Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
An interview with Danica Patrick
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guest this afternoon is Danica Patrick. Hi, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Hi.
MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us.
Danica is in her fifth season in the IndyCar Series and her third driving the No. 7 Motorola entry for Andretti Green Racing. Last year she earned her first career victory at Twin Ring Motegi. This year she ranks sixth in points heading into the Indianapolis 500 and is one of only four drivers with at least two top-five finishes in the season's first three races.
This will be her fifth Indianapolis 500. She earned Chase Rookie of the Year honors at the Speedway in 2004 when she led 19 laps after starting and finishing fourth. She finished eighth in 2006 and 2007. Last year she started fifth and finished 22nd.
Danica, a couple of practice days this week before Pole Day on Saturday. You qualified in the top 10 all four years at Indy. What are the things that you try and accomplish the first couple of days of practice and then what are the keys to turning in another solid qualifying effort on Saturday?
DANICA PATRICK: First and foremost thanks, everybody for being on. It's a good opportunity to really just focus on qualifying. All the rest of the year we tend to not really be so heavily focused on it, and we kind of do maybe a qualifying practice run or two, but that's about it, and then we kind of fill the car up and work on race stuff from there.
We get a few days to really focus on it. It's about getting the car comfortable. You really want the car comfortable when it has more downforce on it. As you trim it out, the balance changes maybe a little bit, but really you want to start out with a good balanced car, and hopefully you can even take the downforce off and just get faster.
MODERATOR: It's obviously a much more competitive field now, even in the last year, certainly than two, three, four or five years ago since you've been here. How much tougher do you think it's going to be to get in the top 11 on Saturday than maybe in years past?
DANICA PATRICK: Every year is challenging. But, I think you still have a lot of the leaders at the front of the field as you did four years ago. It's always been pretty tough. Yeah, there are a lot more drivers, and I think there are going to be more knocking on that top-11 door maybe more so than before.
Hopefully we don't have to worry about that and we get in that first day and we have a good qualifying run on the first one and it's good enough to put us in the top 11 and in the front row.
MODERATOR: We have a question submitted, three questions from Michael Knight. It's often said it would help to grow the series' popularity for you, Marco (Andretti) and Graham (Rahal) to contend for race wins on a regular basis and be championship contenders. Do you still feel that sort of pressure or are you used to it by now? Have you discussed with that Marco or Graham or shared any advice with them about dealing with that potential pressure?
DANICA PATRICK: Everybody wants to win. That's the problem. At Indy, there's 33 of us, and the rest of the season there's 20 odd drivers that want to win. So, as much as it would be great if Marco and Danica and Graham were contending for race wins every weekend, that kind of reality is not -- it can't happen every weekend anyway. It's just not normal for there to be the exact same three people.
Graham has won. I've won. Marco has won. We've all won a race. But we're also on the younger side, too. So it's tough to compete against guys like Tony (Kanaan) and Dario (Franchitti) and (Scott) Dixon and the experience that they have. They make us work hard.
It would be great. I'd love to be winning more races. To be honest, we've got a couple top-fives in the season. I remember when I first came to AGR in '07, we were in the top five every weekend as well. So that to me really is contending for wins and racing up front. Let's hope we can keep that trend going and get some wins this year.
MODERATOR: The second part of that was, have you talked about that? Obviously, Marco is a teammate.
DANICA PATRICK: No, you don't. It's not like we sit down and say to each other, 'Oh, gosh, wouldn't you like to be contending for race wins?' That's kind of an obvious answer.
MODERATOR: The last part was, do you think it's fair for you guys to be put in that position as maybe having the pressure to grow the series' popularity?
DANICA PATRICK: I just respond to what's out there and how I feel, the people around me. So I try not to live up to expectations, try not to feel like I have to live up to expectations or be overwhelmed and concerned, overly concerned, with what everyone thinks I should do. I just do what I think I can do.
Q: Everybody seems to have an opinion what NASCAR should or shouldn't do to improve Talladega to make it more safe. What's your take on it?
DANICA PATRICK: It's a little bit hard for me to give too much information as that's not the series that I run in. I pay attention and I know what happened a couple weeks ago. But I don't know the ins and outs of it and the politics of it and everything.
But, I think at the end of the day the safety of the drivers is very important. But it's also important that the fans are given an entertaining race, because that's what they pay the money to come see.
Q: I was wondering, since the first day you showed up there, I was there when that was going on, you've always had this sense or you seem to have this sense for that place. I'm talking about Indianapolis. Being smooth and stuff. I'm wondering, what were a couple of the lessons you've learned about that place over the last several years that you'll incorporate even a little bit more? You touched on it a while ago. Is the key being smooth and being patient and letting the speed come, so to speak, through the week? How do you approach it?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's an interesting place. It's different from every other track really because it's the kind of place that if the car isn't right, you cannot make it go fast. You can't hustle it around. You just can't make it do it.
If you do, quickly the car gets out of control and the track bites you. We're going faster here than anywhere else. I think it's really the one place that we go that the track is sort of a little bit bigger and more powerful than you are. And I think that that makes it really something that you have to respect.
So, I took advice from the veterans in the beginning. I wanted to know, and I still want to know. I still ask opinions about what do I need to know about here? What do I need to remember for the race? Everybody kept saying, 'You need to respect the track.' I think that's where it comes in. If the car isn't good, don't think you can be better than it, don't think you can overcome it. Then I think to be patient in the race. I think that really showed in that first year where I went from the front to the back to the front to the back to the front all in the course of the 500 miles. So being patient is also another really key thing around here.
Other than that, I don't know. I think every now and again you get on with the track really well. I feel lucky that Indy's a place that I've had good races here in the past and been fast.
Q: You had a stout race at Long Beach, followed it up with a stout race at Kansas. I don't think you lack for confidence. When you won in Japan, some people said it was a miles-per-gallon race, so to speak. But do you have more of a sense of feeling really into it as you head into this month? Do you understand what I'm saying, from a confidence standpoint?
DANICA PATRICK: I do. I think I was saying earlier today that it comes in waves a little bit, like when you feel that win coming. It's definitely been one of those things that's been on people's minds, and people have been saying that a lot lately. I've even had people at Kansas say, people close to me, fans are always encouraging, but people that really get a feeling for things. I think you might win this race.
Here we are at Indy. I have to tell you a funny story. I got a fortune cookie at the track. We went out to dinner in Kansas at this sort of Asian sushi place. I'm reading it right now because I hung it up. I had two fortunes in there, to start with. I didn't realize it had a second one. When I turned it over, it says, 'A four-wheeled adventure will soon bring you happiness.' So that's in a fortune cookie, right? That's got to be great.
Q: Like a four-leaf clover times two.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah.
Q: Danica, there was a lot of changes made with Andretti Green. I know the big thing was Michael (Andretti) paying extra attention, focusing on you instead of all of the team members equally. How is that working out now that we're a couple races into the season?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think it's a matter of Mike choosing to pay more attention to me; it was a matter of the team using up all of the resources efficiently and well. Over the last couple of years, we've lost personnel here and there, been able to fill in the blanks. And Mike has been one of those guys that's bounced around from car to car, offered his advice on what was going on, what he would do, playing sort of race strategist for all the drivers.
So it was an idea that went around the table. Mike took the job, and he said he buckled under a little bit of peer pressure for it. But it makes sense. He's been around it so much. He still keeps an eye on everybody else, but while we're out there on the track and in the cars, he's on the Boost Mobile car. That's just what the decision was for this year.
Q: Danica, I got to follow up on this fortune cookie. Do you possibly remember the name of the restaurant? Was it near the Speedway?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it was the one right outside the track called STIX. Funny, isn't it?
Q: That gives you a pretty good feeling. You had the good result at Kansas.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I don't think it quite lives up to the fortune cookie yet, so I think there's more to come. But we had a good race at Kansas, and so much of the time you really see the cars that are up front at the beginning of the season carry on into Indy and do well there. So let's hope that we keep that trend going.
Q: We talked about this, too, when you were here. You had the two road races, and now the thing about having the first oval before the Indy qualifying. Do you feel that carrying over, too?
DANICA PATRICK: You mean, just getting in sync with the oval racing and stuff?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it's a little bit unique, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's not a two-lane track like Kansas is. It's really one-car-wide, other than a few little things here and there that are always close calls. But the racing's a little bit different here. But I think that just the more diversity and the more racing you do, period, before you arrive at Indy, the more prepared you feel.
Continued in part 2