Danica Patrick, driver of #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the first test session, her expectations for the 2013 season and other topics.
FIRST TIME OUT ON THE TRACK IN THE GEN-6 CAR AND HERE BACK AT DAYTONA TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS WENT FOR YOU AND WHAT YOUR EXPECTATIONS THIS YEAR? “It’s good to be back. It was a quick off season, but I’m pleased to be back in the car. I was happy driving to the track this morning. It started off a little bit slow. I had a vibration and they saw that the shift mount was sort of dragging on the drive train or the drive shaft casing or the drive shaft itself. I don’t know; that is how technical I am. So, they thought that is where the speed was in the first run and then came in from the second run and it was still the same slow speed. I shut it off and luckily I shut it off a little bit early coming into the garage. Just so it doesn’t run and get hot. They noticed that the car wasn’t rolling. They kept trying to tell me to do something when I was sitting there. ‘I’m like I don’t know what else to do other than sit here’. They found that the brakes were dragging so, pushed the brakes back for the last run. They pushed me out, it probably looked like I was doing a full qualifying run, but we really just pushed the brakes back to see if that is exactly what it was. Sure enough we popped up the speed chart pretty well. It’s nice to know that the speed is there so now we will just start with our test plan. They feel like they have it figured out what is going on with the brakes so we will get going this afternoon. It’s definitely good to be back in the GoDaddy car.”
MANY OF THE SPRINT CUP DRIVERS IN THE CIRCUIT TODAY HAD TOUGH YEARS IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES, BUT SOMEHOW THE STEP FORWARD WAS MUCH BETTER FOR THEM. DO YOU FEEL BETTER IN THIS CAR THAN YOU DID IN THE NATIONWIDE CAR? “Well, it’s not like I didn’t do any Sprint Cup running, I did ten races last year. It was a good warm up for this year. As far as this new car in particular, I couldn’t even tell the difference between a Nationwide and a Cup car here. It’s pretty straight forward here at Daytona. I know that what the most important thing is. I feel as with any team whether it is racing or another sport is that the team itself is critical. It’s important to have good energy together, understand each other well and work well together. I feel like the switch over to Tony Gibson and his team at the end of last season for the last two races was a really good change. I feel like I really saw some potential in having a good year this year. There will undoubtedly be really tough days. I know the areas that we need to work on. I think that having that good run at the end of Phoenix there to go for a top-12 finish was a pretty good day. I think we are all really confident going into this year. We just have to be optimistic, keep our heads down and stay positive when it gets tough.”
BEING NEW TO THE CAR OVER THE NEXT THREE DAYS WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO LEARN? WHAT CAN YOU LEARN OVER THESE NEXT THREE DAYS? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? “It’s really going to come from the team side. I think just playing around with the different things on the car based on the different shape of it. A little bit of aero stuff, a little bit of air box stuff, for me as a driver there is really not all that much to do. We will see in bump drafting when that finally shows up, probably tomorrow, what that feels like and the differences on pushing with these cars versus the old cars. But everything I’ve heard so far says that it’s pretty good. A Chevy to a Chevy has been good. The fronts of our cars are a little bit sharp in the middle, but they seem to be pushing okay. As far as just riding around by myself I don’t really think you are going to notice anything. I’m not anyway. Some better drivers might have some better feedback for you, but I don’t.”
THERE ARE A LOT OF CHANGES HAPPENING THIS YEAR. YOU’RE MOVING UP IS A CHANGE FOR YOU, BUT IT’S A BIG CHANGE FOR THE TEAMS ALSO, YOU HAVE A BRAND NEW CAR. CAN YOU SHARE WITH FANS WHAT IT IS LIKE FOR YOU TO MOVE UP, WHILE EVERYBODY ELSE IS REALLY BUSY TRYING TO GET THE CAR READY? “I don’t think that matters, it’s just the circumstance. I mean there are a lot of rule changes in NASCAR happening from year to year and definitely this year with the new car. I know that it was really late getting like decklids and things like that for the team. They only just got them this past week. I know that there is a lot of stuff going on that has made the guys kind of work longer, later, especially in these first few weeks of the year. But that is just what happens when a new car comes out. I think that for me as a first year full-time in Sprint Cup, I think that a new car is probably a positive for me. Everybody is starting off on sort of a little bit more of a level playing field. Who knows maybe this new car will play into my driving style better than the old one. I’m not really sure. I have heard it drives a little bit more like a Nationwide car, so maybe it will be something that will be more familiar to me. I think that especially with a new car, being a new driver, I’m not going to be looking for a feeling that the old car gave me; because I don’t really know it that well. Especially, going with Tony Gibson and the guys for the last couple of races with some different set-ups I think that we will be starting with a clean sheet of paper for this year. I think that could be a real positive.”
DO YOU KNOW EXTRACURRICULAR BEYOND CUP WHAT YOUR NATIONWIDE SCHEDULE IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE AND ARE YOU DEFINITELY NOT DOING THE INDY 500 THIS YEAR? “I can confirm to you today that I will not be doing the Indy 500. I am just going to do the Coke 600. The team and I decided to focus on Cup. It’s going to be plenty of work as it is. It’s going to be important for me running for the championship full-time for the first time to really keep myself focused with the Cup car. But if I do the Indy 500 moving forward it will be with GoDaddy.
NATIONWIDE? “Nationwide I am not sure if that is completely set. I know there have been some reports that have come out about running for Turner (Scott Motorsports). We are definitely talking to them trying to figure it out and we are definitely working on that, but there has been nothing signed yet. The exact dates, the races and the sponsor have yet to be confirmed for all that. We are working on it, but I would like to. I think that would be a good weekend to do it.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET YOU WERE ALWAYS SAYING LAST YEAR YOU WERE NOT GOING TO BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING INTO THE FIRST SEASON? HOW IS THE VISION IN THE CAR? “The vision is the first thing that popped out with what you were saying. I feel like I almost sit higher in the car. I feel like I can see more out the front window. I don’t know if the dash is lower or not, but these are things probably Tony (Stewart) would know. I don’t know. It seems just fine to me. I feel like I can see better out the front. I think again just like last year obviously things have been changing for me year to year over the last good few years now. Again, to just stay relaxed and stay positive, as I said earlier you can’t let the tough days get you down. I’m sure they are going to happen, so I think that is going to help us have more better days if we can stay positive and stay up beat. Tony Gibson (crew chief) has said to all of you guys and said to me that we need to create certain expectation levels as we go along and make them realistic, be smart about them and move them slowly. That is a really good perspective for him to have. It’s great to go into the season and think ‘gosh we left off so well’ and we should run top-10 or 15 now every weekend, we are going to do that. But I think that it is going to be tough to do that every weekend given my first year. I think everybody has got the right attitude. Everybody is excited.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, joined teammate Danica Patrick to talk with the media about his experience at the test session.
TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS WENT OUT THERE FOR YOU FIRST PRACTICE AND OUTLOOK FOR THE SEASON HERE AT DAYTONA: TONY STEWART: “We are excited obviously. We have a lot of work to do to get all three teams ready for the year with the new body changes, so far so good. The big thing is just getting here and seeing the new look of the cars; I think it really looks good. It’s nice to see. I’m glad we finally got away from the Car of Tomorrow that wasn’t, I don’t think, the best of ideas by Gary Nelson (laughs). It is nice to get back to cars that look like production cars again.”
DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TESTING YOU ARE GOING TO GET IN, BESIDES THIS WEEK AND NEXT WEEK AT CHARLOTTE, OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS? DANICA PATRICK: “We are going to do a little short track testing next week before Charlotte. Beyond that we will figure it out. It probably depends on how these tests go really. How fast is the car, how well does it handle, how well am I getting up to speed and how well are clicking. I feel like the team is pretty good at making decisions quick on their feet if we need to go somewhere and do something. We will address that probably at the end of next week. Right now I think the testing is pretty well set for these two weeks and then we will regroup at Daytona.”
YOU GET A LOT OF ATTENTION IN CYBER SPACE FROM FANS DEBATING WHETHER YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL AT THIS LEVEL. DO YOU PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THAT STUFF? DOES IT BOTHER YOU? DANICA PATRICK: “Well what they say doesn’t create my finishes. I think it is great that people are talking about me. It’s great there is a conversation, but I really try not to read those things. Because at the end of the day they really don’t matter.”
THIS WILL BE YOUR FIRST YEAR GOING IN AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OF TRANSITION IS THERE A DIFFERENT FEELING THAT YOU HAVE GOING INTO THIS SEASON? IS THIS TEST ALSO A TIME FOR YOU GUYS TO HANG OUT, TEAMMATES AND TEAM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING BEYOND THE RACE TRACK TO BOND? DANICA PATRICK: “I feel really excited I have to say going into this season versus a lot of other seasons in my career I just feel excited. I’m looking forward to it. Sometimes I get a little more nervous going into the year, but I think that we have just got such a good atmosphere on the team all around that makes me excited.”
HAVE YOU DEFINED ANY STATISTICAL GOALS FOR 2013 AND JUST GIVE ME YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR BATTLE: DANICA PATRICK: “I think it’s very difficult at this point in time to put sort of numbers to exactly where I should be finishing. I think you can look at a little bit of what happened last year as a bit of a baseline as to expectation levels and definitely areas that need work. But it’s a new year; it’s a new car and a lot of stuff changes so obviously I will be working full-time with Tony (Gibson, crew chief) and the guys now. I think everything changes a little bit and you can never really know what to expect. I think we just need to get started on the season, get these first few races out of the way and then start to create some baseline for what we are expecting and what we are shooting for.”
WHAT YOU YOUR OUTLOOK ON WINNING THE ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR TITLE? DANICA PATRICK: “You know you just race hard. I think those are the things that just happen. If it does it does, if it doesn’t it doesn’t, but I think that if I shoot for great results each time and keep bettering myself all the time that is the best goal that I can have as opposed to just shooting for Rookie-of-the-Year. It’s going to be something I’m sure that will come into thought at the end of the year. What decides that is it just championship or what does? I don’t even know. Is it points? I don’t even know what I have to do necessarily. Just do the best I can and hope that is enough.”