Q - Do you ever want to get back to Indy and run the 500?
A - “In my heart? Absolutely. I would love to do it. The problem with it is that Indy cars have become so competitive now. There are so many things that have changed since I ran Indy cars so many years ago, I’m not sure I would be up to speed and be able to get competitive enough, quickly enough. I have all the confidence in the world the cars I would drive would be competitive. But to really do it and do it right, and to feel like you have a legitimate shot to win the Indy 500, you would have to start at the beginning of the year with the team you’re going to race with during the month of May.”
Q - The first year you did the double – 1999 – you said you felt like you were hallucinating during the last 100 miles of the Coca-Cola 600. Is that true?
A - “Obviously, I’m not Mr. Olympia and I’m not the healthiest guy in the world compared to a lot of the other drivers on the circuit, and the first year we were so worried about dehydration that I drank and I drank and I drank and I drank. I just never ate enough solid, nutritious food the night before. And the day of the race, I wasn’t hungry because I was drinking so much to try to ensure that I was being hydrated. I got my body so out of whack that, by the time the 600 was done in Charlotte, I’d had enough. I was hungry 50 laps into the race. It’s a 400-lap race in the 600, so 50 laps into it, it was still daylight. It was early in the race and there wasn’t a drive-thru in sight. It made for a long day. We actually tried to get one of Bobby Labonte’s PowerBars – try to get something in me to tide me over until the race was over. It didn’t work. I got two bites of it and two bites did not make it the next 350 laps around Charlotte. It was a good learning experience. I think we finished ninth and fourth that year in the two races. It was a good learning year. We got our feet wet and raised a lot of money for charity that first year. Then we did it two years later with Ganassi at Indy and Gibbs in Charlotte. We had a nutritionist who was with us the entire month of May, so I was in a lot better shape. The first year, my girlfriend drove me home and I was sick the whole ride. The second time around, I drove her home and she slept. So, I was in a lot better shape the second time.”
Q - Danica Patrick ties to Indy car and the Indianapolis 500 are much like yours, especially now that she’s running stock cars fulltime. If she wanted to do the double, what would you tell her, considering it’s your team that employs her?
A - “It would be hard for me to tell her no considering I did it twice. It wouldn’t be a very smart thing for me to tell her no. If she wants to do it, I want her to do it. I never told Ryan Newman he can’t drive anything, and I won’t tell Danica she can’t drive anything. You only get to live life once. When you have goals you want to accomplish, you don’t want to sit there and tell people no. You want them to be able to do what they want to do. I would support her 100 percent.
Q - You’re still the only driver who has a top-10 in the Indy 500 and a top-10 in the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
A - “We’re still the only guy who’s completed all 1,100 miles of the double duty, which is something I’m really proud of. I think the best two finishes we had was sixth in the 500 and third in the 600. It makes for a very, very long day. When you’re done with the 600, after running Indy and the flight and helicopter rides and police escorts and all that during the day, you’re very, very content to lay your head on a pillow. And even when you do that, it still feels like it’s not stopped moving, yet.”