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Statements from Paul Dana's teammates
Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice

 March 28, 2006

Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice, whose teammate Paul Dana was fatally injured in a crash on March 26, gave the following statements today

DANICA PATRICK: "Everything happened really fast the other day. From our standpoint, as far as the car goes, we were getting things together. We were looking forward to the race. We qualified third, which was much better than earlier in the weekend. Paul (Dana) came along with that, too. He was inching his way up the speed charts with us, and then the accident happened."

(About Bobby Rahal's decision not to race): "I don't think you can ever question the decision that your boss makes. If he would have said 'race' or 'don't race,' that's what I would have done. I race for him. I think he did a very, very good thing. This is life. We drive race cars, and it's what we love, and it's our job, but we don't walk out there a couple minutes afterwards and say, 'I've forgotten already.' I don't think that anybody can critique the fact that he said don't race. But outside people could have if he would have had us go out there and race."

"It obviously helps that today we're out on a road course. Things tend to be a little bit safer and speeds don't get quite as high. We have run-offs and grass and marbles to run into as opposed to a concrete wall next to the track. I have been around this before. I have been at a track where someone's died before. It's never the same that day. There's been a lot of 'how-you-doings,' and a lot of support. But things are a lot more somber, and rightfully so. Somebody died. It sounds a little bit cold, but it is the job. We do have to keep racing, but we will give him the best tribute and the best thoughts and prayers that we can."

(About her relationship with Paul Dana): "I didn't know him very well. I tend to keep a little bit to myself. Everything from the way I like my car set up, to my style and just being private. I don't talk to very many people. I pretty much go from my motor coach, to my truck and to the track. I really didn't get to know him very well. I told him to move over a couple of times when he was sitting in my seat right next to my engineer. (laughter). But he was a very nice guy. And gosh, did he want it. Let's think about it - race car drivers. In a perfect world, you bring your own sponsor along. Either you get a free ride, or you bring a sponsor along. You can write your own checks, and you write your own ticket. He did the hardest thing. He got a sponsor to stand behind and give him a ride. They said, 'all right Paul Dana, we believe in you.' I remember at the Christmas party, and I was sitting in a meeting with the team and I thought 'what's going on here, is he going to drive for the team? I was surprised, but he made it happen. Good for him. Good for him. And you know what? He was proving he was driving the thing. I was a little scared because he was keeping up with us. I think he did better than I expected." (About risks of racing cars): "You're at risk driving here today. You're at risk driving home. You're at risk being in your own house. There is cancer with every breath you take. There is a chance for tragedy every second. The part I'm scared about is that I put my family through this too. This hasn't changed my mind, at all. I'm still going to do it. To just put them through that or to ever have them deal with that, I would feel bad. My husband said it best. He told me that 'Just because you're a race car driver doesn't mean you're supposed to die.' I think that's the truth of it. We do go out there and risk our life, and it seems so obvious because we're driving hundreds of miles an hour and we're side-by-side. I mean the end of the race Sunday was spectacular. I watched it, and I look at those guy’s on the track and I think 'Oh my gosh.' I'd rather have some sort of control on the car than watching these crazy guys drive into each other trying to scare each other and back off. It's what we do. We've all been doing this for a very long time. I'm in my 15th year, and I'm only 24. A lot of people have a lot of experience out there. We don't really know any different, and I believe there are risks in everything you do." (About fear in the the car): "I'm OK. I'm not more scared that I'm going to die. It's just that underlying thing that everybody knows. Everybody knows that we're sort of tempting it with what we do. But I will say that everything that can be done to make the cars safer is being done. The cars are so much more safe than they used to be. That says a lot about the series and the dedication they have in making it safe. I'm going into this next weekend into St. Petersburg to win. That's my job, and that's what I'm going to keep doing." (About Dana's accident): "I saw it. I saw it a lot. I saw it right when I got out of the car. I saw it a lot on the TV. It seems to be on SportsCenter back in the motor home. That's all that's ever on the television, and they showed the crash a lot. I've seen it from different angles, and it was a bad crash. I didn't even know Paul was actually involved until I got out of the car. I heard that he was, and I noticed he wasn't behind me in my mirror on pit lane. When I saw the crash when I got out of the car, I realized it was pretty serious."

There are crashes that don't look bad, that are. Dale Earnhardt’s was necessarily a spectacular looking crash, but he passed away. Kenny Brack had a horrible crash, although he was almost dead too, he lived. That looked spectacular too. I mean the car just shredded up. I don't think you can ever quite judge because it's one little move here or there. You hit something wrong, or your head goes the wrong direction, and that's it. Something flies into you. Who knows? I don't think that necessarily determines how spectacular the crash looks weather you're going to make it or not. It's just circumstantial.

I think a lot of things that come into it with Paul's crash. All I can draw from is what I saw. I came into the turn and saw a car into the wall. I heard on my radio, 'yellow, yellow, stay low.' At that point, I backed off and knew that I was ready to go high if I needed to because if this car slides down the track I need to be able to get around him and not be firing away. So I backed off and made sure I was going to pass by him still on the bottom without having to turn around him. As soon as I saw him still along the wall, I just gunned it and went by him. I think there a lot of things that come into it. There's everything from just driving the thing and where you're looking that one particular second. One of the statistics is that we drive the length of a football field in a second. I mean, you have to see a lot. From yellow flags, to cars moving around to whatever you're looking at. I don't think you can point the finger in this situation.

When you hear things in your ear like 'yellow, yellow, stay low, go high' you develop a language with your spotter, which is the guy up above telling you where the cars are. You always know that 'yellow, yellow' means caution. You as a driver decide weather or not you want to back off or not. In any situation, yellow means slow down to me and just look around. You want to try and find the accident as soon as you can because if you can't see it, you can't do anything about it. When my spotter is calling 'yellow flag, stay low' it means stay low on the track because the accident is up high. But things happen quickly. Cars can slide down the track and you have to be ready.

I think we as a team at Rahal Letterman are dealing with it individually the only way we know how. That may be learning from it. It may be nothing for some people. It may mean crying. I don't know, but everybody deals with it on their own. I think the one thing it does do is makes you realize how, and this is an old quote, but how precious life is. He's only 30 years old, and it was over for him. I think he's gone to a better place. I think it should teach you to learn and reflect. If there's only one thing that this can do well it would hopefully be that you can learn from it.

I think that we as a series, and everyone who's involved in making decisions, you have to look at it because something did happen. Weather it's checking the safety equipment again, or if it's making more advances, it's ever-evolving and it will continue to be as Buddy said earlier. One thing is that it teaches us to never slow down and never think the cars are safe enough yet. None of drivers like the HANS device. It's a pain in the butt. It gets in the way. The seat belts ride on them and not our shoulders. But we wear them because they're safer. Sometimes safety is not always comfortable, but I'd rather be uncomfortable in the car than not here.

We try some different safety belts. I'm sure there's room to approve in that area. But we were just trying some belts just to see if we could find some that were shorter and didn't stretch as much. Without being technical, we're just trying new things. We're seeing if they're comfortable. If they're un-driveable, then you can't use it obviously. I think it's wise to try, and it's wise to try new safety options. We'll continue to do that.

BUDDY RICE: "I think it's difficult for anybody when there's a loss in the community, no matter what it is, no different from any other sport. We have a very small community. We don't have a lot of seats available here; unlike some other sports were there are a tremendous amount of players. Not that it takes it away or makes it any different, but it's just close and everybody is this tight and knows how much everybody puts it on the line, it's always going to be difficult."

(About coping with the tragedy) "I don't want to sound insensitive, but that's part of our job. It just comes with the territory, and it's just how it's going to be. Everybody out there is professionals up and down pit lane. It's not just the drivers that it was hard on. It's hard for everybody. It's hard for the teams. It's hard for the fans. It's hard on everybody to make that happen. I think for most guys, that's what they needed to do, but we all think that Paul would have wanted it to happen. Everybody had to handle it their own way, so I think everybody is going to handle it differently and react to it differently."

(About Paul Dana) "Well, I think he had a lot of heart. That guy put everything he had into becoming a race car driver. Obviously he got a little bit of later start than some of us; that's just the way of the course. I think he had a lot of drive, he had a lot of heart and he put everything he had into becoming a race car driver. At least, he went out on the top step, where he wanted to be at, in the top level. So he fulfilled his dream, everything he wanted. Obviously, it was short but he got to do what he wanted to do and he made it to the top level."

"I think, like I said, it goes back to everyone handles things differently. You're going to have a wide variety or a wide range of how people react. For the most part, the circumstances and the situation, everybody is handling it quiet well."

"I don't think it singles out our sport to any other sport to what happens in every day life to people have standard or different jobs or an everyday desk job. Any time anybody has a loss, its going to be huge to the family. It doesn't matter whether it's motorsports related or an accountant or somebody else. It doesn't matter what level or what perspective it's on, it's all going to be the same."

(About talking with family members) "Obviously, I've talked to my parents and stuff like that. The team hasn't left here. No one has been back to talk to their family and friends yet. Obviously, they've talked to them on the phone. I think that everyone has to understand how emotionally different everybody is and how they handle things. Sometimes people handle things differently on the phone or on the internet as they would if they were face to face. So, I don't know. We're going to have to wait and see what happens. Probably like a lot of people, they've had situations like this already in their life. So everybody handles it differently, so we'll have to see. But I don't think that my family is going to look at it any differently than they did before. You know the risks going in, you know what's involved. It's a part of the sport. It just the way it is.

(About safety in the IndyCar Series) "I think we're on the cutting edge of technology with safety to bring out the latest and greatest stuff. It had nothing to do with what happened on Sunday, but our team was testing out new safety belts that we were going to run. We just decided last night that we were going to test them today. They have to be fitted for you. People all look back to Indy cars in the '50s and '60s and F-1 cars and how we wore a leather cap, scarf and goggles. Back then, that was cutting edge. You didn't know any better. And in 10 years from now, 15 years from now, people are going to look back on us wondering why we were driving the cars that we were driving. Every year they try to slow the cars down and the jobs of the engineers and everyone else is to progressively go faster. You want to be the fastest. That's just the way it goes. I think we're on the cutting edge. I don't think there's anything else we can do right now. But what will end up happening, is from the accident, they're going to take all the information they can from our black boxes, what they saw on TV and the situation, and they try to make another step in the safety. It's never that anybody ever sits back and takes it for granted. Every day they're making gains on safety some way some how throughout all of motorsports, and everybody together brings that information. I think that's just the way it is right now."

(About what he saw and experienced) "I think it's different because of where I was on the track. I saw, I think it was Ed Carpenter, then Marco (Andretti) and then myself. I know my teammate Danica (Patrick) was right behind me and then Vitor (Meira). I know the line-up of the people who were behind me because of the way we rolled out. Obviously, I saw Ed's crash. I made it through. I looked in the mirror and I could see the next two cars had made it through. And that's all you know. Then they said that there's another car had made contact but you have no idea of who it is until either someone tells you or you find out. They said that it was going to be a long clean up so I got out of the car and we were waiting. Then that's when you find out who was in the accident and then you have to wait and see what happens from there."

(About Paul Dana) "Well, I think Bob Rahal said it best the other day. I mean (Dana) was on cloud nine. He ran his fastest lap he ever ran. He qualified inside the top 10. He made a move to come to the Rahal Letterman group, bringing his sponsor with Ethanol. That's where he wanted to go since he put that whole package together. There were probably other options for him and this was the one he chose to come to. He was extremely happy. He had big, high hopes. He was expecting a lot from this year, but it ended shortly.

(About relationship with Paul) "He didn't sign with us until the first part of the year. I was here for a lot in Miami when we were doing testing for the pre-season when he was getting rookie seat time. It was only a couple of days. Then we get here for the race weekends, and everybody gets pulled in different directions. It's the season opener, and we had a lot going on. It's hard to try to make a friendship. Obviously, you know somebody and you know about them and things like that. But it's still going to be a process to learn about somebody and understand everything they're about. You're not going to figure that out in a month or a month and a half."

(Unknown question) "No, I didn't see that. I haven't spoken with Dave (Letterman). I will probably speak with him in the next few days. I think everybody needs some time to digest the situation and handle their situation how they need to." 

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