MODERATOR: "So we'll roll in right now with Danica Patrick, driver of the ...
MODERATOR: "So we'll roll in right now with Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. This is her only stand alone race of the year in the Nationwide Series that she'll participate in. A Roscoe, Ill. native, coming off her best Nationwide finish of the year at Charlotte, and tonight, she'll do a little double duty of her own, dropping the first puck at the Blues/Blackhawks game. She'll start that off at the Scottrade Center. So, Danica, welcome to Gateway. Welcome home."
Danica Patrick: "Thanks."
MODERATOR: "Talk about being here for the first time, and how your season's going so far."
Danica Patrick: "Well, everything is getting better and better as time goes on. Definitely Fontana the second time was a welcomed, positive experience, going back for a second time and learning, and having learned a lot from the first time, and not really knowing it necessarily and having a good weekend. I think that even Charlotte was going really well. We just had some issues in the race. We were overheating, and underheating, and the car didn't quite have the grip level it did in practice. So, you know, I've learned in these cars that things can change very quickly, and they're very finicky.
"But, coming here for the first time is good. I think I might have arrived in the IndyCar Series about the time they left coming here, at least within a couple years. I don't know much about the track. I know on the NASCAR schedule, there's a lot of short ovals, and it's going to be important for me to learn them and get good at them. And this is one of those tracks, so I'm excited to learn it and hopefully it goes well. And, it's a good weekend."
Q: "Do you feel like you've made the progress you've wanted to this year, not just in results and where you finished, but getting used to the car and the style of racing?"
Danica Patrick: "I do feel like I've made a lot of progress. I don't think I knew what to expect, so for me to tell you if I've exceeded or underwhelmed my expectations is impossible because I didn't know what to expect. I jumped into it without any expectation levels, which I think was part of the problem. I didn't set, necessarily, goals for myself, because I didn't know what to set. Since the middle of it, I've been clear in saying that top 15s are our goal for the rest of the year. It'd be good to get a couple of those. I think we've had some chances this year, especially at Fontana a couple weeks ago, which would have been really nice to have. It's always nice to have the results for, shoot, media purposes and for, I guess, my own ego at some point. I know that I've learned as I've gone along, and that's important and I feel more comfortable in the car for sure. I feel a little more under control. I feel like it's coming at me a little slower than it did in the very beginning. I feel like I'm getting somewhat of a grasp of what I need from the car to perform well in the race. I have a long way to go, but at least I'm feeling some of those indicators inside the cockpit. Can you call it a cockpit? What is it called? I know in IndyCar it's called a cockpit, but I don't know if these are called cockpits."
Q: "What is your thought of the NASCAR circuit since racing with the Indy circuit? And what are the differences?
Danica Patrick: "Well, it's way longer. Way longer. Starting the first of February and going almost through Thanksgiving. It's a couple of months longer than what I'm used to in Indy Car. Just getting used to the flow of the weekend in the Nationwide Series. We practice, practice, then you show up for raceday and we qualify in the morning, cold, and then we race. And I understand why they put the qualifying like that, or at least I asked to understand. It's about impounding the cars, and making it more affordable for the teams, so I understand. I, of course, would love to have a practice after qualifying or right before qualifying. But, those are just the different flows of the weekend that I have to get used to. But, it's a whole different series, and I understand that there are going to be differences for sure."
Q: "When you come to a track for the first time, like today, what is your mindset in the first practice? Are you kind of walking on eggshells out there, because you don't know the car's limits? Or do you have a program that you and Tony go through as far as that first practice?"
Danica Patrick: "It's important to talk about the track a bit and its tendencies. I actually was going back and forth with my spotter, when I run the companion races. T.J. (Majors), who's Dale Jr's spotter, and he was giving me tips on this place. So that kind of stuff is really important. And Tony Jr. will tell me too. Also, it's been nice that we've been to a couple of these short tracks that Tony Jr. can have an idea of what I need in the setup of the car, so that's it's comfortable for me when I go out there. And then I cross over the start finish line for the first five or ten laps thinking, or at least the first five laps going, 'please don't judge me on these times, please don't judge me on these times.' Because, I'm just trying to get familiar, and I go slow to start and I'm a very methodical learner. I've always been. But once I reach a certain point, I know how to do it again, and again usually. It has its pros and cons for sure. But I understand that I have to be patient. It's nice that we basically get from 1:30-5 o'clock today, which is nice. We have a thirty minute break in the middle.
"Another thing that was unfamiliar to me was watching how slowly everyone gets in their cars for practice, and how they get out of their cars in the middle of practice. In an Indy car, everyone is revving their engines, like, ten seconds before it's time to go. You start the engine a minute or thirty seconds before the green flag drops, but you know exactly what time. And everyone burns out, and pulls out at the same time. It's just more lax, and you'd never get out of your car in a practice in an Indy car, and you can find yourself sitting in the car for hours at a time. So, just a different mode. It's nice to have all that practice time today to get familiar, and hopefully I do.
Q: "Talk about your relationship with Mark Martin, and the help you've gotten from him. How do you think that's helping you as a NASCAR driver?"
Danica Patrick: "Well, Mark drove the car at Charlotte. It's just nice...on test days we get telemetry. So I'm able to see throttle traces, speed traces, all that stuff. It's nice to be able to see how someone else does it. He came and talked to me at Dover as well. Something that has stuck with me, since he said it to me was that the front of the car should do what you ask it to do. I thought that was a fantasy in my mind, that it would do what I wanted it to do. He said that that should be the point that it gets to. I've kept that through Fontana, and Charlotte, and I'll bring that here as well. Hopefully it serves me the way it's done the last couple of weeks, giving me a car that's fast and comfortable."
Q: "Is Gateway close enough that you have a lot of friends or family here? Or would that be more the race in Chicago?"
Danica Patrick: "It's a little far. I find that some don't come to Chicago even. So, it's still Illinois. I remember coming down these directions for go karting when I was a kid. So it was familiar, but it's a bit of a drive, it's like five hours or so. Not so many, but I do get a lot of friends and family watching on TV, from wherever there are in the country. Thank goodness for television."
Q: "How nice would it be to get a win this close to home?"
Danica Patrick: "(Laughter) Well, I say that with surprise because I feel so new to all this, and being at a new track. You know, we're still going to have a lot of guys flying in for raceday. While, I think with enough experience I could win. I think at this point in time, it's important to keep realistic expectations and still stick to the top 15 in my head. I'm lucky enough, like I said, there's television. ESPN and everybody does a good job of putting me on TV when I have a good weekend. No matter where those people are in the country, a win is good, and I'm not going to discriminate any state from getting it."
Q: "I've been told you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan, is that true? And if it is, how did that come about growing up in Northern Illinois?"
Danica Patrick: "See the problem is, I'm also a Cubs fan, and I know that's not okay."
Q: "You know that's not."
Danica Patrick: "I know that's not okay! So I'll explain to you how it's okay in my mind. I'm a fan of people. And I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of people in sports along the way. I know Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, and some of the players I knew from a few years ago have left. They're really nice people, really great people. So I cheer for them. I don't know as many Cubs players, and managers and such. But, it's the home team. I grew up near Chicago. I cheer for a lot of the home teams, like the Bears, but that doesn't mean I won't cheer for the Cowboys at some time, because Tony Romo is a nice guy. Or various other teams. So, anyways, I cheer for home teams and people. I know that's not okay, and I know I'll get in trouble for that.
"What do I do tonight? I'm going to a Blackhawks/Blues game. So I'm in St. Louis for the Blues, really. But, I'm from Chicago and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year, so what am I supposed to do about that? Basically, I have a lot of win-win situations.
"I've been booed before, and I don't really like it...go with the Blues? Okay. You got it. (Laughter)"
Q: "Danica, since you're dropping the puck for the Blues tonight, will you be rooting for them?"
Danica Patrick: "See, look, that's such a set up question. I'll say that I'm a really casual hockey fan. My mom grew up basically in Canada, right on the border of Minnesota and Canada, so she's always liked hockey, so I've always watched it somewhat. I would say the sport I watch the most is the NFL. I'm a casual fan, so I'm cheering for all of them to win. Even though that's not possible.
"Actually, do they ever do tie games in hockey? This is how uneducated I am in hockey. Do they have the Overtime shootouts? Ok. So it's not like soccer."
Q: "Who do you give credit to for getting you into the NASCAR circuit?"
Danica Patrick: "Well I have to give credit to JR Motorsports for the opportunity to drive one of their cars. That worked so well with my existing sponsor, GoDaddy, and the fact they had a relationship with Dale Jr. already. So that made that transition very easy and very nice. The behind the scenes world of racing gets very difficult with sponsorship, the competing categories, and things like that and can be a lot of work. But GoDaddy and JR Motorsports really facilitated that. So other than that, it's just being a racecar driver and watching the races and wanted to see what the racing was all about. It looks really fun on TV, and I'm finding out that it is fun."