Danica Patrick: back ‘home’ again
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 23, 2013) – While Jim Nabors won’t be part of the pre-race ceremonies for Sunday’s 20th Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s a chance Danica Patrick might be humming the tune (Back Home Again in) Indiana, as she makes her way around racing’s most hallowed grounds.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), made quite a name for herself in an Indy car from 2005 to 2011 competing in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
She burst onto the scene at Indy in May 2005, when she stunned the world by leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first “500” – becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the historic race.
She set numerous records during her Indianapolis 500 debut and set the tone early when she posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice. She went on to set the fastest practice lap five times during the month – more than any other driver – including Pole Day and Carburetion Day.
On race day, with 11 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, Patrick blew past leader Dan Wheldon and held the point until lap 194, when she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel to make it to the finish. Her efforts earned her Rookie of the Year honors.
Patrick scored six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indianapolis and qualified 10th or better five times. Her third-place result in 2009 is the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
She returns to Indianapolis this week and is hoping her success in the “500” can carry over to the Brickyard 400.
DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Indianapolis has always been a special place for you. Talk about competing in your first Brickyard 400 this week.
“I don’t care what I drive around Indy, I love being there. I just like everything about it. I like the facility, obviously. And, to me, the special thing about Indy is, obviously, I’ve had great experiences, but it’s about the track. It doesn’t matter what kind of car I drive there, I’ve had great experiences, memories. So that’s what I like so much about it. And I love the tradition. The older I get, the more I realize how much history and tradition plays a role in what’s important and what matters and what means the most to you.”
Compare driving a stock car at Indianapolis to driving an Indy car.
“It’s just about finding a balance with the car out there, which is no different than in an Indy car. You’re just trying to find a balance. All you’re doing in an Indy car is trimming it out and, if I could have more downforce in these cars, I’d probably take it because, in an Indy car, we learned very quickly that it’s about how much throttle you could carry around. The stock cars get very low in the corners, and that can be a little bit of a danger in an Indy car, especially if you get just a little bit too low and get a little loose. So that’s a little bit different, I suppose, but nothing that was terribly unexpected. It did feel a little funny driving through Gasoline Alley last year, though. We used to walk it. And I’m used to seeing the ‘Alley Cats’ (legion of local fans who have been a fixture at the entrance to Gasoline Alley during the Indy 500 month of practice, qualifying and the race for more than four decades) and I didn’t see them there. I just saw a bunch of “’Yellow Shirts’ (security guards), and that was nice. But I didn’t see any ‘Alley Cats.’”
What did you do during the off week?
“I wouldn’t say there was much downtime, to be honest (laughs). I was on The Tonight Show last Tuesday and then presented an award at the ESPYs the next night, so it was a bit busy. Over the weekend I was in a wedding, which was fun. But, it wasn’t like we had a ton of downtime. Still, it was good to get away from the racetrack for a week and try to get ready for the final 17 races.”
When you were in Indy cars, which turn gave you the most trouble at Indy?
“Turn one. I always feel like turn one is just – it has the most amount of issues, for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s partly because you get there a little quicker because (turns) two, three and four are a little bit more smooth and the arc is nice and smooth through the corner. I don’t feel like there’s as much adjusting. I don’t know what it is, but turn one has always been the issue no matter what car I’ve been in. So that was my answer for Indy cars, and it’s my answer for stock cars. It always gives you that little bit of a loose feeling getting in at times. And with these cars, especially, I feel you have to set them up for the long haul. You have to set them up for the whole run as opposed to, where in IndyCar, they have so much downforce and grip that you could set it up and it’d stay like that through the whole race or the whole run. So there’s a little bit of sacrificing and compromising on the car as far as what you have at the beginning so you have a good car at the end.”
Talk about what it’s like when you drive through the tunnel at Indianapolis and get ready for a race weekend?
“I think the best thing about coming back is that it feels familiar and it feels comfortable. I like seeing it. It feels very comfortable, very familiar. I just feel like I’ve had a lot of different experiences here that can help me and, again, it’s just a special place where I feel like from the beginning I’ve always really believed that you have to show this track respect, and it will hopefully show you the respect back. I’ve always thought that and, especially in IndyCar, this place can bite you pretty big. I don’t think it’s too much different in a stock car, to be honest. It’s just a very familiar place. We spent so much time there during the month of May that it becomes like a second home, almost. It’s not like the Indy 500 was a three-day show. You spent just about the entire month there. My parents live outside of Indy, now, as does my sister and her husband, so it’s nice to come back.”