DRIVER TRANSCRIPTS FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA DAY ON FEBRUARY 25, 2009 *** IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick of Andretti Green Racing (via satellite from Homestead, Fla.) You are coming off a great 2008 campaign. Are your ...
DRIVER TRANSCRIPTS FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA DAY ON FEBRUARY 25, 2009
IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick of Andretti Green Racing (via satellite from Homestead, Fla.)
You are coming off a great 2008 campaign. Are your expectations higher for 2009 as a result with possibly an eye on multiple wins and a run at the championship?
DP: That's definitely the goal. We [Andretti Green Racing] all didn't run up front as much as we wanted to last year, so we're definitely looking to win more races as a team and for me individually. I think that if we can win a few races in the season, then it means you're a strong competitor and you probably have some seconds and thirds in there too and that a championship is on the table. So that is definitely the goal. We're going to try and come out strong for the first couple of races and really get the season going.
Testing started Tuesday at Homestead, how is it going?
DP: We're here for our second day now. It seems weird, like the days are forever long. You get up in the morning and then you have a whole day, and at 4 p.m. you start your next day which is the test until 10 p.m. at night but we're all settling in.
Good to be back in the car after a little break?
DP: Yeah. I think each year you kind of get comfortable a little quicker than the year before. I was flat out and happy and comfortable in the first three, four or five laps, and then we got on with the testing program.
Are you feeling really confident now with a couple of years under you belt at AGR and with your engineer that you guys can get the car back out front? Are you feeling confident now that you can take the lead especially on the AGR team and contend with the Penske and Ganassi cars for the wins rather than being just behind them?
DP: We're always very confident coming into a season. We know we're a top team. Unfortunately, it looked like we were a little off yesterday on our first day of testing, but that doesn't mean anything quite yet. You don't really know what's going on until the first race. I think for me I'm excited about some of the changes that have happened with the No.7 car. We have the same crew, same teammates, but I have a different engineer this year and [team owner] Michael Andretti is calling my races so the other half of the real core of figuring out the car has definitely shifted. So I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a fresh change and I'm excited.
With Michael's success through the years, does that put pressure on you where you know you've got to deliver now that you've got Michael making a lot of these calls with you?
DP: No, I'm actually more excited. You always hope that you can get somebody with tons of experience and knowledge on your car. So I think it's a good thing that he has had the success that he's had and he's achieved what he has because it means that he knows how and to have that on my car is a good situation.
How do you feel you are as a driver as far as all the different race tracks and street courses and ovals and everything that you see? What is your strength out of those?
DP: I think that I was surprised probably in the beginning to find out that the ovals were something that came a little bit easier to me than the road courses. I was even more surprised that the short ovals were even stronger than anything. I didn't expect to like those so much, but I definitely enjoy the short ovals. I think that it really lends to a driver to getting the car set up to something you like, something you can hustle around. Then the bigger ovals, the speedways are probably next after that, and then the road courses. I definitely didn't expect that, but I do think the road courses have really been coming along. It's something that I've put tons of emphasis on over the last couple of years. It was nice in '07 to have a couple front-row starts and some top-five or six finishes. That's good -- there's some incredibly good road-course drivers out there in the IndyCar Series and to run with them and to run with the likes of Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan is a big accomplishment. So now it's time to really buckle down and get out there and beat them instead of just run with them. It's hard, though, these drivers are not making it easy.
Could you speak to the overall health of the IndyCar Series right now and given the economy do you as a high-profile driver feel any extra pressure to kind of pick up the slack this year?
DP: I try and always pick up whatever I can. There's always a lot of demand for me to do things and it's all about making sure it doesn't get in the way of the racing. I've always done everything that I could. We have never been in a situation where we are turning down great things, so we need to continue building and I think last year was a good year from a publicity standpoint and for the union of the two leagues. I think it really created good momentum for us. Now the economy has affected everyone some way or in some form whether its you or who you work with but you can't keep a good product down and the IndyCar Series is competitive, it's exciting, it's technical. It's got all kinds of interesting aspects to it so we're not going anywhere but have we been affected? Yeah, sure. I've been affected. But we'll get through it and we'll move on just like any other successful product.
Has anyone called you in regard to the USA Formula 1 team that's being formed?
DP: No, I haven't heard anything. All I've heard is what all of you have and read what you have so there's been nothing more on that.
In regard to USF1 program, you really cut you teeth in racing overseas, in England, in Europe, on the open-wheel cars and what have you. You phone rings tomorrow and Peter Windsor wants you to come test the car. Do you take that call and do you go test the car?
DP: The first thing I think of is does it even fit? Is it going to get in the way of my IndyCar season? Is it going to get in the way of my prior obligations? Is it going to make me tired? Is it going to be something that's not going to just really work into the schedule and then also is it something that I really want to do? I don't believe that it's very productive to lead people on if it's not something that I'm interested in because you're really opening yourself up then. What if you go and do it and it doesn't go ideally or perfect and you don't set the world on fire? Then all of a sudden all you did was just open yourself up to criticism. So I would think about it and I would check the schedule, and we'll cross that bridge if it ever comes.