CHAMPCAR/CART: Rahal, Patrick press conference, part II

CART FedEx Championship Series/ Toyota Atlantic Series Bobby Rahal, Danica Patrick 11 June 2002 Part 1 of 2: Karts, driver respect Q Danica, I hope I verbalize this correctly. You're quite a media phenom. I'm wondering how you're going to be...

CART FedEx Championship Series/ Toyota Atlantic Series Bobby Rahal, Danica Patrick 11 June 2002

Part 1 of 2: Karts, driver respect

Q Danica, I hope I verbalize this correctly. You're quite a media phenom. I'm wondering how you're going to be able to handle that, and I wonder how you're going to get to where, the media, and other racers to treat you as a driver, and not just as a female.

Danica Patrick: I'm handling the media. It's something that I have had to deal with and am prepared to deal with. It's part of my niche. I know I'm a female. I know that that's something different, and it's something people are interested in and intrigued by. So I'm ready in whatever situations come up media-wise and will handle it. And with respect to being treated as a female or a racer, I would hope that people see me for the job that I'm going -- that I'm doing. It takes a little bit more time, I think, as a female to gain respect, but it happens. Sort of what I've found over the past few years of racing is that it takes longer. It might take a half a season or so of respect, but it comes and I'm sure the same thing will happen with the media. And I think once people speak to me and can identify with my determination and the things that I say, they change their mind very quickly about just being a female in racing and they see that I'm there for a far deeper arena than just to go out there and stand pretty for pictures.

Q Well you have me convinced after talking to you. You are probably one of the most focused drivers I've meet in my life.

Danica Patrick: Thank you.

Q And I have a question for you and Bobby together. At the ladder conference we had at Laguna on Saturday, Townsend Bell I think thanked the media for promoting talent. Is there anything more you can see the media to do, to promote young talented drivers?

Bobby Rahal: Well, just from my standpoint, Lynne, I think to write these stories and to -- you know, it's very interesting, in Europe, the up-and-coming drivers are usually at the forefront of the story, because everybody's looking for who's going to be the next guy to be Schumacher, who's the next Wonder Boy, you name it. They're looking for the next star. Over here I haven't seen that too much, although now that there is a ladder system, I see it happening more and more. And the fact that the press is aware of the ladder system and it is actually focusing some of their time on it, you know, who are going to be the stars, particularly when you hear so much criticism of how few "Americans" are in CART in particular. I think the IRL is there in the same ratio. If that's such a big concern to everybody then we better start promoting young Americans. Because the more their name gets out, the more chances they're going to have. So the press can certainly have a huge contribution to young Americans being given the opportunity to make it to the highest level.

Q Danica, nice to see you this weekend again, by the way. You have raced with a large number of the drivers you will be competing against next year in the Atlantic series. You raced them in karts I believed. And I remember in Long Beach somebody asked the question that was leading into the gender issue and I have to tell you all three of the drivers on the podium totally stepped by that and referred to you merely as a race driver and one deserving of Atlantic's ride as long as it wasn't theirs.

Danica Patrick: That's good. I have to remember all of those people I raced against.

Q But they said she's another driver.

Danica Patrick:  That's what I was speaking about a second ago.  It takes
a little time to get respect.  Racing with them, it happened.

Q But I think you might find when you get in there, enough of those that you race with in karts are going to be there or are there, and I think a lot of that respect will already be there for you.

Danica Patrick: Yeah, I hope so. It's unfortunate that it's a barrier that I have to overcome on the way to success and all the rest of it. But it's just part of it.

Q That's true. Bobby, do you plan on expanding the Atlantic's team next year or the year after into a two-car effort?

Bobby Rahal: I always feel two-car teams are better in the sense that drivers can motivate each other, but I think our first obligation is to do one right, you know, the best we possibly can. And if it grows from there, great, but I don't want to -- just as I -- you know, I think my whole approach to this is that we have to do everything we can to help Danica achieve her goals. And the Atlantic series is not easy. There are difficulties and nuances and idiosyncrasies that exist there, that you've got to learn all about in order to be able harness if they're positive things. The last thing we should do is not just say I have an Atlantic thing. I want her to be successful. If she's successful we'll be successful; and down the line, why not, let's try to do a two-car team but first things first.

Q It's all part of Team Rahal. Will your Champ car drivers be involved also in advice or consultation with Danica?

Bobby Rahal: Well, I really don't know. I think they've got enough things to think of, to work on their own, particularly after weekends like last. But I mean we're one big team, and this is -- we're not so big that we're not a family. So I think anybody -- there's a lot of excited people here in Columbus in the shop, volunteering, you know, saying well I'll go work on that deal. As I said, I think we're going to try to harness all of the resources that exist here, to the benefit of this effort, and I'm sure Jimmy's always been great with advising people, and of course Michel's never -- not driven an Atlantic car, that I know of; but, you know, we're all friendly to one another. So it's not like there's going to be a brick wall down the middle that says the Atlantic team is on one side and the CART team is on the other.

Q Congratulations to you both. And, Bobby, it's really great to see you in this area and carry on the tradition.

Bobby Rahal: Thank you.

Q Actually, they've mostly been answered, but I'd like to give congratulations to Bob and Danica. That's a good deal. Bob, looking -- obviously the racing experience has got to be done and hopefully everything goes well, reasonable expectations where -- what's the time line you can see Danica getting into a Champ car?

Bobby Rahal: Well, I have to tell you that this contract between the two of us runs for -- you know, it has a very long lifespan, subject to certain things happening. But the point -- my point being in all that is the last thing -- the reason I wanted it long-term is because I feel it will take a long time, more than one or two years, for Danica to be prepared to get into a Champ Car. I think the worst thing -- she might argue with me on that, but I think the worst thing that can happen to any driver is to be rushed. Even if they think they're ready, you know, the wisdom of the years tells you that it's not a simple thing to get out of a car that's got 240 or 250 horsepower into one that's got perhaps 750, 800 horsepower, let alone the weight differences and of course just the level of competition. And the last thing we're going to do is rush Danica. We're not doing this to try as to make a point. We're doing it to be successful. And that's going to take -- I think that's going to take racing experience. You know, I think experience is something you just cannot -- irrespective of how naturally talented you may be, experience is something that can not be overstated in terms of its importance. So I want to be sure we do things right and in a very controlled way and we give her a chance to really practice and improve her craft so that when she does get in that car for the first time, that she's at home and she feels good about where she's at and she can go out and go fast.

Danica Patrick: I don't think I would argue because I'm going to take some words out of my mouth that I said and listen to somebody that's trying to help me, and if you, Bobby, say I need more time, I'll respect that; and I want to be ready for the next step just as much as everybody else wants me to be ready, so you can succeed and get into it. It's a good situation that I have that I have Bobby telling me, look I can take as much time as you need and then we'll move on. I'm sure it's possible to be put in a situation I'm sure other drivers have been put into, to try to show successes when they're not ready. And not only are you scared but your career ends very quickly.

Q My first question is for Danica. I understand as a demonstration of how many people are interested in you from all over the place, I understand you had a Busch Grand National test scheduled for the near future with PPC Racing. Is that test going to take place?

Danica Patrick: That test is still going to take place. That was presented to me before Bobby and I had, you know, formed an agreement. And therefore I need to give it my best shot. I think it's -- I don't think it could hurt at all. You know, it will teach me how to adapt to another situation. You know, it's like learning in school, you just learn how to do more things, and your method of it. And I just don't think that driving more than one car can be a problem. So I'll go to the test and I'll do the best that I can. And no matter what, I have to give it my all because people are still going to be talking about how I did and they're still going to base their judgment on me and how they expect me to do on that event as well. So I'm going to go down there and give it my all.

Q Tell me a little bit about your background in go-karting, how that helped in your development process and what do you think can be done to get more young women like yourself interested in that aspect of the sport with the start of CART even less than in CART ladder series and have you been talking to Graham Rahal about his karting future as well?

Danica Patrick: About my karting past, I started when I was 10. I raced all over the states. I did a small amount of testing in Europe, with my engine-builder out of Denmark, out of Holland, but mostly in the states. And did that for seven years. About getting other females into it, I think that I'm not -- I don't have to go out of my way to try to grab their hand and pull them all through and come on, girls, let's go; but if I can go out there and be successful, people want to jump on a bandwagon. They want to jump on the young driver bandwagon as soon as Jenson Button went out there and did well. So I think that if a young driver and now a female can go out there and do well, I don't need to do anything, just be myself and do what I want to do and be successful within myself and the team that I'm driving for, but it will open doors up. You know, teams and people, sponsors will start looking at other females in racing, going wow, this is a great marketing aspect, a great speaker for our Championship or whatever it may be. So I think if I do what I expect will happen, the doors will open for them. With Graham and racing, I'm having a good time going back to the racing and remembering what it's like; and if will there's anything can give him advice in karting or when he gets into cars himself, if he wants to one day, then I will be very happy to do that too.

Q Bobby, a lot of people just in the short time that this announcement has been made, they're wondering is CART going to be here in three years for her to graduate to. What will you do in your role to change that? Is that going to change you at all?

Bobby Rahal: Well, you know, I think CART has some challenges, there's no question of that, but you know I think if you looked at the spectator attendance, I think that would tell you a whole lot about the relative strength of the series. And not -- you know, there might be some reinvention or reposition, just like any company has to do but I have great faith in Chris (Pook). I have great faith that road racing is a credible attractive form of racing for people, and I think that the crowds that attend the races are probably some testimonial for that, and I also think CART has the greatest venue going. So I guess I'm not as doom and gloom as some. I do recognize there are challenges to it, but I also recognize that things are cyclical in racing. I've been through things in racing that existed one day and didn't exist the next, and CART has to have more than that going for it. So I'm confident road racing will be a part of the future landscape with CART, with Chris. And I will say also that remember, much of the reason why we've chosen Atlantic and the Barber Dodge program for these first races is because I firmly believe that's the best formula in which you can hone your craft so you can be successful in racing, no matter where you go. So I guess it's a long-winded version of saying yeah, I have full confidence that Danica will be able to drive a Champ car in three years or so, assuming everything goes the way we want it to in our program.

Merrill Cain: Thank you very much, and good luck to the both of you.

-cart-

Rahal, Patrick, part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jenson Button , Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Townsend Bell , Danica Patrick