Q and A with Danica Patrick
DANICA PATRICK: Well, thank you, everybody, for being here. There's a roomful.
I knew that the last stint was going to be important, definitely a good call from the pits from Kyle Moyer, who calls my races, to pit at the end of the yellow flag. It was going to be close on fuel, but we were obviously giving ourselves the best opportunity possible.
And as soon as we went green after that yellow flag, it was all about saving fuel. Helio Castroneves and Ed Carpenter were on the same strategy as I was on, and halfway through the stint, I knew that it was Helio was first and I was second, if everything played out the way it was looking.
So then when it came down to five to go or so, I'm thinking, actually it was probably a little bit more than that, it was probably ten to go, and I'm like, where is Helio? Where is he? I'm supposedly P2 to him, so five laps later as he backed up saving fuel, I kind of was like, hey, kick it up a notch and get by him because if this is what it comes down to you'd better not think to yourself, I wish I would have tried harder.
It probably would have happened whether I pushed or not because it seemed like he was running out of fuel quite a bit at the end. It was nice to drive by him.
I didn't know even know at that point it was definitely mine. I wasn't until I probably looked up at the leaderboard myself in the middle of the track and saw 7 at the top that I really kind of knew, and Kyle came on the radio and said, "You can use as much fuel as you went, bring it around, the checkered flag is yours." That was a big relief.
A long time I've waited for this. I wish it would have happened a long time ago, but I'm not going to argue with the program (laughing). It happened the way it was supposed to happen, and I believe everything happens for a reason.
Q. Danica, can you talk a little bit about how a lot of people consider this a very historic thing because you're the first woman to win an IndyCar race in a long history of the sport. Do you feel historic?
DANICA PATRICK: I do feel kind of old today (laughter), now that you say that. Yeah.
Yes, you know, it's going to be one of those things that's remembered. It's a first, and firsts are always in history books. You know, I've definitely thought about that before, and I've always hoped and wanted to be that person. It's probably one of the only things I ever really thought of myself as a girl, and otherwise I don't really think about it a lot. But I did think it would be nice to be the first female to win in history.
Since history goes for a pretty long time, it's a pretty long time.
Q. You've had support from various and sundry teammates over the course of these four years. How much of that have you had to help you and get you where you are today?
DANICA PATRICK: Good question. You know, there's been a lot of help over the years. I would say of late, definitely the most, though. With last year with Dario and Marco and Tony, you know, I think that these are guys Bryan Herta, these are guys that have always been very kind.
Actually what comes to mind is what Bryan Herta told me at mid Ohio last year. I was on the front row for the first time on a road course, which was great, and he said, "You know, when you win your first race, you're going to go, 'I wasn't doing anything different that day, it just happened.'" I wasn't doing anything that different yesterday, it just happened. He was right.
I think the biggest thing that I've gained from my teammates besides the obvious fact of great competition and always pushing me to a new level, I've been very lucky to have great teammates in the last couple years, was the positive attitude. My teammates always said things like when you win your first race, when you win, this is what we're going to do, and they always put that in my head. While I always believed it, it was nice to hear from guys like Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. It's a big honor, and I think that put that positive frame of mind and that presence there every time. A lot of positive attitude and compliments.
Q. One of your team co owners Michael Andretti in an interview said after he retired, he didn't enjoy the wins so much because there were times he didn't win and it was tough to take the losses. If you asked Michael when he was very young, the not winning was very tough. Do you think after your win now, you'll be a little lighter on yourself now when you get in the race car?
DANICA PATRICK: I've already been thinking about Kansas (laughter) because somebody asked me, "Do you just wish you could get to Kansas?" I'm like, "No, I need to keep my win mine for now." But I think that there are individual wins on weekends, and the public is obviously recognizing the clear victory, the real ones.
But I think while it was obviously a great race and I won yesterday, I'm not going to say that was my best and favorite race of all time that I've done. There have been plenty of others that have been very challenging and rewarding when you come through with doing a good job. Some of them weren't for wins, though, you know?
You work hard, I feel like, to do the best you can at every race, and for those times that are frustrating that you don't win, the wins that might not be your best race even as a driver, it's paying you back for all the times that it should have happened.
Q. With Graham Rahal winning a couple weeks ago in St. Pete, you last night and Will Power here today and all this, on top of the merger and everything, the health of the sport looks better than it has in a long, long time, and you playing a big role in that. Can you just talk a little bit about that and the future of the sport and your role in that?
DANICA PATRICK: Thanks, and congratulations to Will Power, and what a great way to end the final Champ Car race here at Long Beach. We're going to be back, but it's just not going to be called Champ Car. Congratulations to everybody, and everybody for making the merger happen. There's been so many times that I've heard that it was close, and close doesn't get you there. I'm glad that everyone put it together and looked at the big picture, so that's great.
But the momentum of the series is clear. I think that the IndyCar Series has been growing over the last couple of years, and there's been a lot of great things obviously that have happened over the past winter, and the fact that normal ordinary people know something about a merger of series as I said this earlier, I don't even like to bring it up because it's just confusing. Fans don't understand. The fact that they know about that, I think that that speaks volumes about how the growth of the series has been and the direction that we're going with everything.
It's a bright future for IndyCar, and this is just the start. Everything will snowball from here.
Q. Because the victory came so early in the season, you're in third place in the points. Do you have your eyes squarely set on going for the championship, if you didn't already?
DANICA PATRICK: That was definitely something that this past winter I thought a lot about, and I've always believed that it's victories that I needed to really be in a championship contention. I'm a consistent driver by nature, so consistency is one of those things that wins you championships, but you don't win championships without winning some races. So hopefully we can do that this year and win some more and have a shot at it.
I think that it's going to be challenging. There's going to be a lot of probably exciting races and ups and downs, just because of the fact that there are going to be 25 cars on the track in lap traffic and different strategies and just all kinds of stuff going on, so I think that it's going to be exciting. I think last year Scott and Dario had 11 top two finishes each, and the one win was the difference.
I think that it's going to be a little bit more shaken up than that this year. I think it's going to be exciting, and I definitely have my eyes set on it, and I would be a fool not to think about it.
Q. After your great start in IndyCar with the Indy 500, there was a lot of, I guess, I'll say pressure on you to win. Was it kind of expected? Do you feel a large weight on your shoulders now that you've finally won?
DANICA PATRICK: I wasn't so disappointed that people talked about it, though. I'm really glad that there are no more "when are you going to win your first race" questions because I lacked that crystal ball that was going to tell me. That was frustrating from that standpoint.
What was the question again? I'm so far off in left field in my answers sometimes. Look at that, I stopped thinking about it (laughter).
Q. We saw some very striking video when you rode around in the car last night after you got the checkered flag. What is it like to have one of your dreams come true?
DANICA PATRICK: The one where I kept talking to the cameraman and they said don't talk to the cameraman anymore? I said, "Who else am I going to talk to? This guy speaks Japanese" (laughter).
What a relief, you know? I can say that winning has always been a dream. I would imagine we all have those dreams of being the best at something and being victorious, whether it's literally a checkered flag or something different, something that you've done on your own.
Dreams really do come true, though. You just have to be persistent enough. I think that that's the difference a lot between the people that follow through, the people that are winners and people that do that, is that when times get hard, they try a little harder, you don't give up. Times get harder again, because they're going to, so you try harder again and you go after it. I think that that is a lot of times the difference between people.
I am definitely a persistent one and always work very hard and will continue to work very hard.
Q. How long was the flight back from Japan, and how much sleep have you gotten here in the last couple hours?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know either of those answers (laughter). I'm not going to lie, I really don't. The stewardess said, "Well, I hope you get some rest because you didn't sleep very much last night."
Q. Coming back to Long Beach, you won the Pro Celebrity here a couple years ago. You get a chance to come back next year. Can you tell me your thoughts about coming back to Long Beach next year?
DANICA PATRICK: It's a fantastic event. I think it's great to be in the LA market. It's great in Long Beach. It's such a marquee race. It's going to be more exciting, more cars, just more, more, more. I'm really happy to be coming back to Long Beach. It's just a great event. It's one of those top couple of races that you want to do in the year, and I always think the most fun ones are the ones that have the most going on and the most excitement and the most media attention and people, so this is one of them.
Q. You said your teammates, specifically Kanaan, said when you win, we're going to go do this. Has that happened yet?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, last year it was shaving my head (laughter). So obviously that was not going to happen, so I thought I'd put it off until '08. I just wasn't ready for a bald head last year. Yeah, right, like that's what stopped me from winning (laughter).
Tony is probably flying back from Japan, as well as Marco. We're going to go meet up at the Honda plant actually tomorrow and do our Honda day that was scheduled. That's going to be our first thing.
You know, we don't live next to each other, so I think that like any good champion, you move on and you try to win the next one and you work really hard together. We're going to continue, like I said, to work really hard come Kansas, and when we first strap in for the first practice session, this win is over with. While it will live on on the track, it's over with, then you have a new one to go after.
Tony did buy me a really large, large bottle of sake, and so I celebrated for him with him. He was the bottle.
Q. Well, this isn't really the question, but that was on the plane that you were celebrating?
DANICA PATRICK: It was in the helicopter to the airport and the car to the airport and then the plane ride here. That was my only opportunity. This week is scratched.
Q. When you went into races over all these last three and a half years or whatever and everybody has been wanting you to win, you've been wanting to win, everybody keeps asking, was the anticipation of winning any different when you finally did? Going into this race in Japan, did you go into each race thinking maybe this will be the day, or didn't that even come into your thinking?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, I thought a lot about it and there have been a lot of races that I really felt like I had better opportunities than others. One of them is Motegi. I've always done well there and been fast. That's kind of where everything started in 2005.
I think that I always feel like I have that opportunity, again, some more than others. But I would say that I seem to have better results, one, when I'm nervous, and it's horrible, because it feels horrible in my stomach. And then the other is when I'm a little unsure, I don't really know what to expect on the day.
And it definitely felt like that yesterday. With all the rain delays and everything and kind of guessing with the car, and I'm not saying that in a negative way. We were all guessing. We didn't know what the track was going to be like after two days of rain and a flood coming down Turn 4. Those were some of the things that went through my mind, though, yesterday, and definitely thinking in the middle of the race running in sixth or whatever that anything can happen, and I need to really focus on the win and what do I need to do to make that happen, and not to settle.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. Congratulations.
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