Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed how her season has gone and what she has learned, working with several crew chiefs, her expectations for next year and what she needs to do before the season starts and much more.
TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS HAVE GONE FOR YOU SO FAR HERE AT KANSAS. “Yeah, we started practice a little late on Wednesday but we got some good laps for an hour and a half at the end of the day which was nice. Getting out on Thursday, I’ve struggled in the Cup car. I don’t really feel very comfortable. After I’m done with this I’ll be going over to figure out how I can feel more comfortable or what I’m doing wrong because I’m sure there is a lot for me to learn. I think in the Nationwide car we were pretty good actually. I felt like we had good speed. I actually expected to come and be relatively good on speed. I feel like JR Motorsports cars are very fast and they do well at big, fast tracks. Especially with how well we ran at Michigan I think we can take what we learned there and apply that really well here this weekend being a newly paved track like Michigan was. I was thinking I always tend to go pretty fast in the Tissot car when I drive it. It’s kind of weird. Each time it always seems to be a good weekend for me. Hopefully that keeps going.”
IT’S FOUR TO GO IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES, AS YOU LOOK BACK OVER THE SEASON HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOW IT’S GONE? “I feel like we’ve been overall much faster than what our results have showed and performed better in the race than what our results have showed. We definitely had a pretty long stretch of bad luck through the summer, and I feel like that was maybe where we had the most speed. Everything from Elkhart to Daytona to Iowa, there were a bunch of races that things happened that were not completely out of my control but definitely not always in my control fully. I feel like with that in mind it’s been an okay season. We recognize as a team that we need to find speed and that’s why you’ve seen the changes happen in the team that have happened. We all want to get faster. We all want to be more competitive and I feel like we’ve been inching a little bit closer here at the end of the year. I don’t know if we’ll get all the way by the end of this season but making progress is key. For me, ultimately because I’m moving on, it’s about learning and understand cars, understanding changes, and just getting a better grasp of all of the elements for the weekend. Ultimately I am disappointed with the results. I wish they were better. I wish there were better things on the record books. I would imagine a lot of drivers can say that at the end of the year.”
IS THIS A GOOD WEEKEND TO DOUBLE DIP, WHEN YOU HAVE A NEW TRACK? “I don’t know if you are asking about other drivers or not, but for me the reason why this was picked was because there was this much more track time to do a Cup race, to get more comfortable. So, yeah it is a good choice.”
IS IT ADVANTAGEOUS TO RUN BOTH SERIES THIS WEEKEND? “I don’t know. It depends on what everyone’s motives are. I don’t know why they drive the car. Do they do it for sponsorship? Do they do it for their team? Do they do it for track time? Why do they do it? That’s the question that needs an answer to decide whether or not it’s a good weekend for it. If they just do it for track time, you’re already getting a lot of it. So, that’s probably different between driver to driver.”
WITH ALL THE TALK ABOUT THE GODADDY SPONSORSHIP AND THE SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS THIS WEEK, DOES THAT STUFF BOTHER YOU OR IMPACT YOUR FOCUS? “It’s more work for the general Danica racing team than anything as they are working on my behalf to make sure that everything is going the way it should. It’s just how it goes. It’s really not a problem. I know they were saying sorry for the drama, but I just drive the car.”
WITH THIS NEW TRACK, WHEN YOU CONSIDER DALE (EARNHARDT, JR.) CRASHING BACK IN AUGUST AND DENNY (HAMLIN) CRASHING YESTERDAY, ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS ON YOUR END? “Any time you have a really wide track, I feel like the accidents can be bigger because you have further to go. When you’re running a narrow track and you bump the wall coming out of the corner or you lose it in the middle, you don’t travel very far and your trajectory is a lot less t-boning the wall. I think accidents can be pretty big at a place like this where not only is it fast from the re-pave, fast because it’s a 1.5-mile track, but because it’s wide. I remember my dad telling me that at Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway).
“It’s a fast track sure, but you’re running along the wall a lot of the time and the accidents can be big but at least you’re clipping as opposed to having so far to travel. I think that new tracks need to come in, they need to grip up and you need to lay the rubber down. The grip level outside of that is not the same. It’s very different as opposed to tracks that are seasoned. When you get off line it’s going to be really tricky and dodgy for sure. I think the tire here is hard and it doesn’t feel like it’s got a ton of grip. You know there is a lot of track time so hopefully that helps, but I think it’s going to be really tough to pass. I mean I could see that in practice. The times at least in the Cup car, I’m not that fast at all and people could come up behind me and I would just let them go because it’s hard to pass. You take the air away from them because you’re running the same line. It could make it a little interesting in the race if there’s not two grooves.”
WHAT IS THE EXPECTATION FROM THE SPONSOR AS FAR AS RACING? ARE THEY GIVING YOU THE TIME TO DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO GET WHERE YOU NEED TO BE? “Oh yeah. I think my sponsors and partners have always been great about that. They don’t just sponsor me and put the name on the side of a car. They go beyond that for sure. They use my platform and my reach with fans. I always believe that’s what makes the relationship really work. While they want me to do well, I want to do well and that’s my primary goal. The relationship has legs outside of that and that’s what I feel like makes them work really well and why I’ve been fortunate to have sponsors stick around for a long time.”
WE’RE ALL STILL TRYING TO LEARN AS MUCH AS WE CAN ABOUT CONCUSSIONS AND THE WAY DRIVERS DEAL WITH THEM, I KNOW YOU’VE DEALT WITH BASE-LINE TESTING IN INDY CAR, DO YOU SEE A PLACE FOR THAT HERE IN NASCAR? “I guess in a simple word, yes. I don’t think additional precautions or testing or knowledge is a bad thing. I’ve been asked a lot about people sandbagging the tests and my answer is at first a foremost my competitiveness comes out so I just had to do as well as possible because of my personality. The other side of that is if you choose to sandbag and not perform as well on the original test so that you can do better later, it’s your own fault. It’s your life. If you choose to do that you can, but it’s only affecting you.
“I thought baseline testing was a good thing. I think a lot of sports do that. I know when I had a big accident in Homestead at my first Indy Car race in 2005, I was fortunate enough to have a weekend off between that one and the next race which was Phoenix, and I took the baseline and retested the baseline at ASU (Arizona State University). I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s a lot of fun to have to take the time to do it, it takes a while being about a 30 minute test, but knowing more about your mental status and health is always good.”
YOU’VE DEALT WITH SEVERAL DIFFERENT CREW CHIEFS, HOW DO YOU SHIFT GEARS WHEN YOU ARE GETTING INFORMATION MOVING FROM CAR TO CAR? “I think it’s fine. I don’t mind having different crew chiefs. I think the hard part is them understanding how to take what I’m saying and apply that to a car. When I say the car is pushing three out of five, that’s not the same for me as someone else. That’s the learning process and that’s the tough part. I think if you can get in sync with one or with two, then I think you are fine.”
PREPARING FOR A FULL-TIME CUP SEASON, DO YOU FEEL LIKE GOING INTO IT NOW THAT YOU ARE GOOD TO GO AND FEEL LIKE YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED ALL THE THINGS THAT MAYBE YOU HAD IN MIND? IF NOT, WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO WORK ON A LITTLE BIT MORE AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST BENEFIT TO YOU HAVING RUN THESE CUP RACES BEFORE DOING A FULL SEASON? “Just getting over the hurdle of running at difficult tracks and unique places. I think it’s going to be helpful to have some sort of baseline set-up going to these places next year. The new places are always challenging for me. It was the same in Nationwide. I get frustrated when I think about how I’m doing out there in Cup some times in practice.
“Then I remember back to Nationwide and I remember it didn’t go so great there either, and you end up figuring out how to drive the car and how to get it to the limit. You have to feel that out and be able to believe in that. I’m just not quite there, so each time I get to a new track it’s always the same. I’ve got to build up my confidence.
“I’m not the kind of driver that goes out there and goes past it to figure out where it is. I build up to it. Another thing I’m not very good at doing early on is take a car that’s not right and make it decent. I just don’t have the confidence to do that yet. When they make a change that’s right all of a sudden a bunch of time comes off. Plus the fact that I’m methodical, I was just talking to the team the other day about that, those are definitely characteristics of me.
“They’re not great, but they’re also not horrible. Being methodical is also what helps me be able to repeat it time and time again. I know that the team has been really encouraged in the races where a lot of times through the middle or the end of the race my pace is really good and they’re really happy with it. So, that’s the kind of stuff we need to focus on and keep in mind. Hopefully that will improve. I know that in Nationwide when I finally kind of figured out how to drive the 1.5-mile tracks at least, it helped on all of them. So I’ve just got to figure out those characteristics of the car and how to wrap my head around it.”
TONY (STEWART) HAS SAID MANY TIMES THIS YEAR THAT WHEN HE SET YOUR CUP SCHEDULE HE PICKED REALLY HARD TRACKS FOR YOU AND HE SAID YOU WOULD THANK HIM NEXT YEAR. NOW THAT IT’S ALMOST OVER, DO YOU EVER SEE YOURSELF THANKING HIM FOR WHAT HE PUT YOU THROUGH? “I think the fact that I’m going to get to drive at his team is enough thank you for all of it. What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger right? I actually have had a lot of fun at some of the more challenging tracks. I really enjoyed Darlington. I really enjoyed Bristol. There have been some tracks that I didn’t expect to like. There are times that I go to places like for the Coke 600 at Charlotte and I thought I could do better there, and personally I thought I sucked. I think I surprise myself sometimes of what I catch on to and what I don’t. I’m sure it will help and just knocking 10 tracks off the list is one of the biggest things.”
WERE THEY TOUGH? “All of them? Yeah, I feel like the toughest thing for me is I’m just so slow in practice. Guys are so fast. I feel like in the race when everything kind of evens out and there’s not new tires any more, all there is the beginning of a run which I still struggle with, once everything kind of settles in I’m better and I fix my car more throughout the race. There’s a lot more time to do it in the Cup race and by the end I feel pretty good, but practice is fast and furious. I just have to keep getting better.”