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IndyCar Series: SunTrust Indy Challenge

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  SunTrust Indy Challenge

IndyCar Series: SunTrust Indy Challenge

Danica Patrick
June 25, 2005


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

THE MODERATOR: Danica, first off, why don't you tell us about your evening.

DANICA PATRICK: Well, we didn't have the fastest of starts from the first session, that's for sure. You know, we were the slowest car on the track for a while. We made some improvements and we changed the car a lot for the last practice last night and we moved up a few more positions, which is always good to be off the bottom. You know, I think as a team we struggled last night and, you know, through the day yesterday. But come race, I know that Vitor tried some things for the car and that was very encouraging that he was out there racing in the top five or six I think, which was awesome, and Buddy had made such great changes, such a big change, I should say. We made changes in the right direction but made the car better by myself, but still acted a lot like it did in Phoenix with oversteer and an inconsistent car aerodynamically behind cars. So where I could run by myself and catch the next car, I just couldn't do anything about it. I would more or less get caught by people behind me because I was getting held up. It was kind of frustrating because I felt I had a good enough car by myself to make some improvements but the aerodynamic consistency might be an issue. Some of the setup is obviously some of the issue. So, we'll make improvements. But, you know, at least better than Phoenix where the car was not very good my myself either. So 50 percent better -- you know, 50 percent better is a lot better than none.

Q. (No microphone).

DANICA PATRICK: I think that it would be, you know, it was tough, it was tough to be behind people and not do anything about it, especially when this track is so short and you're not on a super speedway where the car moves all around because there's a lot more wind and you're going faster. You know, we're only doing 160, 170 miles an hour, that was kind of frustrating. I think this place could be really fun if we get the car set up a little bit better for traffic. But I'm proud of the engineers and I'm proud of the team for the improvements that we've made so far. The car was very -- the car was difficult and not extremely fast by myself before this, so I had to be happy with that. We all like tracks that we're good and fast at, and I wasn't necessarily the fastest one. So my impressions will probably be better the next time I go. Nevertheless it's always good to change it up and go to a short course.

Q. (No microphone).

DANICA PATRICK: We had a lot more yellows, you can relax here. We ran like 120 laps or something straight without a yellow I think, and I was kind of running I about myself is a little bit and then I went out with Briscoe. So it wasn't quite as much stuff going on. So I guess if, you know -- I don't know, maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before, I don't know. But, you know, I think that the night racing is good, and like I can hear right now there's fireworks going off and it's a great show for people. I just hope that everybody that came out today enjoyed themselves and they will come to more.

Q. Did you enjoy yourself?

DANICA PATRICK: Did I enjoy myself? You know, I wasn't necessarily able to pass so many people, and passing is the best part. It's not my favorite thing to pass when they crash and make up positions that way, but then again, I think one thing that I've learned and accepted and respected as part of the racing is just finishing a lot of times. I mean, in long races and with as many things going on as there are out there and with the changing track and everything like that, and with fatigue, if that's an issue for someone, then, know, you can make mistakes and that's part of it. If you can do the race without making mistakes, then I guess you finish better than this.

Q. Last couple races have not been -- (no microphone).

DANICA PATRICK: Are you getting antsy to write something about me that I want to race or something? I wish I would, trust me, trust me. It's definitely not from a lack of trying. We've been far busier and had so much more stuff going on as a team when we are not the fastest cars and it's so much more difficult. It's harder for the drivers and the engineers. So, I've been antsy to win an IndyCar race since I was ten years old, so I guess I've learned to deal with that and understand the fact that, you know, I do have a ton to learn. I am a rookie; I have had some good things go on here this year so far. And so we have to look to that and say, hey, man, that's a rookie doing that, that's good. You know, we're going to accept these bad races and understand that she's learning and have respect to what's going on within the team. If my teammates were first and second and I was qualifying in the back, then, you know, we'd have to think about what's going on here, why isn't she running faster. Is she frustrated now? Yeah, of course. I think that as a team, we had a lot of work to do this weekend and I think that they did a good job and been working hard and coming up with solutions and there were solutions. It's just when you're only limited to so many runs, and, well, that's all the chances you get.

Q. (No microphone).

DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I think that you're right, and thank you for saying that. They are the toughest. Texas is notorious for people not breathing in that final practice, which I know a lot of my team and a lot of the people upstairs watching, and even fans and friends and family didn't breathe in that final practice. And it's just hectic out there and it's really hard and Texas is just that. And then Richmond obviously is this short, little itty-bitty track, you know, it's rough on the body, it's rough on the car and it's just tough out there. So these are the kind of places that we'll get better simply with experience, just flat-out experience. If I came here with the same car next year, probably do a little better maybe. And we still have gains to go with the car. You can only do so much as a driver, you know, when the car is not perfect. I think that at the end of the day, if I were to try and stick it in and, you know, hack somebody here or there or push it on my own and the car reacted bad and went into the wall, then I would not be able to sit here and say I learned a lot and I did 250 laps. I think just finishing a race like today with the difficulty out there is an accomplishment in itself. Thank you.

Q. Basically, are you happy with the tenth-place finish?

DANICA PATRICK: When you phrase it that way, no. (Laughing). With my expectations coming into the weekend, and especially with the way that it went on the track the first few runs in qualifying, I would say that if I were going to be told I would finish tenth at the end of the weekend, I would be very happy. My engineer, Ray, said earlier if we can walk away from this one with a top ten, we'll be walking away smiling and having a little party afterwards. Like I was saying earlier, I don't know if you were here, but so much of the battle of these races when you go 250-mile laps, whatever, wherever we are, 500 miles in some cases, it's just finishing and not doing something stupid that's going to put you out of the race. Well, accomplished that battle today. So we'll get the car better and we'll hopefully move up.

Q. Did you have a problem with your steering tonight? How much of a factor was that out there?

DANICA PATRICK: I didn't really notice. I cracked my visor a couple of times because I was starting to glow, because women don't perspire, they glow, underneath my eyes and just got a little bit of breeze in. But the heat was no big deal, not too bad. I had enough yellows that I was able to take fluids in. I felt good out there, I felt fine. Definitely not as physically draining as I thought, shouldn't have ate so much earlier -- no, just kidding. But then as far as the steering goes, you know, you can see a lot through the steering. If you're watching if there's an in-car camera, you can see what I'm doing with my hands, and early on in the race, you know, I would start and the car would want to oversteer initially. And as soon as there got heat in the tires, especially the front tires, it would understeer. And I was just, arrgghh, just trying to push it through the corner without letting the front end hit the wall on the exit. So there was a lot of steering input there. And then when I would get behind people, the car would just want to step out in the rear, a little bit of understeer and step out on the rear. It was just very inconsistent and I didn't know what to expect from it. About halfway, three-quarters of the way through the race, I just could never shake is that oversteer feeling by myself. So, you know, my engineer helped me and we made some adjustments to the car, and finally at the very end it held a little bit better. And then towards the end the grip level came up on the track with all of us out there getting the Hoosier tire rubber and a bunch of tires going out, you get a lot of grip out there. So that's what caused the rear to want to come around on the end but we fixed it and, you know, now I know for next year when I come here that's a characteristic.

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