Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick comes into her fourth season in the Indy Racing League looking to achieve only one thing: winning.
"I'm further along the road to winning," she said during a teleconference on Wednesday (February 20th) reflecting back on a young career that finds her alone among women competitors with three consecutive top ten finishes at the Indianapolis 500.
She produced an overall result of seventh in points during the 2007 IndyCar Series campaign with four top-five finishes and a season's best result at Detroit's Belle Isle Raceway, where she finished second after avoiding a wild race-ending collision involving Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Buddy Rice.
Next week she'll start it all over again as the IRL conducts its first open test of the new year at Homestead Miami Speedway (February 27th and 28th).
In the past Danica has considered the oval configuration to be her strength. With 47 IndyCar starts under her belt she feels the confidence growing on road course circuits as well.
"I do feel like I have a better shot of winning on the ovals, but the improvement will show on the road courses this year," she said. "I'm excited. I've got a lot of energy stored up in anticipation of this year."
Several technical changes to the IndyCar Series machines create both advantages and disadvantages for the diminutive twenty-five year old. For example, the switch to paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a variable-resistance steering rack should be plusses; while the league-mandated minimum car weight will remove an advantage she's enjoyed over the last three seasons.
"The paddle shifter makes it easier physically because my hands remain on the wheel," she said. "And the power steering will help depending on the degree of lock I engage the wheel; that should make a little bit of a difference for me."
One thing that hasn't changed in Danica's estimation is the dominance of a few top teams in the sport. "I still see us (AGR), Penske and Ganassi as the teams to beat," she said, "but you just don't know 'til you get there. You don't know who's done what in research and development over the off-season."
Ultimately the name of the game is to take the checkered flag first; and then, to take a number of them over the season in a chase to win the big, silver IRL Cup at the end of the year.
"The goal is always to find ways to go faster," she said. "Initially we'll be evaluating our off-season R&D (at Homestead), and trying to anticipate problems we're going to encounter," she said.
"I want a championship. I never really set specific goals other than to win, and in that I'm no different than any other driver."