If Danica wins Kanaan is going to shave her head
Through all the attention on her post-race discussion with Dan Wheldon on pit lane at The Milwaukee Mile on June 3, Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick knew it would be best to focus on the race at the treacherous high-banked Texas Motor Speedway.
"I can't honestly say (the pre-race hype was) a distraction really," said Patrick, who responded with a career-best third place in the Bombardier Learjet 550k. "I didn't do that much more than I normally do. It wasn't like we were trying to feed this. It just ran its course.
"As far as Dan and I, we handled it like drivers and like people on the track that need to respect each other, and it was everything on the outside that seemed very exciting or something like that. Like I said, it's fun though. I like it when we get something going on in the series and people are paying attention. When I turn on ESPN and see a whole bunch of stuff on our race coming up that day or that night, that's good. That's the stuff we need. So I get a kick out of it."
Finishing 0.3844 of a second behind race winner Sam Hornish Jr. also provided a kick - maybe for the entire crew of the No. 7 Team Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Patrick was coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, but her high-water mark was seventh at Kansas Speedway in April. Her previous best was fourth (first at Twin Ring Motegi in 2005 and matched twice).
"It was really a matter of time," said Patrick, in her first year with Andretti Green Racing. "I think we've had fast cars throughout the season, and it was a matter of getting more on the same page with my engineer and just having everything come together. We just didn't have very much time before the season started to really mesh. But we are getting better, and I'm getting more comfortable overall."
Teammate Tony Kanaan, runner-up at Texas for the third time, sees the improvements on the racetrack in many areas.
"I think she did a hell of a job," said Kanaan, the race winner six days earlier at Milwaukee. "She did what we're supposed to do. We planned to work together and as our teammate, I think she did no different than what Dario (Franchitti) did with me a few years ago.
"I said to her in the beginning of the race, 'Look, we are going to get mad at each other at one point in the race just because there is nowhere to go.' And for sure, I was all over the place. At one point she was all over the place. But everybody was all over the place.
"Toward the end there when I was catching Sam, I kept looking in my mirrors, and you never pray for somebody to catch you, but at this point I was. When I saw her coming up, I said, 'Whoa, here we go.' And I didn't want to say anything on the radio because then someone was going to tell Sam what I was going to do. But Sam has raced on the outside many times. So I think he knew exactly what I was trying to do.
"I think Danica did a hell of a job helping me to keep it close to Sam, but unfortunately while knowing Sam, he was giving me a lot of room up until two laps to go."
After exiting their cars on a steamy night, the teammates huddled on pit lane to congratulate each other.
"I told her, 'It's coming,' '' Kanaan said with a grin, referring to Patrick's initial victory. "She knows exactly what I was talking about. We all know it and we can't wait to shave her head." IRL PR