixth gear but he was pretty quick. He was doing a good job just holding his line inside and protecting his position, because he had a little less drag than us and that's what cost us, the little things.
Q. Any frustration involved; you're always in some of these tight races and this one decided by 7/100ths of a second, any frustration involved?
VITOR MEIRA: I want to win. Of course I want to win. Everybody wants to. I think we are doing the right thing. We are positioning ourselves to win all the time. We like this race, we are always in the Top-5 if nothing weird happens; we are letting the chance to win come to us. I don't think -- you can't do anything else. You can't do anything more than that. That's what everybody does, you just position yourself and give the win a chance to come to you. We are doing that; one day or another it's going to come.
Q. Did you think on that last stop there you would make a charge there?
VITOR MEIRA: I was already above the white line, and as the rules say, you can't improve your position below the white line. If I could, yeah, I think I would have had him, but I tried this in Kansas and I had to talk with Barnhart afterward, so it didn't work pretty good.
Q. Scott Sharp was holding his line, but you don't hear that a lot with him and do you do anything aggressive to keep him from taking over?
VITOR MEIRA: Scott is aggressive, but in his words, aggressive holding his line, but nothing beyond being aggressive, I'm not saying he didn't use any unsportman movements there. Everything was according to what he could, and he did. The next one he carried, and the next one I carried, also, protecting myself from third place and the beginning. Everybody plays hard there. He was playing hard, I was playing hard outside, and I mean, this close of a race, everybody is going to be unhappy with some guys at some point. Just because you're going to find a weird situation there that it's going to come to you and cross, take off your air or whatever. It's a close race; everybody's got to behave and push up to a point.
Q. Were you surprised Scott was able to run down there?
VITOR MEIRA: Yes, I think the good thing for him was that he had new tires and not a full tank because of the last stop. We just put half a tank or so and brand new tires. That helped him help me and helped him, and I think that's why he was also capable of keeping it so tight.
Q. Gear selection, you didn't start using the top gear until the last --
VITOR MEIRA: Actually, we were talking about it; me and Bobby Rahal, we were talking about it. Well, I couldn't really pull a last look on his draft, on fifth, I tried on the last lap going the east side, which is kind of downhill and on his draft. So then I could pull fifth gear there. I should have, I think I should have tried a little bit earlier that move just to see if it worked or not. But I wanted to surprise him. I mean, I was outside, outside for like 10, 20 laps always outside and I wanted to just suddenly go inside and surprise him. I mean, it worked for a while but then we were too low and then, I mean, I had to give up.
Q. Any close calls with wheel bearings with you today?
VITOR MEIRA: Not that I know of. We're going to disassemble everything. We're going to disassemble everything and check, but I'm pretty sure we're not going to have problems. What Tony had -- I don't know if it was wheel bearing. I know it was out of his right rear, like lap 50 or so; he was smoking a lot. That's why I kept inside because when the right rear goes, normally the guy goes outside and crashes outside. That's why I kept inside. I thought that it was happening for a lap already and, I mean, it was close, it was pretty close. I mean, actually it reminded me a little bit of when he crashed, but at the beginning of the race, we were cautious not to take any more chances.
Q. What's the difference between coming in first and second?
VITOR MEIRA: Well, .0051, eight inches, whatever, I think the difference is positioning yourself on the middle of the race, having a little bit of luck or whatever it is, position ourselves a little better. I think we could have had the little -- a little better luck on the pits -- not on the pit stops, but we had some stuff going on with the pit stops. Coming in and out I had some difficulties and I think that's -- we could have got Sharp in one of the pit stops for sure. It didn't happen. It's just these kind of things. Almost if I knew I was going to be dying trying to correct it, but we are doing everything we can. I mean, we are doing everything we can to win, and one day, it's going to come.
THE MODERATOR: We have a very excited Scott Sharp, winner of the AMBER Portal Indy 300 Presented by GTS Industries here at Kentucky Speedway. Fifth Top-5, ninth Top-10, previous season best was at Twin Ring Motegi on April 30. You've now scored a win in eight of the last nine IRL Indy car seasons. So just talk about your win today in the Top-10 for the start of the race here, and you were in the lead after 116, 117 and was there an adjustment up there to help you get up front?
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah, the team, my engineering staff, we huddled together between warmup and the race and made a bunch of changes, and, you know, once you change the car and you're off to the track again, you're going to have to probably tweak it a bit. Took a couple pit stops and changes to get the car right and it just came alive. Running the same gear, fuel setting, and once we got the car ready it just came alive. Powered our way up to the front and at first, you know, when I got by Dan, I wasn't sure, you know, because Dan is pretty quick, and I wasn't sure if he was just checking me out to see how much I had; if he could try to come and get me on the outside and couldn't get it done. Popped out, we were in the lead and guys just gave me a great pit stop. They have been giving me good stuff all day, and this is a big key. It is hard to pass at times so you had to maintain or try to increase your position in the pits, and you know, coming off that yellow I think there was 30 to go, and I knew that my only job at that point was to free the car up as much as you can with the adjustments on the car and keep it on the bottom and hope they can't go by you. I thought someone would slingshot in there and maybe get enough of a run, but inside is the way to go around here and I thought outside was the longer way.
Q. You ran behind Dan Wheldon for a while; he was right there in third base, and you had Vitor breathing down your neck. What was it like coming down there?
SCOTT SHARP: I saw Vitor trying to get me. I think Vitor quickly figured out he needed to get to the inside. I was wondering if he was going to try to force his way there but tried to keep the car on the bottom and didn't really keep up from that standpoint. Unless traffic or something got in the way, he had to get around the outside.
Q. Talk about switching teammates, Adrian Fernandez, second race in two starts, Adrian Fernandez, our winner last season; talk about the switchover from Kelly Racing and now you're with the Honda team and just talk about the experience and grabbing this win here today.
SCOTT SHARP: Black and white. That's the difference. I mean, I just, you know, it was a tough situation the last couple of years. We were really kept going the wrong way on the grid towards the back and lost out and I really -- Delphi really stayed behind me the entire time. They were the constant that believed I could get the job done. Obviously took me to a much better team, the Honda Fernandez team. Just the opportunity to show what I could do, that's everything, that's what every driver wants is that chance to show what you could do, and I just can't thank them and the other group of sponsors enough.
Q. Here in Kentucky, it's your third Top-5 in six starts and you won the pole here in 2001, finished second and came from 21 to finish fourth in 2002. Is that your favorite track?
SCOTT SHARP: It's certainly up there, that's for sure. I've always liked this track. It's a challenge with the bumps. For some reason with the radius of the corners and the level of banking, just it's an aggressive track. There's not just one freight train going around; but you're going forward, you're back, you're forward, and guys are getting a lot of momentum and I've always naturally gotten a comfortable feel around here. You know, we were pretty quick I thought all weekend. We were eighth quick I guess in practice, our combined practice speed, but when we looked at the no-tow records from practice, we were like the fourth fastest car. So we thought that's where we would have qualified for the fourth yesterday and obviously didn't get the chance to because of the rain. Nevertheless had a pretty good car, and this morning didn't have quite what we needed made a few adjustments going into the race and just happened to hit them right on and from there we were competitive all day.
Q. Were you able to use the notebook from last year, did anything apply?
SCOTT SHARP: I think it did. We went to Michigan, finished seventh there but overall could not quite get as up as we wanted, and I think the whole team up there really determined, worked hard last couple of weeks. The guys didn't stop working to make the car better, and I think that it all really paid off. Certainly they have a good track record here no doubt, both Adrian and Kosuke ran well last year and today. They ran a really good setup and I think the car is a little bit different this year and obviously the competition is a little bit different and we just had to tweak things a little bit.
Q. Strange that you finally had a chance to lead a lap?
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah, that's the tough thing, that's the sort of -- an itch I couldn't scratch. You were very nice to remind me how many races it had been since I had won, which no one else had luckily done yet. Those were two things that certainly gave me extra motivation. Yeah, when we popped in the lead, I was like, wow, this feels good, I wonder how long it will last. From there we just kept going, and we got faster and faster and it was actually pretty surprising no one known could come back around by me. So much of that went on in the pack, if I was second, go back up to eighth and third, and everyone just sort of see-sawed. And obviously the adjustments on the car got us to a new level that we were basically able to carve our way to the front and once we got there, we were quick enough that no one could really get us.
Q. During the couple of years you struggled, did you ever question your ability?
SCOTT SHARP: I don't think I ever did personally. You know, I felt with that the way the situation got, unfortunately your goal posts moved. I'm getting to race weekend and hoping you qualified in the Top-5 and Top-10 and then shoot to win, you hope you qualified eventually in the Top-20 and hoped you could make it to the Top-10. But there's times I drove my tail off and made a lot of passes no one saw to get to the Top-10. It's so easy in this business, and it's so funny, I've sat back so much this year watching Buddy Lazier, he's a good friend of mine and to see him come in and be sometimes the fastest driver on that Panther team and to run great in the race, when everyone a couple of years ago said he couldn't drive any more, "that team was going down the toilet," you know, that to me says a lot. You know, it's so easy to point the finger at the engineer; it's so easy to point the finger at the driver. Certainly it was more constantly extorting (phonetic) a lot of other people's misinformed opinions, but you just believe this yourself and the man upstairs and do the best that you can do every time out.
Q. Delphi, how long have they been with you, and did they ever waver in the dark years?
SCOTT SHARP: Eight years, 93 races. And they have never wavered. They have really been tremendous. They are so supportive and we went and had to keep people from our team and Honda, we all went to Delphi right before the Michigan race and they are just so supportive; they are so awesome. That's what I feel the biggest thing is, it's great to win and feels good to me, but I just feel so thankful to be able to give that back to the people who believe in me.
Q. Question about restarts and very smooth on the inside for the last lap.
SCOTT SHARP: Well, basically once I had the lead and had to do a restart, I wasn't exactly sure, like where is my sweet spot. Usually you're in whatever gear you're in and you have to gauge off the pacesetter's pace, and you're stuck sometimes. Sometime you're in low revs because they went maybe to slow or whatever, and now I'm at the point I have to figure out real quick, give it a couple good shots, have good acceleration and my gearing needed to be slower. I just kept a pretty slow pace all the way around, worked my tires, worked my tires and then just sort of waited, waited, waited and then just jumped on it and got a good start. I think it was probably slow enough that the other guys were probably pretty low on the revs and I was good on the revs and that really helped. With Vitor, he saw me do that at Kansas and certainly the question had been pretty well raised, can't go under the white line. Almost did that at Kansas, what would have happened, and at the drivers meeting the next race, said he would not have won the race. I felt pretty good that I didn't need to go down to make it happen, but nevertheless didn't want it to be a remote possibility.
Q. Adrian's win here last year, he had a car that was marginal in traffic, but good on its own, did you discuss that strategy and try to get that today?
SCOTT SHARP: Oh, definitely. I think that's -- I don't know because I don't know how each team operates, but in my opinion from what I said, I think that's the way the series has moved here. I think if you've got too easy of a car to drive in traffic, you're not going to be fast enough to win the race.
Q. Your thoughts and feelings on your battling Wheldon?
SCOTT SHARP: Just the kind of momentum he had, I thought at first maybe he was sizing me up to try to pass me later in the race if I was able to scope the lead. See a lot of times obviously many of these races come down to a side-by-side finish and I was just sort of trying to see if -- I was trying to go back and forth a couple of times and he got on a great run and got to the line first, at that point I'm on the bottom and nothing else I can do. So I just try to hold on to the lead, hold on to the lead. We were side-by-side and I had just had gone ahead when the yellow came out, so it was nice certainly to have the lead going into the pit. But certainly that was just about hang on to lead as long as we could and try to see what else maybe I could do, loosen my car up a little bit more or do whatever else I needed to do to try to get to the line first.
Q. The condition on the low wide?
SCOTT SHARP: It was the place to be. It was bumpy. Certainly several times when I had pressure on the tires going into turn one, it was real skimming over the bumps and stuff, but you had to stay on them because that was definitely the place to be. Some tracks, the upper groove sometimes gets to be a little bit the way to go or maybe equally as fast, and maybe just the radius or the banking of the corner, certainly you saw it last year and you saw it again now, the lower is the one.
Q. Adrian won here last year, and then had three wins to end the season, can you duplicate that?
SCOTT SHARP: Well, we came out of the box pretty strong I thought for a brand new team; driver trying to mesh with each other. And I really felt after three or four races certainly coming out of Indianapolis, or certainly after coming out of Motegi we were going to win some races pretty quickly and it has not come as fast as I thought it would. And July, we seemed to maybe lose a little bit to some of the other teams, but we never stopped working and I knew we were going to come to some really good races for the team and good races for me. I think I've done well here and I like this place, same goes for Colorado. Luckily the track we won last year I really like, Chicago. I knew we were going to good tracks for them and obviously they have a good setup for here, so you just do the best that you could do.
Q. Talk about with so much of the attention being on Danica Patrick, and how the storyline has turned out to be where you are?
SCOTT SHARP: You start off races and you get to the point that obviously there's going to be days where there's some attention on and you there's going to be probably more days there's not. To be honest it doesn't really matter. What matters is the result on the track. Like I said, I mean, we'll be just -- I think a lot of justification. I just feel thankful to the people that have allowed me to be able to put me in that position to show what I could do, whether that be Delphia, or whether it be Fernandez. The team is tremendous. You want to go out and you want to compete for them.
Q. Your experience at Sears Point and Wadkins Glenn versus the rest of the series, do you have an advantage at those tracks coming up?
SCOTT SHARP: No. You know, I have not driven many road courses in an Indy car. Certainly my other parts of my career were and I won a bunch of other races in those tracks in those Trans Am cars. We probably are not quite where we want to be, and I think maybe on the road courses right now, we are a little behind some of the other teams. Once again, the guys this week, were working on some shock stuff that we have to improve for road courses, when we go back we hope we'll score a really good finish, safe to say there are some teams that tested more in the off-season than we certainly did. We didn't test until the open test, and I think there are a few teams that have a few tests ahead of us on the road courses, and certainly that improves and helps you build up. I'm sure we'll get there. Adrian really had it figured out, so it might just take a little bit of time.
Q. Your thoughts about road courses being in the schedule this year?
SCOTT SHARP: No, I'm glad to see it. I think it's great, the IRL, it's a way to get into some new markets, the Bay Area is a great market to be in. It's certainly a Top-10 market and you have to be there, and there's not an oval. The only way to be there is to go run on a road course. I think that's great and I think so many of us, the driving talent in this league is so tremendous. You could put these guys in any car most of them, and they are fantastic road course drivers. So I think it's a natural extension of the league to be honest, and, you know, I mean, we probably all want to see the series get back together and the fact that if we do go to road course racing, that's one step a little bit closer.
Q. How important is it having a win after the struggles that you've had recently?
SCOTT SHARP: That's huge. For one, it's the biggest race I've won in the IRL. And I say that because we're in contention all day, we've raced our way to the lead and won the race. From a driver's perspective, that's how you dream about winning races. I mean, you'll take them any way you can get them and back the thing up across the checkered white line, if that's what it takes. But certainly if you can be a dominant-type car and go into the race, that's how you dream about doing it. A lot of the other ones, some of them were we in very good contention, sometimes the Top-5 or sometimes we had to take, you know, the misfortune of someone else or the ill strategy of someone else or whatever it was to get to the winner's circle. So for us to finally be able to put a stamp on it really feels good.
Q. Talk about this being your first win in the new IRL and maybe you could explain what he's talking about?
SCOTT SHARP: Being around as long as I have, certainly guys look at your wins, maybe some of early wins, I'll look at this field, it's as deep as deep gets and people look and say, well, there's only six or seven cars that are really legitimate contenders or whatever they might say and therefore they negate a little bit some of the accomplishments. Definitely any time you can get a win feeling like you're racing against the best that there is, it feels that much more we regarding and then that much more proven. I'd much rather take a win right now than take it two years ago, put it that way, especially after all that's gone on with me and all the opportunity, the people in the past that says that I was done and I couldn't do it anymore. To be able to finally put it together, and this year, you know, like I was just saying how I really thought we would win early, then we went through July and seemed like we were not catching the front-running cars so much and coming into this race, there's six to go and you start to say, Honda motor is pretty awesome and Fernandez team is pretty great; and just maybe it's not going to come together for a win this year. There's great drivers that have not won this year, the guys that are second that have not won yet and great drivers that deserve to win races. It's definitely gratifying to be able to pull one out.
Q. Your feelings if you were hurt or angry when people are saying you were done in the series?
SCOTT SHARP: Well, when you first read about it like the first couple, no one likes to read that negative stuff about yourself. But after a while, it almost becomes comical because they know about the five percent of the story, so it's humorous. You almost wonder if these people were writing -- sitting at home instead of actually being at the racetrack. I think my wife got much more personal and much more mad than I did. I shoved it off because in the big picture, it doesn't matter. No one is going to walk up to you and tell you what they think. Certainly when the whole -- our whole team was pretty much written off last year, you know what people are saying.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Scott Sharp, thank you.
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