Q and A with Scott Dixon and Danica Patrick
An interview with Danica Patrick and Scott Dixon:
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today, Danica Patrick. Danica is driver of the No. 7 Motorola Andretti Green race car. It's been an interesting season, Danica. This is the closest race to your hometown of Roscoe, Ill., closer than Chicagoland. Great to have you back. Finished as high as fourth in a Toyota Atlantic race and an IndyCar Series race here at the Mile. I'm sure it would be pretty cool to back up that big Japan win with a win close to home.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, absolutely. I always enjoy coming here to Milwaukee. I liked it back in my Formula Atlantic days. I can remember passing around the outside, thinking this is a good time. It was the only oval racing I had ever done.
I have always liked coming here. I think that this track produces really good racing. You can go on the high line and keep more on the throttle, or you can go on the low line and be a shorter distance and lift more. It's like it balances out very much. Our cars are much better in the racing situations on these flatter tracks.
THE MODERATOR: A 27-car field potentially on Sunday. A track like this accommodating that many cars, your thoughts of that big of a field here?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it's going to make it that much more important to have your car dialed in for traffic. You're going to have to play a smart race. You're going to have to make sure you keep the car underneath you for the duration of the stints. But it's going to be a matter of making it to the end because a lot goes on in these short ovals. We race pretty close.
It's just about being smart, being clean the first three-quarters of the race, racing to the end of it.
Q. How difficult is it putting last week behind you and how do you go about doing that?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, as a race car driver, I don't know if any of us have that hard of a time with that. We go on to the next event. All we're concerned about is performing at that next event and thinking how we're going to do well and thinking about the car and the track.
I mean, for myself, I definitely forget the weekend before pretty quickly. It's not that difficult. It's just kind of my nature. The nature of me just goes on to the next one. I think a lot of us drivers are probably the same.
I can't give you any scientific answer. I don't do anything particular. It's just getting excited. Especially a track you like, you're that much more interested in it.
Q. Last time some of us saw you, you were very angry. How long did that last?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, adrenaline's pumping. That usually lasts after every weekend, after every time you're on the track in race situation, for an hour or two after. You're adrenaline's up. You're thinking about it. You're talking. You're sort of debriefing the whole thing. That's the same pretty much every weekend.
Like the previous question, I'm quickly moving on to Milwaukee. That was that weekend; this is this weekend. As I said, I like coming here, so I'm really, really looking forward to it.
Q. Because you've had a past run-in with Ryan (Briscoe) back in '05, is that why you reacted differently?
DANICA PATRICK: Every incident is its own. I don't think it's fair to compile them unless it's a horrible trend. I react to each situation as it comes up. No matter what would have happened, I would have been disappointed in the way that it happened and how it happened, no matter who it was.
No, there was definitely no added injury to insult with the fact there had been previous incidents.
Q. I think you met with league officials since then. What did Brian Barnhart talk to you about?
DANICA PATRICK: I briefly talked to Brian (Barnhart), but nothing official. Just kind of in passing in the hospitality area afterwards. We actually were just talking about the race and talking about how to make the racing better if we can, some of the elements that have changed from last year to this year, what we thought of it all.
Just really kind of talked about the whole thing in general, what we thought of the event, how the race went about. I expressed difficulty to pass, things like that. But it was definitely nothing official, nothing, 'Come to my office,' or anything.
Q. You had an incident with Dan Wheldon in last year's race. With 27 cars, is there a propensity for that to happen again?
DANICA PATRICK: I think every single time we hit the track, there's the possibility that someone does something that disappoints you and that you question. For the most part, almost every weekend it does happen. There's usually somebody that you walk away from the track not liking that weekend for some particular reason. So that's pretty common.
But being a short track like this, putting all these cars on one track, it's definitely possible that people are going to be fighting for the same road. But I think that it's good here that we can race two-wide, as well.
I think that it's no different than any other weekend. We are putting more cars on a smaller amount of space, so there's going to be more times that you're going to be passing people. So therein lies more chances that somebody's going to make you mad.
But that's just racing. I mean, if we were all polite to each other every second, it wouldn't be racing. We have to race hard. That's the balance. You know, I think of being a rookie, and I think when I first got onto the track and was racing, there's a fine line that you walk to get that respect. You can't be too aggressive that people don't respect you because you're driving like an idiot, and then there's the other side of it, being too passive, and people just think of you as weaker on the track because of that.
You always have to walk that fine line in racing with being respected for being a tough competitor but fair.
Q. Do you think you're at that point?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that you have to ask my competitors what they think of me. But I would hope that they would respect me and that they would see me as a fair competitor on the track.
I can remember back to my first year, having difficulty on some tracks, getting lapped, thinking to myself, 'You know what, I am not going to interfere with these leaders. I'm going to let them go because one of these times it's going to come back around to me.' I've always tried to play fair in the situation that when my car is good, I will take advantage of that, I will walk that line. But then when things aren't going well, you have to just respect the situation and know that you're scrapping for nothing.
I've always tried to play like that. But the real answer comes from everyone else, not me.
Q. Is there an appreciation for the tradition of Milwaukee following Indy for the 51st time?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that we all like coming back to Milwaukee after Indy. One, it's close. Two, we're racing the very next weekend, which is part of the compacted schedule that's been in existence now for a couple of years. So I think that it's very good for the fans.
I don't know if we necessarily care what order it comes in. But for those reasons, I think it's great to come back here. I get to go home for a few days before this race, being so close. It's definitely nice. But I don't think there's any particular reason. We enjoy the history of this track. We enjoy how competitive the racing is as a result of the circuit, not necessarily where it's at in the schedule.
Q. Talk about the progression from Atlantics here for your first time in the year 2003 to now.
DANICA PATRICK: That's a really big question. How long do you want me to talk? I've been in IndyCar for four years, and I did two years of Atlantics. As a driver, I think especially on a difficult circuit, you learn to trust your instincts, you learn to believe in what you think the car's going to do sometimes. I think when I was younger, maybe I would question that, get more frustrated. Now I trust my instincts so much more, and they're right.
That's probably one of the things that's happened on the more difficult tracks. When your car is tough to set up, when you have to really work at it, you have to trust those instincts because it's really the only thing you're responding to make things better.
Q. What's more intimidating, going into turn one at Indy for the first lap or Charles Burns saying no?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, Charles is security. So the primary word being "secure." Indy you've got nothing that's a hundred percent secure. It's definitely more scary when your car is uncomfortable at Indy going into turn one. I mean, I can tell you that I never made a whole lap flat in the race so longs as I was in it. When the car is not right at Indy, it's the most difficult track. So definitely turn one.
Q. How intimidating was Mr. Burns?
DANICA PATRICK: Charles (Burns) and I are friends. He was looking out for me. He is not intimidating to me. But I do listen (laughter).
Q. You talked to Brian about the race. Even though you were having a lot of problems, what was your overall thinking about that race at Indy?
DANICA PATRICK: I had a little criticism. It was difficult to pass, which I think it made the racing not as exciting as it could have been. You just weren't able to really get very close to people.
Unfortunately, all the races in the past there have been much more enjoyable and people are passing all over the place, you're able to get really close. I was just kind of talking to him about why is that, what things have changed since those previous years to this one, just going through some of the differences in the setup of the car, the different elements that have come in for this year.
That was one of my criticisms of the event. I just thought it was very difficult to pass.
Q. What have you gotten from the fans? Has their reaction changed to you throughout your career?
DANICA PATRICK: In the beginning, when you hit the scene, it's very positive, happy. People are very excited. Then as time goes on, then you seem to grow fans that are anti-fans because of it, because of the popularity. I think it was a couple of years ago where I first started getting boos. I was like, I guess I've made it, I've got boos now, which is all part of it (laughter).
You can't appease everyone; you can't make everyone happy. It's impossible. Unfortunately, as your popularity grows, so does your anti-fans grow. I always thought it was funny. There was this guy at Indy. He wore a 'Danica Who?' hat with a question mark. I'm thinking to myself, I'm not saying anything, it's not my place. Doesn't matter. He doesn't know who I am, right? I was always thinking how funny it was 'Danica Who?' but he's got my name on the hat, so he obviously knows who it is. You get those people that go out of their way to not be your fan. Let's just say he was asking for a lot of autographs this past month. For some reason, I think he's a fan now.
I think the fan base just grows, too. I think I've noticed in the last couple of months since the win, too, you get a lot more people that want to get your memorabilia signed and sell it. It's kind of sad, but it's all part of the game.
I'm very lucky to have so many fans, so many good fans. I see that all the time through emails on the website, through fan mail, through just the things that my parents hear, the things that they say as I walk by that other people in the family can hear.
I am very lucky. But the general gist of it is that your fan base grows.
Q. You won in Japan. How cool would it be to win on American soil, especially close to home here at Milwaukee?
DANICA PATRICK: A win is a win. I'll take 'em anywhere. I'll take 'em overseas. I'll take 'em here. It's all the same people in different places.
I think I heard somebody say on the news, 'She won over in Japan, maybe she can come back and beat the people at home.' I was like laughing thinking, this person has no idea what's going on.
I like Milwaukee. So for me it would mean a lot just because I like the track and I think it's a driver's track. You have to be smart, you have to push, you have to be confident, you have to be aggressive. You have to do all those things.
I think this is a real driver's track. From that standpoint, it's always that little bit more rewarding where you win somewhere where it's important to have just more than speed or more than just bravery.
So that would be the special thing about winning in Milwaukee. But I'm really not picky. Wherever they come is fine.
Q. Last year you had a public confrontation on pit road where a lot of people saw it. Did that play into your mind last week with the display of emotion after the incident?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't remember saying that I was disappointed that I did that last year. I don't really regret those things. I don't regret my instincts and emotions, nor can I change them very easily. I try to not live with those kinds of regrets.
It's my character. It's my honest personality. I think that fans recognize that and I think fans appreciate honesty. Sometimes it comes in smiles and sometimes it comes in frowns.
So, no, I think that everything happens for a reason. I think that you try and look back at the situation, see are there things I could have changed to do better, if there is, if there isn't, you try to do that, otherwise it's life. I guess, you know, my life happens in front of a camera a lot of times, so I guess that's one of the elements. But, no, I don't regret any of those situations.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome - this sounds good to me, don't know if it sounds good to you still after a week - the 2008 Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon. Welcome to Milwaukee. You had an active week. I understand your Sunday evening included two live shots in New Zealand about midnight, Monday was off to photos, Tuesday New York media, a little bit of Texas thrown in there, yesterday in Chicago. Your PR guy told me that champagne sales in New Zealand quadrupled after your 500 victory. Tell us about your thoughts and emotions, now that you've had a little time to let it sink in.
SCOTT DIXON: It's been a hard week, especially for me who is normally a guy that doesn't too much of that stuff. It's been interesting. I think a lot of great memories. I'm kind of glad I'm getting in a car tomorrow so I can have some quiet time.
It's been fun. It's been a lot of fun. I think it still continues next week with Monday and Tuesday. But, yeah, everything's been good.
THE MODERATOR: In terms of racing here at the Milwaukee Mile, you were kind enough to be here about a month ago, talking about the excitement of racing at the Mile. If you could start addressing the difficulties with the qualifying, four-lap average, 27 cars in the field to further the pressures of qualifying well.
SCOTT DIXON: Milwaukee I think is probably one of the toughest circuits that we have in the series just because it's flat, it's quite bumpy, it's almost flat, or sometimes in qualifying, you know, you're flat out. Last year I think I did one flat lap, then nearly spun on the second. With four laps, I don't know what's going to go on there. I think you might have to sort of pace yourself a little bit so the tires don't go off too bad.
The race I think is going to be the problem. With 18 cars or however many we had last year, it was almost impossible to get around the track without incidents. So with 30 or 27 or whatever we have here, it's going to be interesting for everybody.
It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be pretty aggressive. I think you have to be aggressive to make sure you stay at the front.
For our team, I think we're sort of heading in the right direction with short tracks. Two years ago we finished 9th, 10th here, I think last year third and fourth. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going, improve a little bit and come away with another one, too.
THE MODERATOR: There's been nine drivers that have won the Indy 500 and followed it up here at Milwaukee. Is that anything you take into perspective historically as something you want to be part of, an exclusive list?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, definitely. I think one of the last ones was (Juan Pablo) Montoya, with our team, after he won the 500 in 2000, then came on to Milwaukee. It was a different series at that stage, but something that I'd love to do, keep that tradition, as with the championship fight till the end for '08.
It's going to be tough. This track is so different from what we've been doing the last month now. I don't know. I'm looking forward to it. It's always a tough circuit.
Q. When the light bulb went off, when did that happen, because it wasn't on on Monday?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't think it still has, man. Like it's been so busy, you've been running around. I think when the light bulb's meant to go off is when you can sit back and reflect on what you've been up to. That's probably not going to come until after Texas for me when we have the week off. Might be sitting on a boat or jet-ski, can have that light bulb go off. I'm waiting for that moment.
It's still all been kind of surreal. Yesterday things started to taper off. We got home, back to Indy, about 5:00, got a nice afternoon, nice night back at home, which was really good. Catch up with friends at least.
Yeah, hasn't really sort of gone yet.
Q. You said this is a difficult course. There's a few drivers with little or no experience on this oval. What experience or advice can you give them?
SCOTT DIXON: I think, you know, depends on what day you're asking me. I'm probably not a guy that's very good for advice (laughter). Milwaukee, you've got to give it its respect and you need to not lose your concentration at any point. I think at any point you sort of give up at this place, it will bite you pretty quick. You know when your car is bad, you've got to sort of work with it. You've got to try to go through the motions, make the changes.
I remember last year here I was struggling big time, sort of 15th or worse in the practice, then we made a couple setup changes and we qualified on the front row.
It's one of those places you've just got to give it time if your car is bad. But you've definitely got to give it its full respect.
Q. The aggressiveness and the need to get through that qualifying on Saturday to prepare for Sunday?
SCOTT DIXON: You need to work from the first session almost. I said you need to be aggressive. I think you need to be aggressive when you're making passing maneuvers. It's a place where, unless you stick your nose in there, you're going to have problems.
As far as the practice, I think you need to make sure you've got a consistent car for the four laps of qualifying. So consistently fast, but not one where -- you know, last year I think Helio and myself could only string one lap together because the cars were so loose. You got to try to work on that, take some of that balance out of it, just go for four laps that are very close.
But, still in the race it's a place you can pass. It's somewhere where you can definitely make moves and get to the front if you've got a good car.
I think it's not the end of it if you have a bad qualifying. I think if you started 10th or 12th, you could still make your way. Probably with the cautions we're going to have, you're going to have some time to get your way to the front.
Q. Any pageantry since your win as you enter a room or restaurant?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't think I've had that chance. But, no, you definitely get noticed a lot more. The only places we've been are sort of either at home in Indy, which I'm sort of out of town a little bit, then the time we spent in New York and places like that. So not yet.
I can say more than likely. Back home in New Zealand will be much different, for sure. Just put a big hat on and sunglasses.
Q. What did you think when you first saw Danica's reaction? What do you think if it happens to you?
SCOTT DIXON: I'll be running, man. I'll be running (laughter). I think if you get involved in that, it can only be bad.
With the incident, I think it was a total racing incident. It's a narrow pit. I think the only thing that (Ryan) Briscoe maybe did wrong, which all of us do, is spun the wheels too much, got onto the side of her. I've been involved in so many of those accidents on pit road, you can't do anything about it. That's just one of the things.
Q. You can also not react by walking up pit road.
SCOTT DIXON: It's not my choice, man. Talk to her about that one.
Q. With unification, with the victory by Danica Patrick, has it now come back to more racing than a soap opera?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, there's definitely less confusion. You don't get the general questions of, you know, When do you think they're going to be back together? Most of the time, that was the first question. So you've totally eliminated that now. And, yes, they do just ask about strictly racing stuff. But depends on which week it is.
The drama that Danica has been involved in, that Briscoe has been involved in, I think it's good for the sport. It gets people talking about it. It's in the papers. It's on TV. Give her credit for that.
Q. Danica Patrick said she had issues at Indy passing, pulling up on cars. Did you have that same issue? Did you see that issue?
SCOTT DIXON: Maybe she had too much downforce on the car. I didn't have that problem. When we needed to pass people, we could pass people. Might have been different further back in the pack.
But look at (Vitor) Meira. He didn't start on the front row. I don't think Helio (Castroneves) was doing very well early on in the race. There's tons of people that found their way through the pack, so... I didn't see that problem.
Q. Could you envision a better month?
SCOTT DIXON: I think for me the only thing that could have gone better is the race. I think there was no flow to it. I'm saying that the race should have had a better flow, it would have been for the spectators, everybody on the outside. Definitely when you're leading the race, you want more green-flag laps to try to break away, get lap people in between you.
I think for us everything went perfect. I was forever waiting for something to go wrong because it had been one of those months. I think leading up to it, we were fast many days. We had the pole. I was waiting for something to go wrong.
Q. When you got your check Monday night, $2.98 million check, don't you think it should have been rounded up?
SCOTT DIXON: That is a good question. You should talk to Tony (George) about that. I had the same feelings.
Actually, when that was read out, that's what Chip (Ganassi) said to me, 'Why couldn't they have just rounded it up?'
Q. During the victory banquet, you talked in detail to Vitor Meira about that last restart. Tell us what you talked about.
SCOTT DIXON: The restarts most of the day, and I still have yet to speak to Brian about it, they were wanting us to restart really fast. You're talking about 155 miles an hour instead of the start - we actually start at 110. I was a bit confused by that. They were always wanting us to go fast.
When you go a lot faster through Turns 3 and 4, as soon as you get onto that front straight, you're a sitting duck. You're going to get passed. I think that happened to me three or four times. He kept telling me, 'Speed up, speed up, speed up.' I was getting a bit annoyed with that. I knew every time it was going to happen, you were going to get passed.
On the last one, I slowed down to like 105 in second gear, slightly braked before I went for it. It just caused a bit of a lag, which was enough for me. It takes you a lap or a lap and a half to get up to your full speed. That was the kind of gap of about two or three car lengths that I needed to make sure that Vitor didn't have a good run. I think that definitely helped us. And the added fact that Helio was hounding him pretty hard was another thing that helped us.
Q. Was that fair on your part?
SCOTT DIXON: Everybody in my situation would have done the same thing.
Q. Are you happy after winning the Indy 500 that this race is here, you're racing in Milwaukee a week after, focusing on that after a whirlwind week?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it is tough. There's no doubt about it. I think getting here finally to the track has been time to sort of start thinking about it again. Generally during the week, you speak to your engineers, think about changes that you might have thought of from last year, just trying to make a better car. I haven't even spoken to anybody from the team.
I haven't even seen them yet. I think it is nice that you get straight back into the car. It gives you a little bit of break from the media stuff and allows to you refocus and get on with the season again.
If the week was off, you'd be sort of dragging it out a bit more. There's no better place to sort you out than Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to it, for sure. I'm glad it's that way.
Q. You had a front row seat last year. Danica and Dan got together. With the 27-car field, do you feel there may be a chance with altercations as well, what may have lapped last year again?
SCOTT DIXON: I think there's no doubt of that stuff happening. It's a small track. There's 27 cars. I think, what, we've got nine cars more than last year. That's going to be pretty busy. Whether it turns out with the drama on pit road like it was last year, depends who's involved.
No, I think there will definitely be altercations, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: After six races, you've led 46% of the laps prior to the Indy 500, you lead 115 of 200 at Indy. I looked in the books, I couldn't see you leading any laps yet in open-wheel championship competition in Champ Car or IndyCar here. Does that matter? You said you had good times and bad times here.
SCOTT DIXON: That sounds like a good challenge to me. It's something that obviously we'd like to turn around. I don't care if it's a bunch of laps, but preferably one lap, and that's the one at the end. That's what we'll be trying to do. I never knew that. Thanks for bringing it up (laughter).
Q. Of all the phone calls you may have gotten for congratulations, which one stood out? Who did you hear from that you hadn't heard from in a while?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's probably from your competitors. I think Dario (Franchitti) was one of the first guys to call me. (Juan Pablo) Montoya. Guys that you know have won the race before, I think it's pretty cool. But then you go to the other side of it, the Prime Minister of New Zealand called. It's people like that.
But definitely the people I think that I had most fun chatting to were the people like Peter Johnson, Craig Harris, Kenny Smith. I didn't actually speak to Kenny, he left a message. But people that helped me get to America, people that I spent a lot of time with in New Zealand, were the best phone calls I had.
Q. How do you answer the phone when the Prime Minister of New Zealand calls you?
SCOTT DIXON: Same way, man: 'Hello.' I didn't know who it was, so... She doesn't know too much about racing. It was a good conversation.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time again.
SCOTT DIXON: Cool. Thank you.