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Danica Patrick Wind Tunnel quotes
Below are select quotes from IRL driver Danica Patrick from the Feb. 25 edition of Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on SPEED:

Despain: Was the performance difference (between Andretti Green Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing) the key reason for you changing teams or was there more to it than that?

Patrick: (AGR) is a first-class operation all the way around, but the most important thing is that they are successful on the track … everyone was dominated last year by Penske and Ganassi, but there were only two people to beat them all year, and that was Tony (Kanaan) at Milwaukee and Marco (Andretti) at Sonoma, so it’s not the worst thing in the world. But (AGR) was fired up not to let that happen again. So, they are driven … that’s for sure.

Despain: Leaving Rahal had to be tough. Bobby backed you when you were an unknown Formula racer trying to make it in Europe, brought you to what was then the Toyota Atlantics and then to the IRL … we assume there was a bond there. The flipside to that is, again the team’s performance … all the rumors about Bobby’s level of commitment to the IRL … his son Graham in Champ Car. With all that background, when and why did you decide to leave Rahal Letterman?

Patrick: It was a little bit of a long process. No matter what, the decision was difficult because sometimes the beast you know is better than the one you don’t know. And I was definitely comfortable with my situation … I liked my engineer … I thought it worked well. But I needed to see a little more commitment as far as development goes. As far as doing whatever it took to go faster. I didn’t really see all that … it was a little bit tough, but that was the main reason.

Despain: Was it your decision? Was it Bobby’s decision? Did he offer you something that gave you a reason to stay or not?

Patrick: Maybe one of the parts of it was that he didn’t ask me earlier. The question came pretty late in the game and he probably could have made a move much earlier that would have secured a longer future for me with them and I might have done it. It definitely ran its course in the contracts and down to the very end is when the question came, so there were opportunities.

Despain: The (IRL) has some new testing rules that mean you don’t get a whole lot of time with your new team before you have to go racing. How big a problem is this?

Patrick: That was just shown to me this last week. At the end of the season last year, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I’ll jump into the car a little bit at the end of the season – which happened to be one day basically by myself out there with one of the other engineers on the team, not my engineer for the year.’ I thought it was going to be OK. I thought I’d roll into the first race going, ‘I know where I’m at from the last race of the year, so there should be time.’ But with only a two-day test in Daytona and a two-day test on the oval at Homestead, (sighs) it’s just not much time at all … it really isn’t. Everything from getting comfortable in the cockpit to getting comfortable with my team around me, the guys on my crew who are changing the tires … having enough time to make practice pit stops. The real core of it is the communication between me and my engineer and it’s on a fast course to get developed as quickly as possible. In a perfect world, I’d like to triple the amount of time I’ve had before the first race, just to get comfortable. But I think that just means its going to get better through the season.

Despain: People ask me ‘Does Danica have to win, for Danica-mania to continue? Is that a fair question? How do you feel about that?

Patrick: Well, I think it’s up to you and the people out there to decide ‘What is Danica-mania?’ Is it just me being in the sport? Is it me beating everyone? It’s probably different for everyone. Danica-mania doesn’t really come into my head, but I imagine winning will take it to a different level. So, will it be called something different?

Viewer call: I was just wondering what happened to Danica’s ride for the 12 Hours of Sebring and if she has any plans for Le Mans?

Patrick: Actually, what it came down to was a safety thing. I have to make sure I am in shape to go into Homestead, the first race of the year, for the series I am driving in. And just with the size of me and everything, it didn’t fit properly, so maybe somewhere down the road. And Le Mans … I haven’t worked on that one yet.

Despain: So you did test, but you will not drive Sebring and you don’t have any ALMS plans at this point?

Patrick: Right.

Viewer call: If you had gone over to (the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series), do you think you would have had the opportunity to have a great race car and be the first woman to win (at that level)?

Patrick: If I would have gone, that WOULD have been the situation. I wouldn’t put myself in another series or go do something other than what I love, and that’s IndyCar racing, unless I had the chance to win and if it was with the right team. And that opportunity didn’t come along. To be honest, my heart is in IndyCars, so ultimately I am very happy with my decision.

Despain: Any thoughts on (A.J.) Allmendinger and (Juan Pablo) Montoya and how they are doing (in NASCAR) or have you been paying attention?

Patrick: I’ve been watching. I think Montoya has been pretty fast. But from what I’ve heard … I met Jeff Gordon over the winter and I was just with Dale Jr., meeting him at the shoot for the music video … there’s a lot that happens with the air and the turbulence and how it works. It takes a while to figure that out from what I’ve heard, so I am sure once they can understand all of that stuff, and this is only what I hear, it will change a lot … no matter what series you are in, if you are in a good car, you’re going to be able to go fast. It’s just a matter of being comfortable enough to throw the car around and get in the race.

Despain: What would it take to make you happy at the end of the year?

Patrick: I go in with not a whole lot of (expectations). I would love to walk away winning a race this year, but I can’t tell that … I don’t know that yet. So, as long I am keeping up with my teammates at every race, I think that’s going to be a good start.

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