An interview with Danica Patrick
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, you know, when we did the little availability at lunch, I hadn't been on track yet. And so it was very productive day from our standpoint. Any time you get a chance to practice on tracks that you're going to race on, you just ‑‑ you always make strides and you always figure things out.
And worst case scenario, if you don't figure things out, how to go faster, you know what doesn't make you go fast.
So it's always productive, and we had a really good day. So I hope that we can, I hope that that carries over to this weekend. And further into the night. We did practice during the day, but I don't think that should be too much of a difference. So it was good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q Danica, do you feel like after you won that you've become kind of more of a target or more fair game for criticism from other drivers?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. I try not to think about that. You know, I just try ‑‑ I've never been different my whole career. I've always been the same person. So I just try and be consistent and follow the weekend as it goes. And so I really try not to pay too much attention to what goes on around me and focus on myself, because ultimately at the end of the day there's nothing I can do about those emotions and there's nothing I can do about negative comments.
Really, the ideal thing is to never hear about them or never know about them. So it's not really my center of focus, that's for sure.
Q I guess a couple of guys after last week kind of intimated that sometimes you're pretty aggressive out there and other times you're pretty reluctant to give up a spot on the track. Can you just react to that? Brian said something about it yesterday.
DANICA PATRICK: All I can say is that with the words you used, being aggressive and giving up spots, those are things that drivers never do. You never ‑‑ you should never give up spots. And you should never ‑‑ or you ideally don't want to be someone that's just passive out there.
So as a driver, I'm always trying to be aggressive. And I think, if anything, last weekend I maybe wasn't aggressive enough on the restarts and whatnot. That's where I lost my spots.
So I don't really know where the comments came from last weekend, and, again, that's one of those things, it's America. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion.
And there's just nothing I can do about it. I don't even know where they're coming from. So, unfortunately, I don't have a lot to say about it.
Q Not to belabor the point, but do you kind of feel like you've become a lightning rod, that good or bad has a way of finding you?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that in the nature of me and of popularity comes attention of all forms. Positive, negative. So you have to be prepared for that. And you have to figure out ways to cope and to deal and to just deal with the situation.
So I know that a lot of times the things that I do, do draw in attention. So when somebody says something, people are listening. So that's really all I can say about that.
Q Would you embrace the role of maybe being the bad guy? Because it's worked for Kyle Busch and Stewart in NASCAR, you could probably make that ‑‑
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think that it's ever a route that you choose to be the bad guy. I think that in an ideal world I would win over everyone's heart and be a sweetheart and be tough on the track and have great finishes, that would be ideal and that people would like me from that standpoint.
But, unfortunately, when you're popular, you get, again, positive and negative attention. There's just no ‑‑ I have no control over that.
Q Do you see Saturday night's race being much different than your previous trips here with the 50 additional laps and extra caution?
DANICA PATRICK: I do. One of the changes I've said a few times ‑‑ I think the other day I was trying to think when the last time we had green flag pit stops. And I mean it just doesn't happen anymore. So it very much has to do with track position, then. So qualifying up front and staying there is the situation that you want for yourself.
So there's been a lot less of strategy playing, although, last weekend there was a little bit of fuel strategy. But it really came about because of so many yellows, really.
So it's been interesting. It's been a little bit different. So that's probably going to be the case, just track position. And then having a car that's really good in difficult situations with lots of cars and you need to be ready to pass, because there's a lot of passing anyway on the race weekends here with only 18 cars. And with another eight or so of us, there's going to be even more. And so you're going to need to make sure that that car is good for the race. That's going to be very, very much the focus.
Q Do you see qualifying, now that's a four‑lap event here, do you anticipate setting up the car more similar to race mode for qualifying?
DANICA PATRICK: That's one of the things that has happened, I believe, is that there's a lot less emphasis and it's not because it's not important, but it's because it doesn't make that much of a difference to have a car that's set up to do two laps. You need to be able to do the whole thing.
And I mean I've had some of them where I've been very consistent and it's put me up front. Then I've had some qualifying runs that have been inconsistent, and that really puts you back.
So you need a car to last the whole time. And that's always what you're shooting for in the race. So you might do a few tweaks here and there for qualifying. But it's definitely not to the effect that it used to be.
So, yeah, I think it's a good format. I think it's exciting as well. I'm more interested in qualifying myself just watching, because you're not really sure how it's all going to pan out. You just never know what's going to happen.
So I like the format.
Q The extra 50 laps does that add a little bit more strategy, because in the past we saw guys like Scott Dixon and Dario (Franchitti) last year, just kind of run away with it.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I've been asking, I was asking Dan (Grabski), who does all the fuel calculations and plays a big role in that part of the strategy, and I asked him how this is going to affect it. And that's usually a question I'll ask before the race starts: Is this a no‑brainer, you must stop three times, or this like a save fuel stop two times kind of a race. That's what I was asking him last week. And he said I don't know I'll have to look into that.
So I don't have my answer yet. I'm not sure I'm the only one thinking like that. I an only imagine, the longer the race goes the more strategy plays into it. The Indy 500 is the perfect example.
So this is the situation. So I'm sure, yeah, it's going to lend to strategy, for sure.
Q Do you find it uncomfortable or stressful to be the face of IRL and do you think it creates any jealousy?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know how it makes them feel. I know that one thing is true and that's that attention that comes to anyone in the series, whether it's me, or whether it's Scott or Dan or Helio (Castroneves), I know that attention affects all of us.
So I hope that with that in mind that people can overlook sometimes that the attention and just looks at it as a positive thing for everybody. But I can't speak for them. I don't know how they feel. So that's really a question for them. But as far as being the face I guess of IndyCar, I've enjoyed the role. I've enjoyed doing these kinds of interviews and it keeps it all very exciting. It kind of makes it feel like the Indy 500 every weekend.
So I enjoy it. And I think that I find it not ‑‑ I think I find it relatively easy because I'm just so much myself. I'm never ‑‑ I'm not thinking up answers before I come in here. In fact, if people ask me questions before an interview for what they're going to ask, I don't want to know I just want to know when they ask me because I think that's the best answer is the raw and the ones that come to mind first.
So I really have enjoyed it.
Q You've probably risen higher than anybody else, any other female in auto racing. But you have emotions just like anybody else. When you get mad at somebody after a race and go shove them, do you realize like what a bad spot you put them in? That's like a lose‑lose situation?
DANICA PATRICK: That's not a light question. (Laughter) Nice try. You know, I would say that we're all equal out there. I get mad just like every other driver, or sometimes not. The personalities are different across the board. Some people get very emotional and you see that guys and girls, all over the place in different series. Then you find others that are very even keeled and it doesn't get to them as much.
So I happen to be an emotional person and a girl. So, I guess, it is a little bit different. It's not normal to see. But it is who I am. And I would say that it's all even. That's all I'm going to say is that we're all drivers out there. And that's all I can say. We're all the same.
Q I'm going to ask you about Richmond since the unification. A lot of the talk has been what tracks should remain on the schedule next year and what tracks should be taken off the schedule. And everybody talks about Richmond, the drivers, the fans. Everyone wants to come to Richmond and see Richmond. What makes us so unique and special to you as a driver?
DANICA PATRICK: First off, short oval racing is great racing, I think. There's a lot of excitement. The fans can see it all. A good car is so much fun on the race. You get in a bad car, it's just really hard. So it's kind of highs and Lowe's.
So I really ‑‑ and it's difficult and it's challenging. I enjoy it from that perspective. But also because I really feel like this is one of the most exciting races as far as from a fan perspective. There's so many of them.
You guys do a great job of marketing and getting the fans here and I really truly feel that they enjoy racing, whatever kind it may be. So I mean with both of those things, then that's why I like coming to Richmond.
Q You also think it should stay on the schedule?
DANICA PATRICK: Absolutely. I don't think we should take any short ovals. In fact, I wish there were more short ovals on the schedule.
Q Do you feel like you guys have become more of kind of a racing fabric, I think initially when the IRL came here it was kind of like a curiosity for race fans that were used to NASCAR. Like do people ask you, fans ask you better questions, seem to know more about what's going on now than they used to?
DANICA PATRICK: Interesting question. I think almost every year I've gone up top to one of the areas that you guys have fans in a gated off area. I don't know what it's called. But I've gone up there and done like 15 minutes of Q&A with the fans. And I have noticed over time that they do have more awareness for the situation and that's what we're looking for.
But it also comes from you guys writing about us and informing the fans and informing the people that could come out for the race weekend. So it's a two‑part job. And, yeah, they are becoming more informed all the time.
Q Brian Barnhart talked yesterday about the importance of maintaining driver respect on the track and during races and things. Is there a balance there between maintaining your position and earning driver respect, or is that, during the regular season, concentrating on staying out front and keeping those positions?
DANICA PATRICK: It's every driver's responsibility to hang onto as many positions as they can, of course, while not crashing as one of them. And while not being penalized, because there's always officials up above that are watching the drivers. And if they're doing something wrong, then we've seen over the years people get drive‑through penalties for doing something wrong.
So, of course, then there are little things that only drivers really know and that you can do to each other. So you want to keep their respect that way, too. So there's a lot of things going on.
And I feel that it's one thing that I've really worked hard on ever since I entered the series was earning that respect and walking that fine line between being too passive and getting pushed around and then being too aggressive and being looked at in a negative sense. So I've always tried to do a good job of that my whole career.
Q Have you noticed a significant difference in popularity this year at IndyCar?
DANICA PATRICK: A little bit. I think a little bit. You know, one of the disappointing things that we haven't really seen increase like I would like to see it is the ratings. Unfortunately, I don't think they've really been that much different. And that's disappointing.
But I think as far as the excitement at the track, within the drivers and the series and the league and the teams and everybody, I think the excitement is definitely there. You can feel the momentum when you're at the track.
It just is we need to find a way to get the people to turn their channel on their TV to IndyCar Series racing. It's going to take some time, obviously. It's not an overnight thing. And the demise of, what was it, Indy car 12 or so years ago, 13 years ago, didn't happen overnight. And neither is the regeneration of everything. So it's going to take time.
Q Forgive me for asking this, what did you find more insulting, to be called a menace by Scott Dixon or the new Scott Sharp by Ed Carpenter?
DANICA PATRICK: They're both bad. Neither of them is good. Anybody will agree with that. So, again, I don't know where the comments came from. I really don't. I mean, sure, I don't know where they came from, that's really all I can say.
Q The fact that a guy like Scott who basically never really says much controversial.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's surprising. It's surprising. So, again, it's especially surprising that he was only behind me on the last restart. And he flew by me. So that's the only time he was near me. I don't understand.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica.
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article