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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Sam Hornish, Jr.
Danica Patrick
Jeff Simmons
August 9, 2005


TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests joining us this afternoon. Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Jeff Simmons is with us to start the call. IndyCar Series drivers Sam Hornish, Jr. and Danica Patrick will join us in a couple of minutes. Hi, Jeff. Thanks for joining us today. Quick background on Jeff. He's the driver of the No. 24 Team ISI car for Kenn Hardley Racing. He is in his third season in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. As a rookie in 2003, Jeff recorded wins at Gateway and Kentucky and finished second in the points. Last year he competed in a limited schedule, five races, and recorded a pole position and two second-place finishes. He's coming into Kentucky this year on the heels of a victory at Milwaukee three weeks ago. Jeff, first question for you, I know going back to the beginning of the season, both you and the Kenn Hardley team had very high expectations for the season. Obviously a series of setbacks plagued the team throughout. You got a second-place finish at Nashville and you followed that up two weeks ago with a win at Milwaukee. Has to be very rewarding to see the results finally coming to fruition.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, obviously I wanted to be able to repay Ken's confidence in me with some race wins. That's what we've been looking to get. It's nice to finally start getting up to the front there. We're going to be kind of cautiously optimistic going into Kentucky here because I have won there before, but we've struggled so far this year on the tracks where we're flat out, you know, the mile and a half and larger tracks. But hopefully we can get another good race car and go out and finish right at the front again.

TIM HARMS: Tell us about the confidence level on the team. I'm sure the performance of those last two races has given a boost to everyone as we go into the final six races of the season.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, definitely, you know, the race wins definitely help the morale, even the second-place finish where we were right there for the win, and certainly could have won that race in Nashville, that helped as well. We're certainly getting the momentum going our way and hopefully we can continue that. If we can do well here at Kentucky, then the next two races I know we'll be strong at Pikes Peak and at Infineon out in California. If we can get this one, then I think we can really start closing in on the championship.

TIM HARMS: Tell us a little more about Kentucky. You touched on it a little bit briefly in the first question. The last time you raced there, 2003, it was part of a back-to-back win with Gateway and Kentucky. Here is another chance for back-to-back wins or a solid performance. Tell us about the track, what you expect out of the race this year.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, we look to get on the roll and get back-to-back wins here. We had that back in 2003, actually led every lap at Kentucky that year. It's a flat-out track. Usually leads to some pretty tight racing. We're usually running in a pack there. I think we raced last year, although I didn't take part in it, we saw that same pack racing. It's a matter of if you can get a car that can hang on to that lead draft, then it's a matter of just being smart and positioning yourself there later on in the race to try to time something at the end and be the one leading on the last lap.

TIM HARMS: Talk a little overall about the championship. In the past, in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, we've seen really one or two drivers kind of run away with the championship. This year our top five drivers are within 70 points. Kind of seems like the deepest field we've had ever. As a guy who has been around the series for a couple years, tell us about what you see as far as the depth of talent this year.

JEFF SIMMONS: Well, I think we've had -- I mean, I don't know if this is the deepest field or not. I think quite honestly, you know, some of the guys who have more points than they have. It's just -- including us, there's just been a lot of mistakes out there. It's more guys not getting it done rather than everybody else getting it done. Wade Cunningham has a decent lead right now in the points. That's just because he's been consistent. He's been up in the top four or five every single race. I think that we've had -- 2003 I thought was a pretty deep field in terms of the driver talent. I wouldn't say, in my opinion, it's any deeper than that was.

TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and open it up for some questions for Jeff.

Q. Jeff, you talked about how Kentucky is normally a packed track. How do you break away from the pack and how do you stay with the pack when you know it's only going to be 11 or 12 cars in the total pack? How do you get a good race going at that place?

JEFF SIMMONS: Well, I mean, it's a little bit like a Texas. It's a matter of just getting a car that you can drive, right up behind somebody, not have to lift in the corners. You need to be able to be flat out from the start of the race to the end of the race. I mean, when I won there 2003, I didn't lift that whole race. I mean, we got a caution. It was just flat out the whole way. You need a car that handles well in traffic. Obviously, starting up front is nice. I mean, I'm sure the Schmidt cars especially will put in some good qualifying laps and be up front. We haven't been able to find the speed on any of the big tracks, so we're going to concentrate mostly on getting a good race car that I'll be able to drive, you know, many different lines and in many different conditions.

Q. Essentially you need to get the car handling well. Why haven't you been able to find speed, but you've been able to get a good-handling car?

JEFF SIMMONS: I wish I knew. I mean, we go to these bigger tracks and we're pretty uncompetitive. I mean, I spent all of the Texas race just pushing somebody else toward the front because that's about all I could do. But we go to the smaller tracks where you have to hustle the car a bit more and get it handling well, and we seem to do extremely well. I mean, that's why Nashville and Milwaukee went fairly well for us.

TIM HARMS: Jeff, that looks like all the questions we have for you this afternoon. Thanks.

JEFF SIMMONS: All right.

TIM HARMS: Thanks for taking a couple minutes out to join us. Good luck this weekend.

JEFF SIMMONS: Thanks, Tim.

TIM HARMS: We're joined by Sam Hornish, Jr. A little background on Sam. Sam is a two-time IndyCar Series champion. He's in his second year driving the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. He's second in the points standings on the strength of two victories and six top-five victories in 11 races this season. Sam also has strong history at Kentucky Speedway, winning the race there in 2003 and recording three top five finishes in five starts. Sam, I know Kentucky is a special place for you. Back in 2000, it was the site where you led your first laps. Obviously, you've run well there in the other races. Just tell us a little bit about Kentucky Speedway and the race coming up this weekend.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: One of the great things about Kentucky is it's a flat track, a little bit flatter than like Texas, Chicago, some of those other tracks. It's not necessarily all about horsepower. It's more about the handling of the car and how well your car handles through traffic. Another fact that makes Kentucky neat is it is fairly bumpy, which some of the drivers don't like, but I do like that because I think it makes it more challenging to have your car -- the better you handle over the bumps, the better the car can handle, obviously the faster you're going to be. I always enjoy going there because I've had quite a bit of success. As you said, I led my first laps there.

TIM HARMS: You've led laps in 49 races, which is an IRL record. It would be kind of fitting if your 50th race, to lead a lap, came at Kentucky where you led the first time. What do you attribute that type of success and that type of consistency over the years to be able to lead in 49 races?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. Just, you know, there's been a lot of things. I've been with some very good teams. Even from when I first started out, each time was progressively just a little bit better. But, you know, they've always been what I felt to be good cars. Whether it's just because, you know, the engineers and I were able to talk to each other and figure out what the car needed for us to be able to go out there and win or lead races or whether the cars were that good. But, you know, I think there's been so many things that just kind of worked out for me. It would be great to be able to lead at Kentucky, a place where I led my first one. Have to wait and see. It's one of my favorite racetracks. I think anything can happen there. We just need to go there and keep upbeat and make sure that we do everything right and give ourselves a good opportunity to win at the end.

TIM HARMS: Let's take a look at the points race. You're trailing Dan Wheldon by 78 points with six races to go. How do you go about approaching these next six races to try to make up that deficit and win your third championship?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It's definitely going to be very difficult. Dan was really on a hot streak the beginning of the year, and he continues to do well. But the way I look at it, there's a lot of racing left to go in this season, a lot of things can happen. In 2001, I was I think 10 points ahead with two races to go in the championship and when it was all over with, I was 105. Really just have to be careful when it comes to the end of these races because so many things can happen. People that haven't won yet this year are trying to win. People that are up there in the championship are pressuring you.

TIM HARMS: We'll open it up for some questions for Sam.

Q. The fact that you talked about this track being such a technical track, and you being a technical driver, can that give you an advantage?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. I sure hope so. I feel like if you look at so far this season the tracks that have been more traditionally handling tracks, myself and my Marlboro Team Penske team, Helio Castroneves, have been able to do well. We won all three of the short tracks. Indy, while it is a bigger track, it is more handling, we led a lot of laps there even though we didn't finish as well as we'd like to. The more technical tracks we go to, the better off we're going to fare. While Michigan, Chicago, California, some of the tracks that we're going to towards the end of the year here are a little bit more about horsepower, but all in all, you have to have a good-handling car at all of them that you go to. We'll just try to figure out where we can maximize our points and where we need go out there and stay out of trouble and make it to the end. Toyota has worked really hard to make sure trying to close the gap better and better. I think we've been able to do that. We haven't been to the point yet where we're able to compete for the win on these bigger tracks. It's more just hanging on. But I think that with the way things have been going, hopefully by the end of the year we'll be where we need to be.

Q. You mentioned the fact of the bumps in the racetrack. It almost sounded as though you were happy they were there. Do you like being in a situation where you've got more control over the car than the car has power, so to speak?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, you know, I think so. That's really something that I think I've been able to do well. I've had a lot of my wins that came on mile and a half's and two miles and whatnot. I think my favorite tracks have always been the shorter, Phoenix, places like that. I always enjoy that. I've always enjoyed the way that the car handles at Kentucky. You really have to be on top of it all day long. It's a lot about how you get the car to ride over those bumps. The better it handles over the bumps, the better off you're going to be. I think that challenge is good for us because I think Marlboro Team Penske really steps up to the plate as far as that goes. They always give me good-handling cars and they always give me good pit stops. If we can have both of those things work out well for us at Kentucky, definitely I think we should be able to be up there and hopefully challenge for the win.

Q. Looking down the road a little bit here, you are coming to Infineon. It's one of two road courses. What do you think about the road courses and how they'll help your campaign for the championship? What did you find out when you were here earlier this year for the testing?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, definitely I have a lot of ground to make up on some of those road courses. I feel I've always been very strong on the ovals. Actually, there was a point in time where I felt more confident going to a road course race. With the consideration that I haven't been in the last six years, you know, competed on road courses very often, and I've never really been in an IndyCar on road courses, it's really something new for me to go out there and to run this year. I think with St. Petersburg, the street race that we had, I was very happy with how things were going until about the last 15 laps of the race. We got run over from behind. Kind of took us out. I think we would have been top five pretty easy there. We qualified well. So I think that while a lot of people expect me not to be able to do very well there, I can't predict the future on one hand, but hopefully things will go well and I'll stay out of trouble, make sure that I make it through those races. Like I said, it's like any other race, you have to go out there and get through the first 95% of it and give yourself the opportunity to win at the end.

Q. You look at the points standings, see all the Andretti Green guys around you. Is it kind of intimidating to see all those teammates around? Does that make it tough to make up ground on Dan?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I guess the one thing that helps me out in that situation, I'll start with the positive first, is the fact they all are kind of there, so they're motivating each other. While I'm sure that they'd like to see Dan win the championship, they'd all rather win it themselves. They're going to put some pressure on him, too. On the other hand, we get to the bigger tracks, they can kind of gang up on me and make it four against one. I don't know, I guess I'm up to the challenge. I'll go out there and do the best I can. Being second in the points, of course, they're going to be kind of gunning for me a little bit. They know we've caught up a bit in the last couple races. Hopefully we'll continue to head that direction.

Q. Helio has raced there as well behind those Andretti Green guys. How big a disadvantage is it that it's two against four?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think there's other things that have played into a disadvantage for us than what that has. I think that we've kind of come to the point that we both know we need to work with each other and hopefully things will work out on these last couple big tracks. Obviously, we're going to have to try to do the best we can to push each other and to draft together and to really be teammates on the mile and a half and two mile tracks that we go to coming up. But, you know, I feel that with Helio's knowledge of the road courses, he's going to be able to help me out a little bit there and in turn I'll be able to help him out also. It would be nice to get a couple 1-2 finishes if not have both of us in the top five at the last two road courses of the year.

Q. Where would you rate Pikes Peak in terms of tracks you like racing at?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, Pikes Peak obviously didn't go very well for me last year. I felt that we were very fast, had an opportunity to win. I made a little bit of a mistake trying to get around somebody. Hopefully I won't make that same mistake this year. I've had some very good runs there. I always look forward to going there. It's obviously one of the mile tracks that is a little bit more about handling. It gets pretty close to being flat out there. It's a really fast racetrack for only being a mile. There's two lanes usually at least around that track. It's really a fun track for us to go to because you can pass, but it is also a handling track. It's kind of somewhere in the middle between what you would think of like a Milwaukee or Phoenix compared to going to Chicago or Texas. It's kind of a little mix of both.

Q. The exposure that IRL is drawing this year, is it just good exposure? I know there's been some backlash. It seems like the series is more popular than ever. More people in the stands. How do you view all this that's come about this season?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I just feel, you know, the more people we have there watching the races, in the stands, the better it is for us. You really need to make sure that we continue to go in the right direction. I think it continues to grow. I know that everybody has their own speculation as to why. But I know the fact that Danica has been in the series, that that's helped out a lot. A lot of people want to know, do you feel jealous about it, things like that. I'm the kind of guy that I don't need all the attention, so it's nice because somebody else kind of takes it a little bit. Plus I know that people that tune in, there's going to be a lot of people tune in to see how she does. If she doesn't do well that day, and I win a race or Helio wins a race, they might say, "I like one of those guys. They're fast." I think all in all, it's going to end up helping us all out.

Q. There's been some talk a while back about a possible IRL/Champ Car merger. Do you ever see that happening? If it did happen, how much do you think that would actually benefit IRL?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. We have to go -- I'm sure it's going to have to be good for all parties. It can't just be good for one or the other. I think it's always going to be a tough deal to get done. But I think that in all actuality, we have to look at it, it's going to have to be the right thing at the right time. I think if Don Wright and everybody agrees on it, it could be very good for everybody. Just have to wait to see what happens.

Q. You mentioned before you like the shorter tracks. You mentioned the Phoenix track. I'm sure you've heard all the rumors that the IRL may not be coming back to PIR next year. How frustrating and disappointing is something like that to you if it happens?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know if it's frustrating. Obviously, like I said before, I like all those small tracks. Nazareth was one I liked a lot. I liked to go on and run in St. Louis. When it comes down to it, if we can't draw the people or it doesn't work out on that certain day, we got to find somewhere else to go where we're going to get people. There's so many sponsors that really we need to do the right thing for them more so, even though most all the drivers love going to Phoenix and it's a great track. We got to find someplace that people will be interested. The sponsors, that's what they need to be able to justify what they're doing. In turn, they pay our bills. We need them pretty bad. While everybody may not think it's the greatest idea, you've got to look at it and say, "This is what needs to happen," more so than, "This is what we want to happen."

Q. When you were testing last week at Kentucky Speedway, did you find the bumps were more pronounced than they were in 2004? If so, what are you doing to compensate?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'm not really sure. It's kind of hard to tell. The cars, while they're fairly similar, there are some differences in the downforce package. I didn't really look too hard at the computer trace of the bumps on the track. It feels somewhat similar to what we had last year. It's kind of I would say pretty close to being the same. It's hard to tell.

Q. Do those bumps make it more difficult to pass people or do they help you sometimes?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think it makes it more -- it may make it a little bit more difficult to keep the car in one spot when you're trying to pass somebody because the bumps move your car around. On the other hand, the bumps, somebody that has a car that's not handling quite like they would like it to, maybe it's a little loose, the bumps are really going to be in their head. Kind of might make it easier to pass. They might not be on the gas quite as hard.

Q. How do you figure that more people show up to watch the race at Kentucky than at Michigan? As a driver, do you ask yourself that question?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. It's really tough because I remember back in the late '80s going up to Michigan, the place was packed. Then go to the NASCAR race, it would be half full, if that. You know, I think Kentucky, that's a place that puts on a good show. There's a good solid fan core base down there, a lot of people even from northwest Ohio. People that would go to Michigan come down there because it's still relatively close. You have a big crowd from Indianapolis. Just one of the good things about it is, it's like two hours from everywhere if you look at it. It's not that far of a drive. There's a lot of big cities that are close to that. I think that's one of the things that helps us out.

Q. Do you feel like you're still chasing a power curve? Are you still having to like hang it out like maybe you did last year to be competitive or have things kind of come around for you a little bit this year?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I still think we're hanging it out to be competitive. A lot of people say, "Sam won a race. Helio won a race. Sam ran well at Michigan." I think that's fine and good that that's their explanation for it. They say there's not that much of a difference. You look, it's like one of us at each race, and it usually tends to be Helio and myself. I think that's because of how good Team Penske is as a team. I think there's a lot of things that help us out there. On the other hand, I think until you see the rest of the Toyota teams up there, I still think there's work to be done. I think they're trying very hard and doing a lot of work, but it is hard to come back from any kind of a deficit, whether it's 10 points, 15, 20 or five. You can come to the race and get five more. If the other guy gets four, it takes you five races to catch up. It's a tough thing to do to start from behind. Toyota had a little bit of that problem at the beginning of last year and kind of worked hard and got to where it was good. Hopefully we'll have the same thing as this year.

Q. That was like the incident that happened in Milwaukee. On television they just interviewed Roger Penske. They took a big wing out of your car to make that last sprint. Your car jumped, y'all got together. Is that sort of like the ragged edge that you're kind of driving to be competitive? Do you understand what I'm saying?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, it's tough. You got to be right there. But on the other hand I don't know if I was exactly the same as everybody else, would you go to that little bit more of a ragged edge so you have an advantage over them? It's like one of those things, even though it sounds like -- we always kind of joke about that. We take more downforce off, we'll go faster, but it will be harder to drive. Wouldn't we do the same thing if we could gain an advantage over everybody else if everything was equal? It's hard to say. I don't know what the difference is between the two or three engines. I feel while there are some things that we lack a little bit on, there's a lot of things that are made up for. I think all we can do is go out there, keep working on it, hopefully get to where we need to be.

TIM HARMS: Sam, thanks a lot for joining us this afternoon. Good luck this weekend.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.

TIM HARMS: We're joined now by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 6 Argent Pioneer Panos/Honda. Danica leads the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year standings, ranks 11th overall in points. She has two 4th place finishes this year, including the Indianapolis 500. Danica, thanks for joining us this afternoon. We're heading to our fifth one and a half mile track of the season. Obviously you're starting to get a little bit more experience on this type of track. These tracks have been pretty good to you so far this season with your first pole coming at Kansas, first top five finish at Motegi. As we head to another one at Kentucky Speedway, what are your expectations as we go into the weekend?

DANICA PATRICK: Well, I'm finding that all the tracks are a little bit different. Some of the time the corners are banked more than others. Other times they're more of a one-groove track than a two-groove, or two and three. They all have their little differences, bumps and whatnot. But the general feel, it's good to be able to go back to something that at least you kind of have seen before. I'm getting used to it. We're still working hard. As the last race at Michigan showed, we can go to a big oval and be really fast, or we can go and not quite hit the setup. There's lots of little differences within each track.

TIM HARMS: Let's open it up for some questions for Danica.

Q. Whether you like it or not you've become a role model. Some sports athletes embrace that situation, some don't. How do you view all this? How do you cope with this on a daily basis when girls who race soapbox cars and others look up to you?

DANICA PATRICK: Well, I guess I would be one of those athletes that's embraced it. I think it's very flattering when people look up to you, you know, notice what you're doing. So, you know, you do your best to help and accommodate and answer any questions anybody has. One of the things at this point in time, it's difficult to act on everything and be active. But, you know, you just for the most part be there for questions and answers and autographs and whatever it is they want.

Q. Within the league itself there's been publicized things about you getting special treatment at autograph sessions. How has it been in the league in general dealing with the pressure of being who you are, racing against these guys every weekend?

DANICA PATRICK: I think it's been great. I enjoy racing with all these guys. I've enjoyed getting to know all of them, becoming just plain old social with them. They're all really great. They're all really great race car drivers, and that's why they're IndyCar drivers. I've enjoyed all that. I think I know there's more stuff to do sometimes for me than for others. But at the same time I'm benefitting from it and so are the people that are closely involved with me, the team sponsors. We all know that we're there to race cars. What happens behind the scenes is up to each of us individually.

Q. Have you ever raced at PPIR?

DANICA PATRICK: PPIR?

Q. Pikes Peak.

DANICA PATRICK: No

Q. Are you excited about coming here?

DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I am actually. I think after the race in Milwaukee, getting out there and going faster, not running in the back like we were at Phoenix and Richmond, it felt good. I'll just have to make sure the rear-end of the car is tied down a little better.

Q. What is the coolest thing you've gotten to do since you became a national celebrity? Has the incredible amount of attention caused you to feel more pressure?

DANICA PATRICK: The coolest thing that I've probably done, you know, going to the ESPYs was pretty neat. Just to be treated so well. I mean, I really felt special. I felt like I was wanted there. I'm amongst these incredible athletes that have accomplished so much, too, as well as the celebrities. It was a lot of fun. I've just always thought that athletes -- it's just amazing how somebody can be so talented in one area and just be so much better than everyone else or just be so good. There's so few who make it that want to. To feel like I was in that category is really weird, but very rewarding. I feel very grateful and flattered for all the gifts I've been given. You're asking how I've handled it?

Q. Do you feel more pressure?

DANICA PATRICK: I feel like as each race goes on, as long as I'm learning and as long as I can say that I've walked away with more experience and have changed something in the past that I'd done wrong maybe, maybe as a team we've done wrong and improved on it, it was a victory. I feel like as long as we keep doing that, we're moving in the right direction, and it's just a matter of time before I'm running in the front more consistently, and the inevitable will happen. Hopefully I'll be in a much more consistent position to win my first race.

Q. Kentucky is known as a bumpy track. Sam talked about the importance of handling. Does that play to the strength of your team or your particular driving style?

DANICA PATRICK: I hope so. I think we've struggled sometimes and we've done well sometimes. It's probably no different than any other team, except you see it much more closely and you notice it when it's your team or when it's your car. I mean, I think the team is doing a great job. With the Panos, we're struggling a little bit for handling a lot of times. I think some of the different things in the car have changed a little bit. We don't have -- we're not up on everything every track. That's something that we battle as a team different than most others in the Dallaras. Let's hope that we can get it nailed down. The ability of the team is definitely there. I believe in my engineers so much. I hope we get it.

Q. Looking ahead to Infineon out here, it's the first road course ever in Indy history. You were out here testing. Are you looking forward to the road races and doing something different?

DANICA PATRICK: I am. It's going to be difficult. It's going to be a tough race, I think. It's a very physical track. I'm sure it will be challenging. A lot of these teams have done road courses before and so it's going to be a bit of a refresher. I think we're all excited for the change. We're all excited for the growth in the series that it brings. I think I'm still going to struggle as a rookie, even though I've done a lot of road racing in my most recent history. These guys, let's not forget, are drivers that have come from Champ Car and Indy Lights and various other big cars. They'll know what's going on. I come from Atlantics, which is a fairly slow, under-powered car. It's still going to be very challenging.

Q. When you were out here testing, what was the one thing that you took away from Infineon that you really remembered?

DANICA PATRICK: It's going to be really physical. Everybody's talking about it. It's going to be tough.

Q. Coming down the stretch, last handful of races, is there more of a sense of urgency, like you have to win a race?

DANICA PATRICK: No.

Q. Is it still just, like you said, improving and taking something every week?

DANICA PATRICK: Not everybody wins in their first season, that's for sure. Most people don't. There's only been a few in the current series that have. No, not at all. I think you have to take into consideration what the circumstances are, how the team is performing, how you're doing, how much you're learned and how fast, how lucky you've been, the breaks you've caught. I think all those things have to come into play and we have to take notice of what's going on. I'd love to win a race this season. I would love it. That would be my most recent dream come true. We'll have to wait and see. I'm not going to let that decide whether or not I've had a good season.

Q. You were talking about the Sonoma track, Infineon. Have you had up to this moment any time in a race car where you felt like it was tougher -- that you couldn't handle it? You haven't had a moment like that yet, have you?

DANICA PATRICK: No. I really feel like I've prepared myself well. Definitely my fiancee has helped me out with that, just my sheer dedication to the program. I'm picking up weights that are hard to like get up to shoulder level. Once I get them there, it's okay. There's chitter-chatter that's happened, talking about it's a hard track. There's a lot of grip. There's a lot of hills and banking. It's going to be tough. It's going to be tough for a lot of people.

Q. Is it more of an upper body type of workout as opposed to the ovals? Is that the difference?

DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think in a road course, you need to be able to push and pull, grab the wheel hard, there's long and short corners. You need to be able to have the endurance, but you need to be able to have the sheer strength to turn the wheel sometimes. When we tested out there, we weren't doing full tanks and new tires every time, which is the race conditions. It's going to be hard. But I think we'll all obviously know that's coming and do the best we can to prepare for it.

Q. What is the message that maybe Bobby has given you all about as a team getting your act together this weekend at Kentucky? Has that come up? As a group, it wasn't a good effort a few weeks ago.

DANICA PATRICK: I just think that we don't -- we just don't have the advantage like we did last year I think on the big ovals, where I think we thought we were going to go into that weekend running pretty darn good and hopefully go for the win. I think that's what we walked into that weekend thinking and what we wanted. We didn't even come close to that. None of us were in position to win that race. I think that was disappointing. All we can do is keep doing what we're doing. We went into that weekend trying as hard as we could with probably higher expectations which made it feel worse. But we need to be more humble and just keep focused on what we need to do. Just keep doing the same thing. Doesn't mean we're trying any more or less. Maybe just going into it with a little more humble expectation. I'm speaking mostly from my point of view.

Q. Are you having enough seat time now where after a practice session or two you can literally tell Ray that the car is off or crap?

DANICA PATRICK: Sure

Q. Have you moved over to that edge now?

DANICA PATRICK: Oh, yeah. I think that's something that I could -- I think that's something that I could probably -- that I have always been able to do. I think that's what makes us drivers. But I think that one of the things that develops is your trust, for me anyway, I shouldn't speak for everybody. For me I've had to develop the trust that I'm right. If they made a big change, I'll come into the pits and they'll say, "What did that do?" If I don't feel anything, I've got to say, "I don't feel anything." If they didn't do anything, all of a sudden I'm going around, I feel something is going on, you have to trust your instincts on ovals especially is what I've learned. If the car can't do it, the car can't do it. You can't force it. Just trusting my instincts has been something that's definitely helped. As long as I do that, I'm fine. The worst thing that you can do as a driver is make up answers. No progress happens. Mostly you go backwards when you do that.

Q. Is that the worst thing in the world, being at the back of a pack on an oval?

DANICA PATRICK: They always say on an oval when you're running good, it's a lot of fun, and when you're not, it's just a long day. And that's true. I did the best I could, especially at the last race, to improve the car. I was definitely throwing the weight around inside the cockpit, just trying to make it handle and be drivable. It was really hard. There are going to be races like that and there are going to be races like that pretty much for everybody in the series at some point in time. You just have to deal with it. As a team, we need to minimize that. It's not good to go into a race and not be confident with your machine and what you've got, know what it's going to do. That was the case.

Q. How much of this stuff have you had to do, weekly teleconference, appearances? Was it more than you expected?

DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think we've devised the most efficient way of taking care of media. I think it's been done very well, which I credit the team for that. I embrace it. I don't think it's bad. I know it needs to be done for myself, for the sponsors, for the team, for the series. If I had the ability to help, I would feel bad if I didn't. Do I think it's more than what I expected? I don't know if I ever prepared myself mentally for what was going to happen. I always kind of felt like I -- and this is true, I really always have done a lot of stuff. The criteria has changed now. It's just slightly more national media. We've just kind of moulded it slightly different. It's different people we're talking to.

Q. Is there almost a sense of pride in what you've been able to do for this series?

DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. You know, I think a long time ago all the way back to when the split happened, my dad said, "This might be the best opportunity for you to become an IndyCar driver," I was like, "Huh?" I don't know how old I was. 12 or 13 years old. All the way up till now, the last few years, thinking if I can get into the series, I just know I can help and make a difference. If we can just do well on the track, great things can happen. It probably is even bigger than what I thought it was going to be, or faster, maybe not necessarily bigger. But it all happened so fast. I think you have to have big dreams.

Q. I guess father knows best.

DANICA PATRICK: That's true. My father, as odd and excitable as he is, he has these grand ideas and brainstorms, he knows best.

Q. Was this part of his grand ideas and brainstorm?

DANICA PATRICK: Oh, yeah, it was.

Q. Was there a point where you thought he was crazy?

DANICA PATRICK: Oh, yes. We as kids have always thought our parents are crazy at some point, I'm sure.

Q. We talked about the pressure and demands that have come with your season. Could you touch a little on the tension you had to deal with, the autograph session, some of the stuff we don't know about that you've had to manage?

DANICA PATRICK: You know, I think -- I'm very lucky that I have so many people. I do have a lot of people that help me and a lot of people just to help deal with these things and schedule them for me and everything. Where I do receive a lot of phone calls, I have a lot of help, as far as the team and the PR department, my agent, even my family helping. I'm happy and lucky for that. But at the same time it's difficult to say no. When you become more popular, there's a lot more no's out there. I'm trying to just do what's good for everybody at the time instead of doing everything.

Q. I also mention the tension inherent when you're getting a lot of focus, how you deal with that, how you've managed that with other drivers.

DANICA PATRICK: I think that at this point in time, however it comes is good. I hope it's all for good reasons, hope it's not negative. But however it's coming, it's good. We need it to come however. We need more viewers, more people in the stands. We just need the series to grow. I think that we all understand that. I think we all get that. I think as the series grows and there becomes more and more fans out there all the time, everybody is going to pick their favorite. I'm surely not going to be everybody's favorite. Each driver will have a bigger fan base and everything will get better.

Q. We've seen the commercial on TV where the women go crazy over Kasey Kahne. What is the most comical thing you've seen people do when they've spotted you?

DANICA PATRICK: I try and keep my head down. I don't notice everything. I don't notice a lot. I definitely notice as I'm riding around a lot of people say, "That's a girl, that's Danica, that's the driver, she's a race car driver." I get a lot of, "You go girl." I haven't noticed so much crazy stuff, unfortunately, I guess. Wouldn't it be exciting if they were breaking down things for me? I'm so flattered. So many times at the races, there is just a huge amount of people waiting for me to sign autographs, to see what's going on, to see me. That's flattering to me. I guess I don't feel that special. Like I've been saying, I think however it comes is good. Maybe it's better, I think it's important to stay humble. I think it would be easy to run away with this and think -- if they wanted to think they were hot stuff, with all the things that have been going on, it probably would be easy. But staying humble I think is a very good thing. I'm aware of the fact that it can go away just as quickly as it came, then there's a new hot star in town and it's not me. You have to keep continuing on with your life in the most normal way you can and not let attention be the deciding factor or the answer or the real gauge as to how things are going. I think you have to stay internal within family and within teams as to how it's going.

Q. In all seriousness, given all the variables, you're learning each week, when do you honestly think your first win will come?

DANICA PATRICK: I think that it could come, you know, as early as, you know, this season, and it could take till next season. I really don't know. I think we've definitely shown the ability to be fast. We've shown the ability to run up front, to lead races, to qualify on pole. I think for me a lot of things have to come together at once. I need to have a good car. I need to qualify well. I need to have good pit stops. I need to make good decisions on the track, catch a break here and there. I think there's a lot of stuff that has to fall into place. When you're a rookie, it's hard to make everything great if you're not always up front, you need even more luck for it to all come into play at one race. I think it's a really difficult question to answer. I bet you'd be hard-pressed to get an answer from anyone in my position on that one.

TIM HARMS: Thank you, Danica. We appreciate you taking time out to join us today. Good luck this weekend.

DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.

TIM HARMS: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on the call today.

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