ON STARTING THE NEW SEASON BEING IN THE SPRINT UNLIMITED
DANICA PATRICK: You know, Ricky and I got in late last night because there was a little delay with flying in due to airspace. We got in pretty late. Laid down. It's like, You know what, it's good to be back on the bus. It always feels good to be back on the bus for some reason. It's a little home away from home or seems like more of a home than anywhere else.
That's something I definitely didn't overlook when I qualified on the pole (indiscernible) the 500. Hey, I'm in the Sprint Unlimited race. It's pretty cool.
ON REALIZING SHE WAS IN THE UNLIMITED WHEN SHE WON DAYTONA 500 POLE IN 2013
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know if I thought about it the same time, but I thought about it the same day. I had just watched it, watched the incredible drivers that are in that race. To think I was going to be able to get to be in it, too, I was happy right off the bat.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF RICHARD PETTY'S COMMENTS?
DANICA PATRICK: He asked it for you. You were hesitating. I saw it (laughter). Oh, Bob.
You know, people have said things in the past, and they're going to say things in the future. I still say the same thing: that everyone's entitled to their own opinion. People are going to judge what he said, whether they judge it well or not, and I'm just not going to.
DO THOSE THINGS MOTIVATE YOU AT ALL?
DANICA PATRICK: You can't try any harder in the car. I think that's something that probably every driver would tell you when someone questions our effort level. You can't try any harder. You're doing everything you can. And maybe subconsciously there's some motivation, but I can't tell. I'm giving it my all every single time I'm getting in the car, whether I'm making a simple qualifying run or I'm in the race.
It is what it is and, again, people are entitled to their opinions, and that's fine.
REGARDING RICHARD PETTY
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, really it's more about my belief that everyone can have their own opinion. It has nothing to do with where it comes from.
The people that matter the most to me are my team, my sponsors, you know, those little three-year-old kids that run up to you and want a great big hug and say they want to grow up to be like you. That's the stuff that I really focus on.
NOBODY SAID THAT IN YOUR PREVIOUS SERIES. IT WAS MORE LIKE WHEN YOU WERE GOING TO WIN. THAT'S KIND OF A LITTLE BIT OF A DIFFERENCE.
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I mean, two things. In IndyCar I had probably a faster start. I mean, I started on the front row of Motegi and finished fourth, then just about qualified on pole and just about won the race at the Indy 500 my first year, so that was race number four in IndyCar. So I had a fast start.
I think that it also shows just the competition level in NASCAR. Not only are the drivers very good, but also the teams are extremely competitive, too. I don't think that any one of them sit still. There's no like normal ranking of teams. It goes up and down amongst many. There are 43 cars, not 23 cars. It's just extremely competitive.
Also stock cars are not my background. You know, I've done two full years, one in Nationwide, one in Cup. I still feel like I'm figuring stock cars out and will for a long time. I will never stop learning.
But figuring out the basics of how it work, there's still stuff when I look under the hood, I don't really know what I'm looking at.
WOULD YOU AGREE THAT OF THOSE 43 CARS, THE FIELD IS MUCH MORE STRONGER OUT OF THOSE 43 THAN THEY WERE WITH THE 28 IN INDYCAR?
DANICA PATRICK: The competition, it's difficult to get to the top of both of them. But you're just adding so many more cars into it.
I think one thing that I learned last year in Cup is that we struggled to start the year off and we worked our butts off and tested a ton, tried to work on getting faster, working in the wind tunnel, doing everything we could to get better.
We did make up some ground. And as soon as you sit on that for a second and think, Okay, now let's calm down for a second, let's everybody can have a week off. You know, I don't think you're doing it on purpose, but all of a sudden at the end of the year you realize you're not making any more progress, in fact you're falling behind again.
So the effort level it takes when you are full bore, doing all you can do to go faster is the only mode that you can be in. That is a competition level that I don't think I have ever experienced. So that's how hard everyone's working.
That's why I think there's so many teams that come and go, but that come as well, because everybody's working that hard.
THERE WERE A LOT OF PLACES WHERE A LOT OF LEARNING WENT ON LAST YEAR. YOUR SPEEDWEEKS WENT REALLY WELL FOR YOU. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WINNING POLE, THE WAY YOU RAN IN THE 500.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I've been fortunate, whether it's been in a Nationwide car or whether it's been in a Cup car here. I've been lucky enough to run really well here. I have a pole in the Nationwide car and the Cup car. So I've been lucky with Tony Eury, Jr. in Nationwide and with Gibson now. They both build great speedway cars.
That's so nice because when you get here, you kind of got what you got. You're not going to really move mountains once you get here with the car. It is the speed that it is based on the work that they did before we all arrived.
And also the fact that speedway racing is familiar for me. It's very much like mile-and-a-half racing in IndyCar. So I think between those two things, it's a comfort zone for me.
REGARDING OPINIONS NOT SHAKING HER
DANICA PATRICK: I really don't. I like that people have opinions. That is fine with me. I think that it creates such conversation. As I said the last time that somebody said something that was not so positive for me, it spawned so many positive articles.
So, you know, there's a positive side to it, too. But more than anything, I love the conversation that it creates in sport. Across the board it makes sports interesting. It makes life interesting when people have different perspectives, and that's fine with me.
HAVE YOU EVER TALKED TO THE KING, TO RICHARD PETTY?
DANICA PATRICK: I know I met him. I have this great shot of I think it was before last year's race, maybe it was the Nationwide race, of him standing in front of my car on the pole and giving me two thumbs up. It's a back shot of his butt sticking out. Apparently I didn't notice him there for a while. I must have been getting strapped in.
But, yeah, I mean, that's about it. I probably could dig up that photo for you guys if you want it.
IS IT A GENERATIONAL THING? HE IS IN HIS 70S.
DANICA PATRICK: I can't speak to that. I was born in the '80s.
DO YOU PLAN TO FOLLOW THROUGH AT ALL?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know why I would.
DID YOU TALK TO KYLE AFTER KYLE MADE THE REMARKS LAST SUMMER?
DANICA PATRICK: I didn't talk to him but he eventually wanted to come talk to me.
HOW DID THAT GO?
DANICA PATRICK: I spoke to him eventually, but it wasn't me seeking him out is what I'm saying. I wouldn't seek Richard out either.
HOW DID THAT CONVERSATION GO?
DANICA PATRICK: My conversation with Kyle, it was all right. It was fine. It was lengthy.
You know, I think what I came to the conclusion was that really everybody does have their opinion, and that is totally fine. Even if some of the things that came across weren't completely accurate, there were things that I didn't quite understand from the comments either that I learned.
So, I mean, it really just doesn't matter. It's interesting conversation and I'm fortunate I'm in it.
ON WINNING DAYTONA 500
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, and I would agree, for two reasons: that my team builds great speedway cars and I feel much more comfortable, and this is much more familiar to me than the rest of the racing in a stockcar because you're taking the elements of learning how the car reacts to like how the bump-stops work, how the bar rack works, how different spring packages work.
That's not a concern on the speedways. It's just about navigating, the cars around you, and drafting, your mindset throughout the whole thing, your discipline.
So I feel like it could definitely happen. Shoot, I'm going to go try to win the Unlimited race so I can be in it forever. Isn't that what you get to do if you win it? That's what I've been thinking about the last week. I want to win the Sprint Unlimited race so I can be in it forever.
LAST YEAR THE FIRST RACE WITH THE GEN-6, PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO REACT. DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I think that it will be really similar to last year. I think we saw leading up to the race that there was some unexpected spins and some exciting moments out there in practice. I think that's there's just going to be less of that with the new rules. I think it's going to be great.
I think what's going to be really interesting, though, is the Nationwide race. They've banned bump-drafting, right? That will be interesting. I don't know how that's going to turn out. That will be interesting.
YOU TALKED ABOUT THIS BEING A PROCESS FOR YOU, COMING TO STOCK CARS, GETTING YOUR FEET WET. WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE NOW IN THE PROCESS? DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE GAINED ENOUGH WORKING KNOWLEDGE OF THE CAR, THE WAY IT HANDLES, BUMP-DRAFTING, DRAFTING?
DANICA PATRICK: No more bump-drafting (laughter).
BUT TO GIVE YOURSELF A SENSE OF CONFIDENCE NOW GOING FORWARD IN THE SEASON.
DANICA PATRICK: More than last year. I mean, that's the process that I'm in. I think before I got into Cup, I would have said, Man, I feel like it takes a few years to really get up to speed and have a good grasp as to what you're doing out there.
You know, I'm in the middle of that, or starting the middle of that. There's a lot I have to learn, and I know that. But I feel better than I did last year. I feel like, more than anything, I understand the effort level that it takes from a team and driver perspective.
But I also feel like throughout the year we were able to develop much more rhythm to the weekend than we did at the beginning of the year. The beginning of the year we would sort of throw the kitchen sink at the car and just try and find anything that made it go faster.
I think what we realized at the end of the year, it was a much better approach ultimately to be more methodical. It's crazy how you can take these cars and take a 16th of packer out or take a 16th packer in and completely change the car. It's unbelievable.
So kind of like Daytona, you kind of got what you got when you get there. That's what you test for to develop a good setup that feels good. After that it's really about fine tuning I think. That's what we sort of started doing later in the year last year, which helped our qualifying.
Sometimes we hit it in the race; sometimes we missed it by a little bit. I know at Homestead, I know I'm going long-winded right now, in Homestead we made one change in the middle of the race and it made it like it did in the beginning. We were not great in the beginning, made it better, started making up ground. Got the Lucky Dog. Came from the back. I had to come back down from pit road. I started from the very back. Passed like 15 cars. The yellow came out just as I passed the car for Lucky Dog. All of a sudden we made a change and I wasn't any good again. It was like, Holy crap, what did you do? It was like one little change. We went back on it, it was good again.
Crazy how you can make one little change. Being methodical was something I learned last year.
Q. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING? WOULD IT BE NICE TO COME IN HERE AND TALK ABOUT RACING AND WHAT HAPPENS ON THE RACETRACK FIRST THING?
DANICA PATRICK: No, because we haven't done anything on the racetrack. I feel like what would you ask me if there are no fun things like there are today to ask, right? How do you feel about Daytona, that kind of thing.
ON NEGATIVE COMMENTS
DANICA PATRICK: That kind of thing gets in for sure. Honestly, it doesn't really bother me. It just makes Media Day more interesting.
IF YOU WIN A RACE, GET INTO THE CHASE, I'M SURE THAT'S SOMETHING YOU'RE REALLY LOOKING AT.
DANICA PATRICK: That's something that obviously we all thought about right off the bat, how strong we are on the speedways, how comfortable I feel on the speedways, the fact that a win gets you in the Chase.
I think NASCAR is going to create a platform to make for some interesting strategies, interesting races, something to talk about every week, because one win gets you there.
I can only imagine when there's a dark cloud rolling in, potential rain, what we might see out there, who can get the win before it rains.
Anyway, a lot of people are going to be running out of fuel this year. I feel like we're going to see a lot of that.
DO YOU FEEL IT CHANGED THE TEAM'S PREPARATION AT ALL? SOME TEAMS ARE SPENDING A LOT OF TIME ON TRACKS THEY FEEL THEY ARE BEST AT.
DANICA PATRICK: I think there probably will be more emphasis on that, for sure. I know last year when we went to Richmond for one of our team tests, we went there because Ryan felt that was a track he could win on, and they wanted to make more sure of that, given the Race to the Chase.
There was some of that already going on. But I can imagine there will be even more of that. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
WHAT ARE YOUR VALENTINE'S PLANS?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm the girl. Don't ask me. Ask Ricky when he comes through.
I did say to him yesterday, I said, Hey, babe, I feel like I shouldn't be thinking about this because it should be your job, but would you like me to ask someone to make reservations as a restaurant?
He said, No, I'll get it. I'll figure it out. I'll ask somebody here.
I'm like, Okay, I'll let you just do it.
All I know is that for our Valentine's Day presents we both bought like $20 gifts for each other and paid like $100 in shipping because we did it last minute. We were at my parents' house, my sister had a baby two weeks ago, we were both there visiting.
We were both joking. He was telling me how he had it shipped and it wasn't there. I said, I did the last thing, actually. He said it was more expensive. I said, Your gift was $22 and I paid $100 in shipping. So that's our Valentine's Day. We're fortunate that we can do that, I suppose.
LOOKING BACK ON THAT, DO YOU LAUGH AT THAT?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I wish I was still doing it. This is much better.
No, it was fun. We both look back at last year and we're like, Remember what last year was like. I just remember it being fun. I'm sure it was fun to ask the questions and get the answers.
IT WAS A BIG COUPLE WEEKS FOR YOU LAST YEAR.
DANICA PATRICK: It was a big couple weeks, no doubt, no doubt. I don't know. I'm going to try and top it, but I don't know how I will.