IRL: Indy 500: Meira, Herta, Patrick post-race transcript, part 1

89th INDIANAPOLIS 500 POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT Sunday, May 29, 2005 Vitor Meira - 2nd Bryan Herta - 3rd Danica Patrick - top rookie PAT SULLIVAN: Well, we are delighted to have with us the driver, if you follow this series on a...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Vitor Meira - 2nd
Bryan Herta - 3rd
Danica Patrick - top rookie

PAT SULLIVAN: Well, we are delighted to have with us the driver, if you follow this series on a regular basis, you know that this is one of the most under-recognized and underappreciated of our top drivers, without question. He's demonstrated that today with a strong run. Part of it you drove, we understand, with one hand. Vitor Meira, congratulations on a great finish.

VITOR MEIRA: It wasn't quite one hand, one and a half. One thing I really have to mention before everything else is how good the Menards Johns Manville cars did today. I came in the pits, I think we did, if I'm not mistaken, eight stops or something. Every single one of them I gained in between one or three positions. That made my job really, really easy. The car wasn't the best in traffic. We could have done a bit better on this subject. But again, it's -- I'm proud to be on this team, and today was a good day. It was a good day for Rahal Letterman Racing and Honda.

SULLIVAN: Come on up, Danica. Well, I suspect Danica is going to draw some attention today. Congratulations, Danica, on a great run. They're still conferring about what happened.

MEIRA: I'm sorry?

SULLIVAN: That's OK. You're conferring.

Danica, great day today, obviously. In position there at the very end to win, as was Vitor. So it's a good day for your team.

DANICA PATRICK: First off, forget it, Vitor, I'm so proud of you, you kicked butt.

MEIRA: Thank you, girl. That's not bad for the fourth race. We had a tough time there.

PATRICK: We did that for a good team, too, right?

MEIRA: Really, really good.

PATRICK: From my side of it, gosh, did I make some mistakes. I stalled it, went back to 16th. People were checking up a little bit on the start toward the end with about 50 or so to go, it seemed like they were going slow and checking up anyway, because I spun. And I can't believe that my car didn't completely demolish because I got hit like twice. Spun it around, I can't believe I kept the engine running. Somebody is sitting by my side.

MEIRA: Did you spin it?

PATRICK: I spun it and got hit.

MEIRA: Whoa. (Laughter)

PATRICK: And so, therefore, we pitted an extra time before the last so we really needed to stretch fuel to make it work. But the guys made it work. And the yellows came out.

SULLIVAN: We've got some questions, and Bruce is raring to go.

Q: Danica, the fact that you pitted that extra time also got you in a position where you didn't have to pit with everybody else, which got you the position. Talk about how in a race like this sometimes comes back to you.

PATRICK: Yeah. I think that's as a result of being patient and not going crazy when things go wrong, because I kind of screamed in my helmet a couple times, but nobody could hear that, and you have to calm down and you have to be smart and not make stupid mistakes. I think as a result of that, you're in the game. And we had very good cars. So, you know, it's important to stay calm and as long as you do, things should pan out.

Q: Vitor, during the last part of the race, you and Danica were close together. Was there some team strategy, any drafting strategy considered there at all?

MEIRA: No. I mean we had a meeting before the race, and Bob made it really clear that whatever happens, everybody has to finish and without taking each other out. And we really follow big time this rule. I mean, Danica had a little bit, I think she was a little bit more low fuel than I was, what was full fuel to the end. I mean, that's what I had. I think Danica was saving a little bit. But we never actually spoke about each other. We never did any plan, at least according to that. But I mean the plan was made before the race. The thing is the team, more than everything, we respect each other a lot. Kenny, Buddy, Danica and me, we are a team. We don't fight with each other.

Q: Danica, I'm just curious a little bit about maybe you can shed some light on your personality and kind of how you take things. But are you more likely here to be thinking about the stall or are you going to enjoy and relish the fact that you did so well? Do you kind of dissect the mistakes first?

PATRICK: Well, there's two sides of that because we didn't have to pit at the end because we spun and we were at the back anyway. So -- I'm going to be mad at myself for the stall. The stall, I was in great position, I was running fourth, it was a very good car. I thought that that was a good place. But I think the spin had to happen for a reason, so I'm not mad at that.

Q: Danica, could you talk about your fuel situation at the end when the three guys got by you, were you so lean you had no power for them or was it the draft or what percentage of each?

PATRICK: Well, we tried, we have eight slots, and I was all the way up to seven out in the lead trying to save fuel. Bryan caught up, and I didn't save quite so much fuel for a little bit and got a bit of a gap again. But once you get a bunch of cars that pack up behind you and the draft starts kicking in, they're right behind you. But yeah, I had to save fuel. So, you know, they were even telling me in the last lap of the yellow to make sure you get around. So I was cutting it close.

Q: That was the major reason, that you were out of fuel pretty much?

PATRICK: They're the same thing, right? I was saving fuel, so yeah.

Q: Danica, despite everything, to come that close and then not really be able to fight at the end, how frustrating was that? No. 2, a lot of people think you made a hell of a point today for the females. What's your take on all of that?

PATRICK: I made a hell of a point for anybody, are you kidding me? I came from the back twice. That sucks back there. It's hard. I was so more content running up front, it was much easier. I think that might have showed the most today is that I was able to pass and I was able to learn how to set someone up better. Yeah, I definitely got a lot of experience in different situations. So it was frustrating to be leading the race with so few laps to go and not be able to finish hard and just hang out up front and win the thing. But I also knew that I was not in the same strategy and something had to give. I went straight -- I stalled and spun in the race, so with all that stuff happening, for me to have to sacrifice a couple of positions to save fuel, so be it.

Q: Danica, do you have any sense yet of the historical importance of what you accomplished? What does this mean for open-wheel racing and the IRL in general?

PATRICK: I don't know. I'm just racing. I don't know. It sounds so goober stupid, but I just don't think about it. I just don't think about it. I don't know if it's -- I don't know. I don't know why. I didn't even think that all the media stuff going on was that -- I wasn't getting overwhelmed, I was getting overwhelmed with the lack of time I had for myself, but all the coverage? I was your story.

Q: Danica, with all that you had to contend with today, when you found yourself in the front after catching that last yellow, can you just describe your emotions, and then again when you had to give up the lead to Wheldon only to jump him to get back? Can you describe those feelings?

PATRICK: My engineer, Ray, told me we needed to have the restart of the century. I think we had it. It was pretty good. Because I gapped to third and then I passed him, too. So it was a good restart. But yeah, saving fuel had to override everything else. I also was getting a little bit loose at the end. The car was starting to move around a little bit. I don't know if that's because that's the lowest, one of the lowest fuels I had ran with running flat out. A lot of times it was under yellow just before we needed to pit, so the car was settled. So I don't know why -- the track changed over the duration of the race a little bit, too. So that could be, too.

Q: Just describe the emotion of finding yourself at the front that you had to contend with today.

PATRICK: I just wanted to sit in the yellow flag for the last 18 laps and just ride it out. (Laughter)

But that's not racing, that's not good for racing, that's not good for show. That's not always the most satisfying way to win, but I didn't win. So it would have been better.

I'm relieved, I'm relieved at the way that our day went. Seeing myself 16th, you know, finally working my way up to eighth or something like that before the restart that I spun, we were all packed up and I thought I'm going to get a great start here and everybody just kept stopping and starting. It was so slow. I don't remember, I don't know if I hit Sharp or someone hit me or if I just spun, but I think it's pretty great where we ended up actually.

Q: How much did this crash affect your driveability of the car? Did it behave somewhat different after the crash?

PATRICK: We changed some front wing, so that might have been the only thing, which was a blessing. I thought the thing was done. I thought I was done. The car was fine.

Q: Vitor, what happened to your hand? (Laughter)

PATRICK: Vitor, tell me about your race. I want to know. Come on, the guy just finished second, everybody.

Q: Did it affect your race at all?

MEIRA: What?

Q: Your hand.

MEIRA: Oh, it didn't really. Just had a piece of -- because when you turn your hand, at least on the Panoz, it goes kind of out of the cockpit. That was right after yellow, so something hit it coming out of Wheldon's car, of course it was a piece of debris of the previous crash, but it was nothing. Just when you're hot, when you're there, to just -- I just felt a little tick and then we go again. Then I took off my glove and it was all bloody and everything. But it didn't affect anything. What made the difference today was, again, and I repeat again, the 17-car crew. Those guys were the guys today, the guys to beat.

Q: Danica, when you were in the lead there toward the end of the race on the restart, were you aware over 300,000 people were not only standing, they were screaming? I've got a follow-up to that.

PATRICK: Was I aware? I did notice a few people standing actually. I saw some arms waving. But I was very focused on my race. I didn't know if -- I could see people standing and waving a little bit just in my peripheral vision because us drivers have that fine-tuned peripheral vision, but I didn't hear them, no.

Q: Also, on Thursday you talked about the quality of racing in the IRL that you said that you wanted NASCAR to basically go. Do you think you did that today?

PATRICK: I don't know, I didn't see all the race. Was it a good race?


Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bryan Herta , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira