Danica Patrick met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing for the first time at Martinsville, what to expect from Sunday’s race, how she assesses her rookie year so far, and more.
YOUR FIRST TRIP HERE TO MARTINSVILLE, WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING HERE THIS WEEKEND?
DID YOU GUYS CONSIDER TESTING HERE AT ALL AND HAVE YOU BEEN ON A TRACK SIMILAR TO THIS BEFORE?
“We were going to test here around the Little Rock time but I think they changed the tire right before we came and everybody sort of aborted that mission. At least that’s my understanding. So, we were going to test here but that didn’t work out.”
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR DAY IN WASHINGTON D.C. AND WHAT THAT WAS LIKE? ALSO REFLECTING ON THE JOEY LOGANO THING, COMING INTO ANY SERIES IS THERE KIND OF A CODE YOU HAVE AS FAR AS HOLDING YOUR OWN LINE AND HOLDING YOUR OWN GROUND? DRIVER ETHICS, WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE?
“First off, the White House is really cool. It was a cool experience. It was neat seeing all the kids playing around right in the White House’s front yard basically. You were right there. You could see the President’s office; you could see the back of his head working. I got a tour of the White House and some other places from the gentlemen from the White House that was taking me around and getting to where I needed to get to.
It was just really cool. The kids were excited, they were super excited. It definitely worked out to wear my GoDaddy jacket because everybody recognized me very quickly. It was really fun. I’m really glad I did it. It was a nice day. I think it’s a cool experience to meet the President, his wife and kids, and their dog. It’s an event that they said was the most chaotic and loose event they do at the White House all year long any year. It had that feel of kids just come play and we were so close to the White House too.
“On the etiquette and unspoken rules, as drivers there is a time and a place for everything. I think later in the race things do happen. It depends on a little bit of history. If things have gone on in the past, then sometimes that can carry over and there’s an understanding for why someone gets a little bit extra aggressive.
But, I don’t think it’s ever cool or anyone is happy when you try to take them out almost or make big, dramatic moves. I think towards the end if you make one move, I feel like that definitely happens. If somebody goes over the top with it, it makes you frustrated and makes you mad. I don’t feel like I’ve been in enough of those scenarios to be your official driver on what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate out there. But, just in my experience that’s kind of a little bit why things happen small or big.”
TONY STEWART WAS QUOTED IN USA TODAY SAYING HE WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR FIRST TIME HERE AND IT MIGHT ALMOST BE SORT OF FUNNY TO WATCH BECAUSE OF HOW TRICKY THIS TRACK IS. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT AND ALSO ON BEING THE FIRST FEMALE DRIVER TO EVER RACE IN THE TOP SERIES OF NASCAR HERE AT MARTINSVILLE?
“That’s not really a big stat for me to be the first female to race here at this level, but I don’t know what to expect. Am I going to go out there and be just fine or am I going to go out there and be a total disaster? It might feel like those times when I drove a Nationwide car for the first time at tracks that I hadn’t been to and all I do is look in my mirror the whole time for what’s going on.
But, it makes me happy that we went to Little Rock just because of the size and kind of get an appreciation for how quick the corners come up. You also get an appreciation for the line and how the tires come up to pressure and how the car changes through that. I’m not going out to far behind him (Tony Stewart) and he’s pretty good. I’ll be looking, trying to see where the line is and see where to go. Its bottom, bottom, so at least there’s that much going for me when I get out there.”
WHEN YOU GO TALK TO TONY (STEWART) FOR TIPS AND HE ALSO KIND OF CAUTIONS YOU THAT IT MIGHT BE THE WORST DAY OF YOUR LIFE TRYING TO HAVE FUN WITH IT, CAN YOU MAYBE NOT DREAD IT AND LOOK AT IT IN A POSITIVE LIGHT?
“I always feel like the more new a situation is, kind of the less expectations there are and in general the less pressure and less nerves go on. I’ve always felt like the more expectation level that exists and the longer you’ve been around, that’s when I get more nervous because its time.
Definitely being here for the first time and understanding how challenging it is, I feel like it’s only up from here. I have no doubt that it will be a hard day, but I’m also of the belief that it can also be a really fun day. I mean a good car is a good car. If it’s good and its hooked up and its turning, and the practice day we did a few weeks ago translates to this track and the car performs as well as it did at practice that day, there’s no reason we can’t have a decent day.
There’s also no way to know if it’s going to be different because I haven’t been here before. Being a rookie and kind of getting shown the ropes, I don’t know how that’s going to go. You just have to stand your ground. Nothing works better than driving away from people. We’re going to be working toward a car that will do what I want it to do and be comfortable. We’ll just see how it shakes out.”
NOW THAT WE’VE BEEN TO FIVE TRACKS AND A VARIETY OF THEM, HOW DO YOU ASSES YOUR PROGRESS IN YOUR ROOKIE YEAR SO FAR?
“I think that for a lot of the year I’ve learned how to drive a lose car, so I’ve got that going for me. It’s been not as good as what I had hoped for. Then again I also said I’m not going to set expectation levels at this point and time. I’m going to see how it goes. I think based on that, for me I would say that we just need to get a grasp as to what I need out of this new car.
Tony (Gibson) and I need to come up with a baseline balance set up that works, and I’m not sure we have achieved that yet. I think that we are just taking a little bit of time to adjust to this new car and adjusting to what it takes to make me feel good in it. I don’t know how long that will go on for, but I was happy at least at Fontana. I really thought I was going to get lapped five or more times at least.
“That’s how bad I felt in practice. We did end up a lap down, but at least we were kind of respectable I felt like. Most importantly we made the car better throughout the whole race. That was something that hasn’t happened really all season. We haven’t been able to get the car to a decent spot and feel a lot better about it by the end of the race.
So, that’s a positive I take from Fontana. When we make those positive changes and the car feels better it just kind of adds to the database of what works for me and what doesn’t work for me and more about what I need in the car so we can start the weekend off stronger and end even stronger which is what we need to do.”
WITH SO MANY PEOPLE TELLING YOU SO MANY THINGS, HOW DO YOU WEIGH OUT YOUR OWN SENSATIONS AND FEELINGS? WHAT ABOUT THE GRUELING, PHYSICAL SIDE OF IT? OTHER THAN TONY TELLING YOU, HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THIS?
“That was part of our pre-Martinsville testing. Short-track running, just sort of figuring out what brakes work for me best. If I could deal with a master that allowed me to use less pressure to get the same results. Those were the things that we worked through to see what was best to bring here to take care of that.
I think there is a lot to be said for staying relaxed in the car and not getting too tense. I think that is a little bit of the challenge the first time here. You are a little bit more tense because it’s new. Those are the things I think about out there on the track, just to take a deep breath and shake your legs around, move around. That kind of stuff helps you strength wise and not to get fatigued.
I’ll be thinking about those things. If the car is challenging, then it’s always a lot more work. Some of the races earlier this year that I’ve had to catch the car all day; my arms are tired by the end of that. I’m sure you’ve all seen video of me sawing at the wheel before, it happens frequently. This is going to be a little bit more of a leg workout, but we’ve worked towards making that more comfortable for me and we’ll see how it goes.”