An interview with Danica Patrick
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's special Indy Racing League teleconference. We are very happy to have Danica Patrick with us this afternoon.
Of course everyone knows Danica passed Helio Castroneves at Sunday's race at Twin Ring Motegi with three laps to go to capture her first victory. If you would maybe just recap for us the thrill of getting your first victory and tell us about the whirlwind tour that you've been on since.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, first about the win, you know, I knew that in the last fuel, it was going to be critical on saving the fuel and be able to stretch the run as long as possible. You know, we were hoping for no yellow flags, as well, as we were going to be able to make it to the end under green. So we luckily got that.
You know, gosh, just a lot of relief. Really I was excited for a little while. I was shocked for a little bit and then I was mostly just relieved to get that done. I'm not shooshing it aside but I'm definitely glad that that one is -- that that one has -- (phone breaking up).
Q: First, I understand your win is most important to you as a race car driver, but as a woman, what does it mean to you in paving the road for other females hopefully that will be behind you in motorsports?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, you know, I think that I'm definitely just part of a wave of women that are doing different things, great things outside of the normal (indiscernible) world, so I don't think it's just me, but I think it's just showing that we're capable of anything. And vice-versa; there's so much more gender crossover now than there ever has been. So I really just believe that I'm part of a really big picture.
Q: It's good to see you've still got your hair
DANICA PATRICK: That was last year's bet. (Laughing).
Q: Going into Kansas, you'll have some time between now and then to reflect, and also to get ready --
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know about that. Headed to New York tomorrow, and I haven't been home yet. (Giggling).
Q: Is this going to change your approach in Kansas? I would think not; and do you think that there will be any more pressure that you will put on yourself knowing that you've won -- just what are your feelings going to be going forward?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think that -- I mean, the first order is that I don't let people dictate how I'm supposed to feel or dictate how I'm supposed to do.
But no, I don't think any pressure is going to compare to what it was like to get a win in and have that forever. So it's nice to do that and it's nice to not have to answer any questions about it, about when and how and why hasn't it.
But you know, the attitude really is just that we'll start thinking championship, and it's not that I haven't been, but it's even more realistic now with having a win and in turn, hopefully more come and more come easily even. They always say that first one is the hardest one to get, which I agree.
So I think that I've always thought that I was somebody that could compete for a championship, because I'm a consistent driver, and, you know, hopefully smart out there. But you know, what I had not done yet was win races, and it really does take wins to win championships.
Q: Richmond is reporting today that ticket sales were skyrocketing yesterday on a Sunday, not what they are used to; are you surprised by that at all, or do you think it's the initial bump after your victory? Or do you think that you winning is going to increase ticket sales across the board for the rest of the season or where do you stand on that?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think that it would be a rational thought to think that there would be a bump right after and that it would hopefully increase.
You know, it's definitely been publicized, and people are finding out about it, and in turn, people are just finding out about IndyCar more. And so I think that there's a chain reaction, and a lot of people are affected. And it's not just about me; it's about finding out about the league, too.
Yeah, and I hope so, I hope that it's growing and that's the idea. We are all working hard to do everything we can to capitalize on all of the great moments that happen with all of the different drivers in the league and I guess this week, it's me.
Q: I had a chance to talk with Lyn St. James, and her feeling is your win is one of the best things to happen to women in sports since Billie Jean king knocked off Bobby Riggs. Have you given any thought to what this means from an historical standpoint?
DANICA PATRICK: From a what standpoint?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, that's something I've thought about for sure. I think it's difficult being the person in the middle of it, and, you know, also being kind of young. I'm only 26 and four years of IndyCar and I feel like I still have so much more racing to do and years to go.
So I think that it's something that as time goes on, and as people talk about it here and there and have more time to reflect and see the reflects of it over time, that's when it really starts to kick in and you probably become more aware of it as time goes on more than anything. And that doesn't mean that I don't know that that happened and I don't think that's a really wonderful thing, and I'm really proud to be that person and happy to be. I think this is just a great platform to be able to do good things from and to really be active in charitable causes and all kinds of things.
So I think that as I said earlier on the call, I think women are really coming through in a lot of different areas and I'm really honored that Lyn would say that it's the biggest thing since Billie Jean King. That's a big deal.
Q: How important is it for your own peace of mind, and also for the event itself, that your victory came before the Indy 500 and not to really focus on -- you don't have to answer those questions anymore?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, that's definitely nice. Me and [race strategist] Kyle [Moyer]-- Kyle calls my races. He says, "You're going to get one of those under you before Indy so what that when that happens, nobody can say a word," and I like that attitude. I think also it's nice to just get it done as soon as possible.
Yeah, Indy is such a long month. It's so much media. You know, this is a really great way for so many parties: For myself, the sponsors, the league, everybody, to also be able to capitalize on this to really do great things during the month of May.
So I think that there's a lot of good things that happened from it, but one is not to have to answer when I'm going to win
Q: And for the event itself, in past years, there's been a big crowd there on race day, maybe not as many people there on pole day and practice days as they would like; do you see that changing this year?
DANICA PATRICK: I see that has changed over the last couple of years, and I see no reason to not expect continued growth.
I think every year -- like I said, every year has gotten better and the last Carb Day we had was pretty cool and pretty exciting and everybody was feeling like it was more like the old days. And we're going to have more cars. It's all the unified series now and it's all IndyCars now and I think that's also going to help.
There's a lot of reasons why it is going to be bigger I think. Yeah, I think that you would be cheating yourself if you didn't think that it was going to be bigger, so I'm excited for that and I'm hopeful for that.
Q: Since the hair was last year's bet, how did your teammates celebrate this year?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, let's see, Tony Kanaan gave me a really large battle of sake before I left the hotel; he and Marco stayed in Tokyo that night and then they came back today. But I hurried up and got off to Long Beach. But Mr. Wheldon and Dixon were on the same flight home as we all were, so they made sure that they reminded me it was my first win.
Q: Were they giving you any bit of rookie grief?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, no, no, no. They were just celebrating the occasion.
Q: We know how bad you wanted this win; how bad do you think the league wanted this win?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, I'm sure that it meant a lot to a lot of people. A lot of people had great expectations and hopes, high hopes for all of this, and it's been building and coming on since 2005.
Yeah, I think that they really wanted this to happen. I recognize that they recognize that victories are victories for all of us, so they have been really helpful in helping me get on with things after the race here and get back to the States and really get the message out and have fun with it.
Q: Was it neat for you that this was more of a team win than anything because of the call?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that's a great message to a lot of young people, and it really can affect anybody. So many of us obviously work in teams, whether it's at the office or at the racetrack and I think it really shows what a group can do when they put their heads together and work really hard and all really, really want the same thing.
So it's really nice that it was such a team win.
Q: Now that you have the first one under your belt, are you hoping the media attention surrounding you will focus more on your abilities than your gender?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that you're never going to stop that kind of media. I think that officially being a female and doing photo shoots and things like that, people are quick to criticize. I think it's all part of it; the more popular you get, the more good and bad press you get.
I would hope that over time, yes, of course, they would focus on -- give me credit for the good things that happen along the way, but that's one of those things that's totally out of my control.
I can be as nice to everyone as I possibly can be, but I can't write stories for them or put words in their mouth or on their paper. The best thing I can do is just put my head down as a driver, and if I can walk away at the end of the day pleased with my performance, that's really all that matters, and to my team, as well.
Q: How has the experience since the win, the emotions and the whirlwind you've had, how has that compared to what you thought it would be?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, a little less sleep than I thought probably. You get very little. But I think that we've all been hopefully and anxiously anticipating this day.
You know, there have been people that have been kind of putting general plans together for some time now about how to handle this first win. You know, I think that everybody has been pretty buttoned up about it, and we've really worked hard -- worked well together afterwards in the organization of everything.
Really it's just about having fun with it and relishing in the fact that something that myself, my family and my team have worked so hard for has finally happened. As I said earlier, it's not easy from here, but it's one of those things off the plate.
Q: Even though it's a different situation, can you empathize with what Dale Junior is going through now, his winless streak is at 70 races and all of the questions of when?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, you know, that's something that happens to a lot of drivers. There's definitely no way on God's green earth that he has lost talent or become a different driver. He's the same guy, and it always takes time to adjust to a new team, as well. I experienced that last year with Andretti Green.
No, Dale Junior is still that same driver that everybody loves and cheers for. He'll get it, and I would hope that he knows that he can do that.
Q: What do you think the experience is going to be like the next time you're together with all the drivers, maybe in a drivers' meeting or something when you can sort of look around the room and say, I've won a race just like that guy and that guy and that guy.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I'll tell you that's happened today where there's a rather big group of us, we're going to some of the Honda facilities and doing a Honda appreciation day.
So I'm here with Helio and Tony and Marco are coming and Briscoe and Wheldon and Dixon and so many others. I'm not going to say I feel terribly different, but I would be lying if I didn't that I that it was a little bit different. You know, you can be just a little bit more proud, you know.
Q: Is there a secret lounge, big, cushy leather chairs?
DANICA PATRICK: You know what, it's like you get the special key and yeah, the seats are really fluffy and there's waitresses and you get sushi and whatever you want. It's a pretty elite club.
Q: Do you have an appreciation for the timing of this? I know you would have liked to not have to have those questions asked for so long, but to have this happen at the same time as the merger, amalgamation, whatever you want to call it, does that make it more special in way?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think it definitely marks the day. I was asked that earlier yesterday and I was like, you're right, that's pretty exciting actually that it happened on the same day that the last Champ Car race was, and it's quite a mark in time.
You know, I'm just proud to be a part of it. And no matter what day it happened, would I have been so grateful for and always remember it, but yeah, there are some other significant events that have happened at the same time. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense.
Q: In addition to that, moving forward, with so many more cars in the field, it just seems to be all bubbling into something special just before Indianapolis, here in Edmonton -- (phone breaking up).
DANICA PATRICK: Sure, I think that this is a good time for IndyCar, and it's exciting. There's a lot of really good stuff going on and I would hope that we are all working really hard to capitalize on that and enjoying ourselves at the same time.
Yeah, going to new venues is always fun, and I think you said you're from Edmonton, so I always love going to Canada and I think that the Canadian fans are always so genuine, so excited and so knowledgeable. I'm looking forward to going back.
Q: Nobody listening to you right now knows at all what you've gone through to get to this point. What was the burden like on you getting into this race, and now what does it feel like once you've won it?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, into this specific race, I can't tell you much different. You know, what I did on Saturday night or whatever day it was -- it's hard to tell because of the difference in countries.
But you know, going into it, I didn't do anything different. We sat out for two days because it rained, but other than that, I drove the same hard, determined race that I always have, and I think Bryan Herta said it best when he said to me at Mid-Ohio last year when I had my first front row on a road course. He said, "You know, the day that you win your first race, you're not going to be doing anything different. It's just going to happen." And it's really true. That's really what happened.
You know, what can I say? You know, there are some races that feel harder than others, and there's some that just flow, and I think that this is just one of those that just flowed right and worked out.
Q: The burden of expectations, to finally have it lifted, not just for this race, but all the publicity and hype that has occurred since you've been in the sport, those burdens, what does that feel like to have so much placed on your shoulders for so long?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think that's probably what the whole crying escapade was afterwards; that finally going away and being so glad and so relieved it happened finally.
You know, I don't really try and let the press affect me. I do the best job I can with you guys and I do the best job in the race car that I can, and whatever happens, happens.
But I try not to let it negatively affect me because I can't control it. So, you know, I just keep my head down and just try and be the best driver I can and focus and do my job, and that's to go out there and win races.
Q: Considering circumstances, I think you're allowed to cry.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you again for joining us. Appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule and congratulations again.