Continued from part 1 Q: To kind of build upon the merger talk, when you combine that with some of the things you're doing in the off-season such as the Super Bowl ads, SI swimsuit issue, Castroneves with the dancing, how can the IRL turn all...
Continued from part 1
Q: To kind of build upon the merger talk, when you combine that with some of the things you're doing in the off-season such as the Super Bowl ads, SI swimsuit issue, Castroneves with the dancing, how can the IRL turn all these things and create positive momentum and bring out a larger fan base in 2008?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm probably not exactly the right person to ask. But I have my own ideas so I'll give you those. I think that in this, where we're at right now, we're kind of at a pivotal stage right now where we can really make it big and we can really push ourselves out there.
I kind of have a theory that it takes money to make money. I wish there would be more ads. I want to see more commercials. I want to know when our races are on TV because I'm watching the shows that I watch on TV, and I don't see that. So you watch TV and you see advertisements for every other sporting event, every other big sporting event 10 times during a program. I think that we need that. I think that we need mainstream exposure.
The race fans that are going to watch are going to watch. We need to make sure we reach out to all of those people that are watching "House" or "Desperate Housewives" or something. We need to really push and come up with some clever commercials that display some personality and funny is always funny. Funny is always good.
That's what I'd like to see happen. But I'm not the one with the checkbook, and I'm not the one calling the shots. I'm just a little driver with ideas.
Q: First season last year with Andretti Green Racing. Were you pleased with the year or disappointed with seventh in points?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think that whenever you come to the end of the season you always think this, this, and this could have gone right and I would have been there. I had a chance in the last race to actually finish fifth in the championship. Things needed to play out right, but I was that far into the game. I was close enough in points. So fifth I would have been ecstatic for that.
Given the year and how the previous years had gone, I think that would have been great. But you know, I think that I'm very happy with how the road-course racing progressed through the year. And I think I'm going to be really strong on the ovals and excited. I feel like I've got a lot stored up inside me to let out, so I'm excited.
Q: Just wanted to ask you as far as you know when you do extracurricular things outside the game that you sometimes might get some criticism for, do you think you're criticized anymore than if Dario Franchitti went in the magazine in his Speedo?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, probably. I think there is some sort of thing out there about women showing their bodies. Yeah, I think there's always been that. We're always going to get some of that - at least for another decade or so. Whenever that transition happens, it's going to be a slow one, I'm sure.
But, yeah, there's always just people are always talking about it. And you know what though, fine, because people are paying attention. That's what it means. I think that as long as I stick to my guns with what I feel comfortable with, it's just more exposure and more interests and more people reading about myself and the series and my sponsors.
So, you know, I take it all in stride and I feel comfortable with all of it. That's all I can say. I'm not defensive. I'm not insecure. I have fun with everything I've ever done.
Q: My question is about the chemistry of your team this year.
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, good, because I thought you were going to ask me about chemistry, and I don't know a thing about that. No, just kidding.
Q: I was wondering if you analyze the difference in the way the team's going to be run this year in terms of your position on it? You're not a rookie there anymore, and maybe you're in more of a position to be some sort of a team leader. Also wondered about your new teammate. I think it's Hideki Mutoh, is that right?
DANICA PATRICK: Correct, yeah. I think every driver's dream is to be a leader on a team. I think it's probably pretty clear that Tony Kanaan is that right now. He has the most experience and most accomplishments, and he's a very generous person when it comes to offering up information and help.
I made a habit of going to him all the time and asking for help because I think it's foolish to waste that kind of opportunity and ability to ask a guy like that. You know, probably as long as he's there, he's probably going to be seen as that. That is just the experience.
But I think that if I could be even seen on a near level of him, I think at this point in my career I'd be very happy and very honored. So I'm going to do the best I can to earn that respect, to earn that position. We have a great team to make that happen. We always work together, and we always work together well.
And then as far as the new driver, Hideki (Mutoh), he's -- I haven't talked to him a lot. We've always been busy testing or running around whenever he's been there. And I don't know how great his English is, but all I'm going to say is with how much talking we do as a team and with the drivers and engineers, his English is going to get better real fast or he's going to struggle. Because we talk a lot. It's what helps the team go forward.
So I think it's going to be great. I trust every decision that the team makes, and believe that it's for the best of the team. I guess I'm looking forward to somebody else with information that can possibly make us a better team.
Then to play that honoring role of being some sort of a mentor, role model to a young driver that is new to the series, I think that's always flattering when people look to you for information. So that will be new.
Q: I guess I have a two-part question, you may or may not have answered this. In your mind, do you feel that the acclimation process with Andretti Green is complete? And, if so, how can the things you picked up last season, how do you think those can help you win races and contend for the title this year?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think I'm acclimated. I think that first year plays a big part. I think Indy plays a big part because you spend so much time with them. You spend 30 days together talking for hours. It's impossible to not learn each other and get along.
But I think that all of the things that I've done from last year and to be honest, it's every single year, everything you do helps you get that much further down the road and experience and what you need to succeed.
I think that for me, you know, pushing the limits and putting yourself in predicaments that might be a little bit iffy and being aggressive come from being comfortable in the car. And I think the only thing that makes you comfortable in the car is time. And so I think that with all the time that I've had now, I think that I'm really feeling comfortable with the car and able to push it really far.
It's always nice as a driver when you get to the point where you feel like it's kind of your little toy. You just do what you want with it, and you're in control of it. And I think that I'm, you know, to that point now where I feel good.
I mean, you can never drive around a car that, you know, is trying to go in the wall and scare you. If a car isn't right, it's not right. But I think when a car is close to right or right, you know, a driver, a seasoned driver, can do a lot with that.
Q: Are you concerned at all when open wheel racers go to NASCAR, especially given you are one of those who might have? And number two, as the most popular name in open wheel, do you feel any pressure from the outside to get your first win?
DANICA PATRICK: All right, the first part about drivers leaving. Yeah, well, that's never good, you know. You always want to keep drivers in the series and you definitely always want to keep the leaders in the series. Makes for better racing, more respect for the series, and it's good for everybody, and they become marquis names. So I think that's always a little bit tough.
But I think that the important part would be that everybody on the inside has a look and trying to understand why it is that they're leaving and fix that so they don't. So more don't. So that's, you know, not up to me to do, but that's what I would say would be the best advice to try to keep the drivers to try and understand why they left and make sure that's not one of the situations that still exists.
Q: As the most popular name in open wheel, do you feel pressure from the outside? Obviously you want to win internally, but do you feel pressure from the outside?
DANICA PATRICK: I think for me, I want to win for them. I want to win for me, of course, for my family, for everybody close to me, for the team, for sponsors. But I want to win for those fans who cheer week in and week out. I want to do it for them. I want them to be excited that weekend that it finally happens. You know, that's what I want to do.
I want them to stay my fans. I think the way you keep fans is to be exciting and to, obviously, do well. It's always a good thing. So I feel like I have some really great little fans out there, and I just want to do it for them to give them a great Sunday.
Q: I want to say congratulations, because I think you've been a great spokeswoman for the IndyCar Series. And you came in sixth last year at Infineon, much better than the year before, and you seem much more comfortable on the track. What, if anything, have you learned about Sonoma from last year?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think it's always a nice feeling when you've finally kind of overcome those hurdles that, you know, stand in front of you in your life in certain spots. So I definitely feel much better.
You know, I think the only thing you can do is just to keep pushing. Remember how you got there. Remember what made you go forward and never stop, because nobody else is.
Q: How much pressure do you feel this year to get your first win? Do you feel as much as last year? Maybe a little less? Little more relaxed about it?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I just want to get it done. Is that so bad to say? I feel like there's been times where I've come close. There's been times where I've been maybe more preoccupied being a team player. And I think that I really feel like it's time. It's my time to do it. It's overdue, and it's going to be a big relief when it finally happens.
I mean, I don't know. I think that I always put so much pressure on myself. I don't know if anybody ever sees how mean I look at the racetrack on race weekends. But I always put tons of pressure on myself, and I'm always very serious and very focused. I'd be lying if I said that there was more or less pressure from the first year till now.
Q: Is it the time that you've now spent on the road courses that's made you a better road course driver?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think it's having the time, sure. Because if you think about it in the old days when the series used to have half, you know ten or so, 12 races on the road courses. I mean, when we started the series, we had three, and then it was five. You don't have that many races in the road courses, so it takes a couple of seasons to even equal what used to be a full-time on the road courses. And we don't get that much testing.
So I think that time has played a big part. I think having the teammates that I do that just push you so hard to be good, especially on the road courses. When you have guys like last year with Marco was great on the road courses, and Dario's fantastic, and Tony's amazing. They're all so good that I put a lot of pressure on myself to not be the slumps.
No driver wants to be fourth in anything when it comes to teammates. You want to all be the same. Obviously, if you're not the same time, you want to be a little bit better. So I pushed hard.
Q: Do you feel better about coming to Sonoma this year? Because two years ago you got hit and last year you did so much better.
DANICA PATRICK: I didn't like Sonoma so much in the beginning. I kind of had a bad feeling about it, didn't like it. Didn't care if I ever came back. But maybe it's not so much the same anymore. After last year I feel much better. I think that now I see it as more of a fun track.
I'm no different than any other driver, every other driver's going to say the tracks that they like are the ones that they've done the best on. So doing better, has definitely made me more excited to go back. And I love the wine country, so that's another reason.
Q: I was wondering what you think this season's going to look like as far as balance of power? Do you see another Andretti Green versus Ganassi deal with maybe Penske not as strong with Sam gone?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think that it's funny. Somebody asked me a couple days ago how do you know who is going to be good like in other sports like football and basketball they have an idea. But in racing you really -- you know, there are top teams and within those top teams you just don't know until you get there.
You don't know who has done the best work in the off-season to make a difference, to go faster. Because everybody's working, it's just who has done the most and who has been the most successful.
So I see the top teams as being the same. I see it still being Penske and Ganassi and us. But you know, I wouldn't be surprised if, Penske felt a little bit of a loss from Sam (Hornish Jr.) leaving. I think that he was a major contributor to that team as far as set-ups.
I think while Helio's good and accomplished a lot, and Ryan (Briscoe) is going to be great on road courses, I believe. He's going to be very as fast as he was the first year. Maybe it will be a little bit harder. I think that Sam was a great driver in the IndyCar Series. So I'm sure he'll be missed.
Q: Have there been some changes made to the cars drivability-wise this year, and maybe I'm wrong on this, about the power steering, and maybe the shifter with the steering wheel or in the column there? Is that going to help you on road courses? And then follow it up with is it maddening to you sometimes how close you've come to victory, but how much luck plays into this? And how do you compartmentalize that part of this game?
DANICA PATRICK: As far as the new addition to the cars for the drivers, we have paddle shifting now on the back of the steering wheel. So presumably that's supposed to make it a little bit easier for you physically because you won't have to take your hand completely off the wheel.
But it's still going to be pretty -- it's not going to make a huge difference, because you're really only driving with like your thumb and part of your pointer finger, because you're going to be reaching back with the rest of your fingers, but it will help a little bit.
They've also added a piece to the steering that is a progressive steering rack that when you turn the wheel a lot, it makes it harder. And when you turn the wheel only a little bit, it makes it easier, so it sort of changes with different degrees of steering lock. Too technical to really go into. But anyway, that should make a little bit of a difference.
Then with frustrations of coming close to winning and bad luck, compartmentalizing, they're all the same thing. In racing, you have to get lucky. You have to be good, and then, you know, if you have both of those things then you win races and you finish up front all the time.
So for me, I feel like I have the same good and bad luck as anybody else. When it comes to being good, I think that I'm better than I've ever been, so I think, therefore, I have the best chances I've ever had to win.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today . Appreciate it .
DANICA PATRICK: You're welcome. Thank you.