Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests joining us this afternoon. IndyCar Series driver Patrick Carpentier joins us to start the call. Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick will join us for a few minutes. Good afternoon, Patrick, thanks for joining us.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, thanks for having me.
TIM HARMS: Patrick drives the No. 83 Dallara Toyota for Red Bull Cheever Racing. He's in his first season in the IndyCar Series. He started the season with three Top 10 finishes, then fell out of the Top 10 for the next three races, but rebounded with a third place finish at Richmond on Saturday. Currently he ranks 10th overall in the point standings. Patrick, first of all, congratulations on a great race on Saturday. The three-quarter mile circuit there at Richmond is very tough. Give us your impressions from your first race there. (Phone line interruption.) You obviously had a great outing there at Richmond on the three-quarter mile track. Just wanted to get your impressions from the race.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I enjoyed it. I mean, for me, it was what a race. You know, that's what I came to the IRL for, and I was really happy. Since the beginning of the year, we struggled a little bit and we finally came through this week. Toyota helped us in the test previous to the race, and the team did a good job with the car. The Red Bull car was strong. We had good battles with Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Scott Sharp, Tomas Enge. It was a fun race. Side by side and passing. I really had a good time. It was the best that could happen for the team, especially since the beginning it seems like nothing positive was coming out. And the guys did a good job in the pits, so it was fun.
TIM HARMS: You had the test obviously which helped maybe get the setup and some things working in the right direction for the team. Do you think those factors and the factor of it just being this particular track worked to your strengths or have there been some gains made that should carry through the rest of the season?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I hope so. We were testing. We were not really fast actually. We tried something on the car and gained almost 4/10ths of a second. It was actually above 3/10ths of a second a lap on a short track like that. So it was a huge improvement for us, and wekept it all weekend after that. He car was very comfortable to drive and very fast. So hopefully that's going to carry on to different tracks. We seem to be a bit weaker on longer tracks, so we'll see how it goes. But I think we're going to be a bit better now.
TIM HARMS: We're getting to the meat of the season with really a lot less downtime between races. As a racer, though, I assume you would look forward to a stretch like this.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for sure. For sure, you know, let's go racing. We're going to be going and we're going to battle it out. You get your timing going and everything with the team, and then just go racing every weekend. So, no, I'm looking forward to it actually. A few of the tracks coming like Milwaukee; I know Watkins Glen, we had a good test there, too. So I'm looking forward to these tracks, too.
TIM HARMS: One of those tracks we're going to in about a month from now, end of July, is Michigan, the site of your first career open-wheel victory back in 2001. Tell us a little about Michigan. I'm sure you're looking forward to going back there.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Oh, yeah, for sure. For sure it's a track that we had good success. Actually, the race didn't start too well. Lost a couple of laps and came back and ended up winning the race. It was all about team effort. So I'm really looking forward to going back to Michigan. It's a beautiful place, and it's a fast track. You can run a lot of side-by-side. There's a lot of action.
TIM HARMS: One quick look back. One of the main reasons you came into the IndyCar Series this year was to compete in the Indianapolis 500. I know the race result probably wasn't what you'd hoped for, but tell us a little overall how the month went for you, your thoughts about racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, what a beautiful place. I mean, the event was unbelievable. I've never seen so many people gathered for one single event on one day. So it was amazing. A lot of movie stars and people were there, too. It was fun to be part of it. But for us the month was a bit long. We didn't seem to get the speed. The car was slow the whole month. Finally got up to speed a little bit in the last qualifying there after brushing the wall a couple of times. Then for the race, we were not too bad actually. We had only lost one lap and were right there with the guys at the end. I thought for sure we were going to get a Top 10 for that race. But something came into the engine and broke the engine, and that was it for us. A bit of bad luck. But what an event. I'm very glad I had the fortune to do it.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and open it up for questions for Patrick.
Q. I wonder if you could comment a little bit about Toyota's decision to pull out of the series after the '06 season. Has it put a big hurt on the series?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Are they pulling out next year or the year after?
Q. The year after.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: We kind of knew it. Toyota wants to go NASCAR racing. They've been at it for many, many years now and are preparing for that. So we kind of knew. But I think the IRL has -- I've been with Toyota for many years in Atlantic and now in the Indy Racing League, all of that. But I think the IRL has something else also. You know, I think there's other engine manufacturers that really demonstrated very high interest. And I think it's just going to be a replacement, somebody else will actually take their place past 2006. So it's a good thing.
Q. Does the series need engine competition to have allure?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, it's got two sides, you know. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. You know, when you have a strong engine manufacturers, there's more money that is put into the series. When you have only one manufacturers, then it's more of the same for everybody. All the engines are the same, then it's less costly for the team, but at the same time there's a bit less money that's put in the series. Because I've lived with both sides of the equation, they have a plus side and a downside. So to me the Indy Racing League goes with one engine manufacturer, there's some good and bad things. If you have many different engine manufacturers in the future, there's some good and bad things, too. But I think they're going to keep racing with many different engine manufacturers, from what I heard.
Q. How do you find going in a series that is nearly all oval tracks this year compared to what you've done in CART or Champ Car all this time? How has been the adaptation? You're always a guy who was good on ovals.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, but this year was a bit of a shock honestly. It's extremely competitive. Every little detail. The cars have a little bit less power and more downforce than what I had at Champ Car. So all the details and the gears and everything that you prepare has tremendous importance. So it's a bit different in that sense, and a matter of getting used to it and learning how to drive the cars, the way they are. To me, you have to drive these cars really, really on the edge in order to run well. So you have to use everything the car has, engine-wise. So it's been a bit different. But I'm very happy. Especially the last race this weekend, that's the reason why I came to the IRL. I wanted to do the 500, but I wanted also to race more ovals. So for me coming to this series, that's what I was expecting, you know, battling wheel to wheel at the front, then getting past and passing some guys. It was a fun show. For me inside the car, there was a moment in the race that I was laughing, I was having such a good time. That's why I switched. I did a lot of road course and street circuit with the other guys. I had a great time, too. Champ Car was a good series, gave me the experience to run with these guys this weekend at the front. I had a good time, you know, for the rest of it. I'm very happy about the decision I made. I feel like home where I'm at right now. For me, the oval, like you say, is something. Maybe because of speed skating when I was really young, I've been turning on ovals all my life. That's what I want to end up my career on, with a few road course here and there, which I think is a good thing, and that's what I want to do.
Q. Your car seemed to work real good on the short track. Was it something you did on the shorter track rather than what you might have done on the longer track at Indy?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I don't know. Maybe the longer tracks are more aero, you know. I think sometimes we may be a bit behind with the aero. At Indy I think maybe we're a little bit down on power now. I know Toyota has been working very hard. It helped us at the test. They gave us some good power this weekend. And also I think for us the chassis was not quite there. For some reason, one reason or the other, it was comfortable to drive, but it didn't seem to be fast. But on that short track, when testing, we found a couple things in the suspension that we changed. It was almost just for fun. You know, we changed it just to try it because I've tried it in the past and it worked. My engineer tried it. We went that route. Put the car back on the track and it was almost 4/10ths quicker. You couldn't feel it in the car. It was really funny. It's like we changed nothing, but for some reason it was 4/10ths quicker. We stayed with that change and all weekend the car was really fast. I'm hoping it's going to carry around to different tracks in the future. It seems like it took some of the scrub that we have away and allowed the car to accelerate more freely.
Q. Was this the smallest track you ever raced on?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, when I tried a couple of snowmobiles on ice, it was as short as that. But in a race car -- speed skating was a short track, too. But in a race car, that's definitely the shortest track I've ever even seen. I don't think I've ever seen a track as short as that. I know we have scenario near here in Montreal, but it's not even close to the quality of that track in Richmond. I was impressed with the facility. It's like a stadium, you know, they got grandstands pretty much all around. We had a lot of people come to that race, too. What a fun track, with the banking. You could pass, outside, inside. A little bit of -- it was fun.
Q. The change that you made that was worth three or 4/10ths a lap, how confident are you that this will be applicable when you go back to some of the larger tracks? Are you still going to be struggling a little bit there?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. I'm hoping we've overcome part of it. I don't think we're going to qualify on the longer tracks. I don't think we're going to qualify up in the Top 4 or 5. I think -- I'm hoping we're going to qualify in the Top 10. If we do that, that will be fantastic. You know, I think definitely the change we made on the car is going to help us anywhere. We'll see how it goes. I think we still need to improve the car with the aero, and a couple of things. We're working with Toyota on many different phases of it. So we'll see what happens.
TIM HARMS: Patrick, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate you taking the time.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thanks for having me, guys.
TIM HARMS: Good luck this weekend at Kansas.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, hopefully I join you again next week (laughter).
TIM HARMS: We look forward to that. We're joined now by Buddy Rice. Hi there, Buddy?
BUDDY RICE: Hello.
TIM HARMS: Buddy won the Indianapolis 500 last year and finished third in points. This season he recorded two Top 10 finishes before missing the Indianapolis 500 due to an injury suffered in practice. But he's been back on the track for two races, including an 11th place finish at Richmond. Buddy, you kind of got off to a rough start this season with the races at Homestead and Phoenix. But you had two really solid finishes at St. Petersburg and Motegi. It would seem that missing Indianapolis maybe put a halt to that momentum. When you climbed back into the car at Texas, did it feel as though you were starting from scratch or were you able to kind of pick up where you left off from St. Petersburg and Motegi?
BUDDY RICE: Well, I would say that obviously Motegi was a good run. We obviously had an issue in qualifying as well as we did at St. Pete. But, you know, St. Pete we ended up having another sensor issue late in the race that cost us some spot. I wouldn't say that was a very smooth weekend either. We should have finished a lot stronger than what we did. Coming from Motegi, we had a good run there because it was a fuel-mileage race, the way it worked out. I mean, at Texas I had an extremely fast car. We had the mechanical there. We seemed to struggle a little bit. We tried some new stuff for Richmond and it didn't work out. So we were a session behind. With the IRL being as competitive as it is, you can't afford to give up that one session. But I wouldn't say I felt like I started over. It's just been, you know, a string of bad luck really. We just can't seem to shake right now on the 15 car. Vitor has been doing a great job. Unfortunately, he got caught out in the incident with Tony and Bryan at Richmond. Danica, she's learning so fast. She's been doing a good job. You know, our car, it's just a string of bad luck now. Hopefully when we get to Kansas, we can break it.
TIM HARMS: Speaking of this next stretch, we're going to a stretch now four races in the next five weeks. Last year this four-race period was very good to you. You had wins kind of on the bookends of it with Kansas and Michigan, a sixth place at Nashville, and second at Milwaukee. How much does last year's success at these tracks boost your confidence as you go back into the stretch this coming season?
BUDDY RICE: You know, I think it's definitely a confidence-builder. Because of the fact we're going into the tracks that we're strong at, we seem to think we have a pretty good handle on the mile-and-a-half-and-up tracks. Just like I said, we just need to put a string together where we can get the car to the end. I mean, we had the fastest lap at Homestead, the season opener. We had a fast lap on Texas before we went out there. We're right there. We just need to -- I don't know, we just need to get over this hump here and start putting some races together and actually making it to the end on these mile-and-a-half tracks. I think if we do that, you'll see us in the Top 3 no problem. We've just got to get past this.
TIM HARMS: I guess that's similar to my next question. Basically Kansas, was such a good race last year with you and Vitor finishing side by side for the top two spots. You have the good setup data going into Kansas. Do you kind of expect to go in there with an edge on the competition this weekend?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I mean, I unloaded it at Texas and was in the Top 3 or Top 5 every practice session. We felt we had a car to qualify on the front row. We had another little issue. But, like I said, I mean, we just got this -- we have this string of bad luck going on right now. I have no issues right now that if we show up at Kansas, we should be in the Top 3 without any problems, and Top 5. The car should be right there. I don't see why it wouldn't be. It was that way at Homestead; it was that way at Texas. So I don't see that being an issue. Like I said, we just got to put some things together and have a smooth weekend, not only for our team but for our sponsors, everybody including Pioneer, Honda and Argent. We need to make sure we have a solid weekend for ourselves. Now maybe coming into the Argent 300, everything will kind of come together for us. Like you said, we were strong on these next four tracks last year. I think it will definitely -- we just need a little confidence builder, we need just one smooth weekend just to unload, run up front, qualify up front, race up front. And I think if we get to the end of the race, we'll be right there.
TIM HARMS: Let's take a quick look ahead at Michigan about a month from now, a track where you made your IndyCar Series debut with a second place finish in 2002. As I mentioned, you got a third career win there last year. Beyond what you've already said, anything else special about Michigan as you look forward to going back there at the end of July?
BUDDY RICE: Well, I think Michigan's always going to be special. One is because it's my IRL debut. Obviously, the circumstances were a little different. Also, you know, we had a good run there. I had a good run there last year. I expect to do good. It's also coincidental that my mom's side of the family is from up in the Lansing area, as well. There's a lot there. For whatever reason, that track's been good to me. Even in '03, I think we had a fairly decent finish there for what we had to take on that year. Yeah, it's definitely always a soft spot. It's always a good spot for me to go. I always look forward going to that track. It's an exciting race. There's big packs. I don't know, I like going there.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Buddy.
Q. The Toyota announcement yesterday they're going to pull out of the series, how important is it to a series like this to have competing engines?
BUDDY RICE: I think it's good. I mean, I think it's something that you kind of need as another I don't want to say rivalry, but there's two chassis manufacturers. I think it would be good if we had a third. But right now we have two very strong ones. And I think obviously with what Chevy has shown as of late, I think if the Panther group with Scheckter and Enge show up at Kansas with what they had at Texas, they're going to be a very stout group. And I think it's good to have all three engine manufacturers. We'll just have to wait and see. I know there was an announcement made last night that their talk is they're basically going to pull out. We'll have to see what happens with that. Obviously, I would think that Tony and Brian at the IRL know this was coming. We'll have to see how we adapt to that.
Q. Team chemistry. A lot is made of AGR, how they get along. How is chemistry in your shop these days and how important is good chemistry to good racing?
BUDDY RICE: I think you have to make sure everybody is working together because if you're not, it's almost like you have separate teams then. I think definitely at Rahal Letterman, that's one of the big things that helped us last year with just me and Vitor working together. With our engineers and the way everything was kind of coming together, it was a huge benefit for all of us. And now with adding the third car, trying to make sure all three groups are in sync and firing on all eight cylinders and moving in the same direction has been very important. I think we've been do that. You know, we keep having little hiccups on my car and things here and there, and we just need to make sure we all just keep working together. But the chemistry has been very good.
Q. Last year you and Vitor were going at it over the final 20 laps or so here. Was there any communication between you guys? What was going on in your cars and with the team?
BUDDY RICE: We can't talk between each other in the cars. I mean, that's something we've never had. I mean, there was no communication. I mean, basically, you know, it was an all-out battle. I think actually the yellow probably helped me more than it helped Vitor. Vitor is out on his own, he was chasing me down before that. Since he was tracking me down, I think if it would have been just the two of us, he would have an easier time getting by. Because of the way the restart was, us being at more similar speeds, him going to the outside, I think it kind of evened everything out a little bit. But, yeah, it was exciting. You couldn't have asked for anything more for two teammates to go at it like that. As fair as it was, as even as it was, to come down, I would have been just as happy to finish second to Vitor as if I won. I think it was a great day for Rahal Letterman. You know, it would be nice if we can do something like that again here in the future.
Q. A lot is being made about Danica, her big surge at Indy. A lot of people are wondering when is she going to get her first win. If you look at Rahal Letterman, do you feel like you and Vitor are just as due if maybe not overdue as she is for something good to happen?
BUDDY RICE: Well, definitely Vitor is. Vitor, you know, he was so close so many times last year, and has been close a couple times this year. He's right there. He definitely is due. Like I say, the 15 car has got a string of bad luck going now. I think we'll break out of it here pretty quick. I'm hoping Kansas is where it's at. I'm not saying we need a win to take care of it, we just need a strong solid finish on one of these mile-and-a-halves. Danica's time will come. She's only ran five or six rounds, early in her career. There's other guys that have run a whole career and haven't won any. We'll have to wait and see.
Q. Last year, what was it about these tracks, your car at these tracks, can you explain why y'all were so good at certain venues last year? What was it that just fit y'all's car?
BUDDY RICE: I'm not sure. I think we missed it a little bit at the season opener at Homestead, and we didn't have any real short oval testing going into Phoenix, and we struggled there. But from there on out, we were pretty close. We did a couple of things that we didn't help ourselves on. But for the most part, we were pretty hooked up everywhere else we went. Both cars were right there. Right now it's like we're missing that small little ingredient to keep us in the Top 5 every single weekend right now. There are a couple other teams that have hit it. Penske has been on it, Toyota catching up on power; they're right there. AGR, same thing, every weekend, when it comes down to the race time, they're right there. They obviously missed a couple times on qualifying stuff, but when it comes down to the race, they're right there. Obviously, the AGR guys -- I mean, the Fernandez guys and everybody kind of running right there, it's just -- it's so competitive in the IRL, you cannot make any kind of mistake. And you've got to be on top of your game. The smallest little thing will take you right out of the To 8, Top 5 instantly. So we just need a little refining. We need to get -- like I said, our car definitely needs to make it to the end and if we do that, I think we'll do fine.
Q. It's a pretty deep shark tank you guys run in.
BUDDY RICE: Exactly.
Q. For you personally, you're not really big on karma or jinxes or superstitions. What do you think is going on? Do you sometime versus to chalk up a year to bad luck?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I guess. I mean, I know one of the things that -- I don't know if it's been brought up, but back in the day, Tony Kanaan, driving in the other series, I think he went for a year, year and a half stint with almost a DNF every single round. It was always something different every single time. For him to go last year every single lap and go on to win the championship I think was awesome. I think sometimes these things just happen. So far every weekend on the 15 car, we've had a problem. I'd say 80% of it's uncontrollable. It's just things that have happened. Every single one's been different. It's not like the same repeat thing happening every time. You know, we're not giving up over there. We're not thinking anything differently. I don't know right now what we can do to take it. Like I say, if we get one weekend where it goes nice and smooth, I think it will all go away. We'll be back to our normal program. Because definitely, you know, something, the boys lose the confidence on the team and everything kind of drags down a little bit, you lose that little bit of extra fire, extra acumen. You're not quite as aggressive, so you're kind of behind that way as well. We just need to get that little flair back and I think we'll be all right.
Q. How humorous, as in an odd way, is it that people look at Vitor's career, he's a year and a half in, everybody sees him as a rising star, somebody who is due for a win any minute now, and here is Danica four or five races in, you have folks out there talking about her like a has been?
BUDDY RICE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. That's just the way I guess the media tank works. Everything's constantly from one extreme to the other all the time. I mean, Vitor's been there right on the edge to win. He's been super, super strong. Especially last year. You know, this is his first full year on the full tour. You know, it was the same thing for me last year. It was my first full-time. So I think that makes a little bit of a difference. You know, I think it's just the way it is. I mean, like I said earlier, there's guys have that never even won a race, they ran their whole career here. She's, like I said, six or so rounds in, and everyone is talking about that. It's probably going to happen. I mean, she's on a very good team. She's doing a good job. But, I mean, there's definitely some other guys out there that are -- you know, that have been around for a while that are just due. We'll just have to wait and see. But Vitor is a quiet guy. I think he kind of likes it that way. He does his own thing. He's just -- everything's been going good for him.
Q. Do you in particular help him and her out in that regard, in terms of the just trying to keep those things in focus without letting it overwhelm you sometimes, from the media I'm talking about with all those media perceptions?
BUDDY RICE: Well, I mean, definitely I do things a little differently. I'm not the standard driver personality or whatever. So I do things a little different anyways. I think I'm always open to giving advice or helping out anyone I can. Obviously, every driver handles things differently and handles things their own way. It's just something that we have to -- you know, like I said, it's not that I don't help either way, it's just if they want the help, they ask, and I help. You know, I'm not going to force it on anybody on what to do or what they need to do because they need to be their own personality and do things their own way.
Q. How hard was it for you to watch Indy this year rather than be in it? Do you feel like you had to catch up after that?
BUDDY RICE: I think, you know, it's tough to sit down and watch your car drive around anytime is difficult as a race car driver. Obviously, it wasn't the first time I had to do that. It was the first time for medical reasons or an injury that I had to do it. But, like I said at Indy, it would have been a lot more difficult to watch someone else drive my car if it wasn't for Kenny Brack being in the seat. I felt, one, he was the best person. Two, it was kind of owed to him because of the way he ended his racing career kind of in 2003. He had to sit and watch someone else drive his car all year. You know, he'd been with Rahal Letterman for quite a long time. He had left and come back. He had a pretty -- really good rapport there. To watch his car run up front, win the 500, and do those things, you know, and he was super supportive the whole time in 2004. So I think that in conjunction with he was able to come back and to himself prove he was still able to do it, ran the fastest lap of qualifying, even though he had to start 23rd. I think that helps close a chapter for him. And we still talk a lot. So I think if it would have been someone else, it would have been a lot more difficult. But it's not something you ever really want to do. But I was okay with it because it was Kenny. And the thing about having to start over. No, I didn't have to start over. I sat out around -- obviously the month of May is the most amount of testing and most amount of running we'll do. Our team is strong. We know where we need to be at. I didn't feel like I was starting over, no.
Q. Back to Indianapolis. Any lasting effects?
BUDDY RICE: No, there's nothing. I was fine. I got cleared the day after the 500. No, there was no effects.
Q. Any plans of Rahal Letterman putting Kenny Brack into a fourth car?
BUDDY RICE: No, that's not going to happen either. I mean, three cars was a huge step for us to do this year. I'm pretty sure that Kenny -- I mean, I can't speak for Kenny. I don't know what he's going to do. I'm pretty sure he was happy with his qualifying. You know, obviously we had a mechanical on his car during the race. I think he's pretty satisfied with what he was able to do for the short period of time that he was at Indy this year. I think he'll be -- he's had offers to drive other stuff. I just don't think you'll be seeing him driving in the IRL or open-wheel series any time soon. I think he's okay with where he's at now in life.
Q. Of the upcoming tracks left in the season, which one are you looking forward to the most?
BUDDY RICE: You know, I think there's a lot of exciting tracks that we're getting ready to go to. I mean, but definitely I think everyone's extremely geared up for Sears Point or Sonoma, the Infineon track and Watkins Glen obviously. Some of these tracks we're going, to the mile and a halves and two-mile tracks we do good on. I'm definitely looking forward to getting there and trying to finish off on a strong note midway through the season and through the end for our group.
TIM HARMS: Buddy, thanks a lot for taking the time to join us today. We certainly appreciate that. We wish you the best of luck the rest of the way.
BUDDY RICE: Thank you.
TIM HARMS: We're joined now by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 16 Argent Pioneer Panos/Honda. How are you doing today, Danica?
DANICA PATRICK: Good.
TIM HARMS: Thanks for taking a couple minutes to join us. I know we have quite a few people on the line. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. Can you talk about the overall influence that you had on young girls or the influence that you want to have on young girls getting into CART racing?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think I can do anything other than my job. You know, it's something that I never thought about before. Until it came up, and I received a lot of emails, a lot of, you know, "thank you, you're an inspiration" kind of thing. You know, I wasn't trying to be. I mean, I've only done a few races. I didn't expect to fall into this role this quickly. I'm not doing anything different and I won't do anything different because this is what's gotten me to where I am. That's the inspiration. It's just me.
Q. Now that you're in that role, do you feel any added pressure?
DANICA PATRICK: No, huh-uh.
Q. With the great race that Buddy and Vitor had here last year, is there a lot of information sharing that goes on with the team? Do you expect to benefit from that this year?
DANICA PATRICK: No. When I ask questions, you know, they'll have answers for me to the best of their ability. For the most part, I learn a lot from just doing it, just going out there and racing. I mean, you can say time and time again that, you know, it's hard, do this, do this. But it has to become natural, it has to become an instinct for you. I think the best thing is that I'll be given a good car to start with. That's so much of the battle already.
Q. What you just said, you probably are going to get a good car from the start. How does that change like your mental approach to a race compared to a week ago when you were going to a place obviously you'd never been, but you know Rahal Letterman went 1, 2 there last year in a stirring finish? How does that change everything about your approach?
DANICA PATRICK: I think you just go in with a little bit more optimism. You still know it's going to be hard. You know there are a lot of times in the race when fuel strategy comes into play, which doesn't have everything to do with your speed, when bad luck comes in and stuff like that. You just never know what can happen. They definitely showed that they were fast and were race winners. You know, it just gives you some confidence going into the weekend.
Q. I asked Buddy, but who is really more due, you or Vitor? Vitor has been there plugging. Do you sense something big for him coming down the pike sometime?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, I think he's done really big things. I mean, he obviously hasn't had that race win, but he finished second. He's always running up front. He's a good, hard racer. In all good time, things will come. I'm sure he will win a race at some point. You know, I think as far as I go, yeah, he's probably more due than I am. He's been in it longer. You go back and look at how long it took a lot of guys to win races, and it was two seasons.
It's just all about patience and being smart.
Q. Ever since Indy, I don't know, has it -- is whirlwind the right word? What has this season been like to date? People keep forgetting, this may be your seventh or eighth oval race of all time. Has it been like a whirlwind trying to learn with everything else going on around you?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, you know, I'm learning at the only rate I know how, and that's mine. I don't feel like I have to, you know, get on it any faster. I don't feel like I have to win any sooner. I was talking to someone before, and it's not a matter of I think people expecting and me having to win this year; it's everybody just hoping, you know. It would just make such a great story and it would just follow along with the amount of interest and hype that the year has had. But yet at the same time I think people are remembering the fact that, I mean, I haven't been doing it that long. Like I was saying earlier, it takes a lot of people a long time to win a race. I think everybody knows that. They're just all excited about the whole, you know, what's happened, where I've been, where I've gone, what I've already done. You know, it's just exciting.
Q. I'm working on a story about female drivers in general. You appear Katherine Legge from the Toyota Atlantic Series. I'm wondering whether or not you think there's a unique opportunity for women who are in a sport that's considered traditionally a man's game for you to market yourselves as athletes, endorsements, that sort of thing?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that, you know, it's not because we're females or anything, it's just -- you know, I think that talent and marketability and everything is individually based. You know, just because of the hype that has happened with me, it doesn't mean necessarily that all women are going to be in the hot seat for a sponsor necessarily or anything. We still have to do the job and we still have to fit the marketing plan for the company that they're with. You know, I think there's a lot of other elements that come into it. It's not just being a female that's going to do it, although I have heard there have been a lot of women that have been doing a lot of interviewers since Indy, what happened. I don't think it necessarily means that it's going to open every door for them. I think it's still going to be hard. It's still going to be hard for me, too. I still have to keep my sponsors. I still have to do well. I still have to market and promote them the best I can.
Q. Some female athletes exploit (indiscernible), but it's probably in the traditional sense of the word, have been reluctant to use the fact they're female and attractive as vehicles for sponsorship. That doesn't seem to bother you.
DANICA PATRICK: No, no, no. I think that, you know, you have to use what God gave you. For me, I mean, I definitely -- you know, I was walking around for a long time without a ride. I think what got me there was my confidence that showed through and my strong handshakes and my determination to get a ride and never giving up. I think that was the start of what made this happen. Having the support of my family, my dad went everywhere with me, I think that was the start of it. It didn't have to do with the fact that I'm a female or I'm an attractive female. Afterwards, it's just a sponsor recognized that that was a potential for them and I fit their campaign, the direction they wanted to go. It worked. You know, the biggest company -- you could be the most popular athlete in the world, and a company might not be marketing athletes, they might be marketing just everyday people for their campaign, so therefore you don't fit.
Q. How would you feel if people criticized you for taking that tack?
DANICA PATRICK: To?
Q. For using your physical attributes, exploiting being attractive.
DANICA PATRICK: I don't care what they say. As long as I'm driving a race car, I don't really care what they say.
Q. Just a question about preparation here. Once again we're going in with a two-day weekend. You get to practice and qualify and race another day later. As you've explain, you don't use video games or anything like that. Are you coming in early and is there any special preparation you have for this Kansas track?
DANICA PATRICK: Actually, I just found some of the tapes that I was given at the very beginning of the year. I have the Kansas tape and the Kansas (indiscernible). I'm actually going to watch them before I leave. So while I don't play video games, I will watch some raw footage. That's probably the preparation I'll do before going. Then after that, it's just going to be a matter of, you know, just being sharp and being -- just being in the moment, making sure I can feel the car, give proper feedback, no distractions, we just make it go as fast as we can on the weekend. Other than that, I'll ask the questions that I need to ask. I'll probably ask the normal questions to Buddy and Vitor, and that's just: What's unique about this track, is there anything I should know? Usually tracks are pretty straightforward. You might have one little element which is slightly different which they'll say usually. They're very helpful.
Q. What is the basic game plan that you carry into the Kansas race this weekend that you've taken from some of the other races this weekend where you hope to be successful?
DANICA PATRICK: Same plan I go into every weekend: just be hopeful, be optimistic, be confident and be open and be listening all the time because, and -- you learn every time, and you have to be open to that. You have to be open to criticism, to advice. So I think that's the advice -- the mindframe I've gone into every weekend with, is just, you know, take in as much as you can, do as many laps as you can, you know, finish the race and learn. You know, when I was in the driver's meeting before the race at Richmond, you know, that's pretty much what Helio said before I went out there. We were in the driver's meeting. He said, "Just, you know, go out there and just finish the race. You're going to learn so much. Track changes. Just finish." I think that's good advice.
Q. The one thing I notice about you, aside from currently, is that you have this ability to be intensity focus with all the media hype, the extreme highs and the disappointment of the Indy 500. What is your secret to having that focus and maintaining it?
DANICA PATRICK: I meditate nine hours a day. I'm just kidding. I don't really know. I think it's something that you develop as a person, whatever profession that may be, probably in specific sports. I think you just learn what it takes to up do as well as you can. Whether that's just sitting and not talking to anybody, not looking at anybody, that may be what works. Maybe you should be behind the sidelines laughing, joking, relaxing. I don't know whatever it is. But you just have to kind of find out what makes you work. I definitely know that I don't look around too much, I pretty much keep my head down. It does no good to see how many people are around and taking pictures. But, you know, I just try -- I think it's just something you have inside of you, whether or not you can block stuff out or not.
Q. You seem to stay focused when you're practicing, getting ready for the race. I notice you really work hard at it. That's a plus for you. I wonder how you do that. I guess my real question is, you mentioned a while ago when you're in a fuel economy run, what does that do to a driver when you're in that type of strategy?
DANICA PATRICK: You are trying as very hard as you can all the time, no matter what, no matter what fuel strategy you're in, you're always pushing to go as fast as you can. But I guess maybe with my inexperience I haven't learned there's a different way to drive when you are in a fuel economy run or not. I know that at Indy, when I wasn't sure if I was going to finish after Wheldon passed, I just tried to do my best, if there was any room to lift, just lift, save a little bit of fuel there, a little bit of fuel here. Well, look what happened. I went to fourth. But I think that, you know, changing the position for the fuel on the steering wheel is strategy enough, and after that you really don't have to do much. You just kind of keep carrying on and try not to fall back.
Q. Your upcomings with Bobby Rahal, how has he guided you from your previous years to what you're doing now?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I mean, I've been driving for him for now this is the third full season. I was working with him and signed a contract actually the year before Atlantics. So we did some Barber Dodge Pro Series stuff. It's just a matter of being there for support, being there for advice, you know, seeing him behind me, always believing in me really is what it's taken. You know, it hasn't come from a lack of effort on anybody's part. We've all tried very hard. I definitely have myself. If I wouldn't have done a good job and proven that I can handle the situation, handle the pressure, handle driving the race car and everything else, then, you know, I wouldn't be here. So it took a couple years to convince him. But finally I did.
TIM HARMS: Danica, thanks a lot for taking some time again with us today. Appreciate that. Best of luck this weekend.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
TIM HARMS: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for participating.
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