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IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Danica Patrick
May 9, 2007


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

THE MODERATOR: Danica Patrick joins us. Of course she's looking for her third start here in Indianapolis. We look back to an interesting ride. We first met over on the fourth floor of the media center, when she first announced her intentions to run at the Indianapolis in 2005, and that was a memorable race, indeed, for her and our fans.
And then in many respects, some insiders believe that her performance last year was even better working to find some speed and going through what can be an awfully hard month here at Indianapolis and coming home again with the quality of runs.
Danica, I think with the team you're with, with a team that has proven they can win and win here, we can only imagine that you're pretty excited about your chances.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I think that as the years go on, you get more experience, and this is a place I think that experience pays off. The team has made incredible strides over the wintertime to get faster and get up to speed better. I don't think we're there yet. I think that Ganassi is pretty quick still and a various couple (others). But overall we're a lot better off.
I think it's going to be a good race this year, just like always, you've got to be lucky. You've got to catch the right breaks and try not to pit before a caution flag like every time last year I did, and maybe -- yeah. I think I was about to go a lap down about three times last year. So I got to drive around plenty last year.
No, I think this is going to be a good year. We've started off well. It doesn't mean that you can't fall off, but it does mean you're right there to go forward. I don't think we've found the true potential of the car, just like I'm sure nobody else has, but I think it's a good place to start.

Q. From the beginning you said you want to be treated more as a driver, not just a female and whatnot, do you feel like a couple years under your belt and now three females, do you feel like you can be a driver?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know if I've ever really said necessarily that I want to just be treated as a driver; don't treat me like a girl. I don't think I've ever said that. I've said that that's how I see myself.
I understand the difference from your perspective because I am different and I've also embraced that. I don't think that that's a negative. I don't feel any which way about it. It just is what it is, so I understand it from both perspectives.
So, you know, I think that the most important thing, though, is that I don't see that and that I can carry on with the program and go faster on the track and not set guidelines like I'm a girl or something. That's not what's important and that's not what's going to make you the best driver.

Q. There's a lot of different personalities at Andretti Green Racing. How are you fitting in, what do you like about the team, and have you actually had any words to Milka Duno this month?
DANICA PATRICK: Andretti Green is a fun team, that's for sure. They are always having a good time, good friends off the track, and on. We're good teammates, and so I'm fitting in well. But it's a lot of work. They work very hard. It's many, many hours of trying to figure out how to go faster, and that's a change for me.
But it's like an embraced change. It's something I need. I feel like I'm learning a lot, just about the car and about what I need in the car. I really feel like I've made a very good choice to go to Andretti Green because I'm learning so much, and obviously they are much quicker this year than they were last year. So I think that it's working out well.
And as far as Milka, I have not talked to her. I've never talked to her before. I don't talk to -- I don't know. I have no reason I guess necessarily. I haven't spoken to her.

Q. With the new fuel cells, pit stops are getting done about the same time -- inaudible -- when do you know, is it the right front tire change --
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, I know where your question is going. (Laughter).
Yeah, blinking, that's a pit stop that's for sure. The reason why we're faster is we get such good fuel mileage now, whether it's from the ethanol -- I believe it's mostly from the ethanol. So we went from a 30- to a 22-gallon tank, so eight gallons less filling up is a significant amount. So our pit stops are about seven seconds now.
And, yes, you go off of right front. That's who you look at. He's the one looking down pit lane. So I'm constantly looking at him. That's the man I go on.

Q. Yesterday I think it was, Derek Dale (ph) said on television that you were the driver under the most pressure this year. How do you react to that?
DANICA PATRICK: Hmmm, I guess I do feel that I -- I do feel more pressure this year. I think that it's many things that contribute to that, though. As the years go on, you get more impatient. You just want to go out there and run up front, and as a result you're going to win races. It was definitely a frustrating year last year driving better but not finishing better.
I think that there's obviously many people that have invested into me and into performing well and winning races. So I want to return that. I want to do it. I want to do it more for me than for them, though.
I think that like I said, as time goes on, and with all of those other things, you want to do better and there's less excuses. The team is more prepared I believe, but it will happen and I think that that's the -- and people still, I believe, believe that, and that's a good thing. It's not like anybody is saying, "Well, maybe you can't." I haven't heard that yet, so that's very positive.
And I know it's a matter of time and a matter of everything falling into place at the right time. As I said a few times, unfortunately the first year, I had a fast car but not as much experience; and then the next year, I had more experience, and I was prepared I think as a driver more but the car was bad.
So, you know, it was unfortunate. But I believe that, you know, as we get comfortable with each other on the team that I'm at now, that it will come.

Q. For lack of a better term, it's like the paparazzi, all of the attention is on you, the other day you're out jogging with your husband and there you are on the video screen; it's like you're not even allowed to have a bad hair day.
DANICA PATRICK: (Laughing.)

Q. How difficult is that?
DANICA PATRICK: I feel like I suppose I'm seen at my best and my worst probably. When you're on track and when things go whichever way they go, you're showing real raw emotion. Let's say at the end of Michigan, I honestly didn't think anyone was looking at me, because the race was a lap or two at the end, so they are all looking at leaders; and I was mad, that was me uncensored.
So I guess I am always really myself and I think that since I am on -- since we are in an environment where real emotion comes out all the time and I don't have makeup on ever, I just -- I am how I am every day. I comb my hair out and I don't do anything else, and I think that allows me to just kind of be myself. Because if everybody else sees you in those raw states and I actually try times, then it's probably okay.

Q. A follow up to what was asked earlier, the first year you broke out on the scene, last year the question was, you know, when will Danica win. Does there get to be a point where in the third year, the question changes to: Can Danica win, and is that something that's a concern with you?
DANICA PATRICK: No. I think that I answered that just in the last question. It's not a matter of can. I don't believe that at all, and nobody else in my camp believes that and they have only really seen me internally as a driver.
As they told me, they said: You know, go out there, you have nothing to prove us. We know you're fast and there's no issue for you there. It's going to happen for you. It is. We don't doubt that at all. And that's coming from the likes of Andretti, Franchitti and Kanaan. Those are pretty good guys, and I would imagine they wouldn't -- if they didn't believe it, they at least wouldn't say anything. So they have no reason to say anything if they don't believe it.
It's just a matter of time. I believe there's more -- you know, there is always going to be that little bit of emphasis on it because I'm not silly, I know it will be a big moment. I know that it will be a real record, so I know that it will always be there lingering right here. But I think I'm getting more to terms with just going, I have no idea, your guess is as good as mine. (Laughing).

Q. It seems like there's some teams from last year that have stepped up the competition this year. And I feel that maybe at the 500, it may be a little tighter, a little harder this year; your opinion on that?
DANICA PATRICK: I think last year to this year, definitely I would agree, has some teams that have picked up speed for sure, maybe even to lead that pack at Andretti Green.
Yeah, it's not the four red cars just storming away. I am not going to say that they are not fast. Definitely, clearly, I think that in particular, Dixon and Wheldon are very quick right now, but they are not like, five-mile-an-hour quicker than us. They are, you know, from what we can tell, they look like they are going quick, they are a little bit more trimmed.
There are a couple of little things, and we're like, well, we're not that far after, which is good. Because before it seems like, "who is racing for fifth today," and that's a good thing. That's a good thing for not only everybody in the league, but everybody watching, too. Everybody likes to see a race that you don't know who is going to win; good races, close competition, and I think we're going to have a lot more of that.

Q. Some people have downgraded the 500 as an event, and what are your feelings about being here and the race itself?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that the -- I think the race over the last, you know, 15 years, is definitely gone up-and-down obviously with the split. I don't know how long ago it was now, 12 years ago, maybe. You know, that had an impact for sure. I was actually surprised to find out that this is only -- I think I read it in the newspaper or something, it was only Dario's fifth Indy 500. Fifth? That's not that much. And then you've got guys like Sharp that have run it 12 times. It makes you remember that it was only a little while back that there was many, many drivers that weren't in IndyCar; they were in Champ Car.
I think that over the last couple of years, there's been increased attention and awareness of the event from where it was before, maybe five, eight years ago, ten years ago. Nobody has ever forgotten about the Indy 500, though, nobody ever. It's a race that you can say and everybody understands and knows what it is. I don't think that will ever change.
And I've got to tell you that last year, I heard so many good things about people saying that the atmosphere was like -- back like it was more in the old days and everybody was having fun and there was lots of people. And it just was, you know, just a better environment and more exciting and everybody was here for the Indy 500. That's good.
And obviously we know that the ratings have gone up and all that stuff is really good. It takes a lot of people to swing that, so when you actually see increased awareness and more people watching, it's taken not just ten people. It's taken hundreds of thousands of people to do that.

Q. If all three females that are practicing now make this show and there are three females in the Indy 500, the significance of that for you, what's it mean?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm not one to stand up here and not be honest. Honestly, if it's a story that you guys write about that you talk about, that makes other people interested, that's great. There are tons of stories out here that some people recognize and some don't.
For me it doesn't make a difference. I don't look back. I don't think about anybody else. It's definitely more of a greedy, selfish environment racing. You're always trying to go faster; you're always trying to beat everyone. So for me it's not -- it's not necessarily something that I think about a lot. While I'm honored to be part of that, I don't really think about it.

Q. You've been through qualifying twice here. When you're in the cockpit, get your instructions, getting ready to pull out, what is the mind-set at that point? And then also, the last two years, because of rain, we've not had a chance to see the new format where you could qualify two or three times on the first day, and would you like to see that and see what happens?
DANICA PATRICK: I think the format is really cool. I think that since -- if it plays out the right way, 11 makes it the first day, it might make number 10 and 11 on that Saturday requalify; where if it was just 1 to 22 because of rain or some other situation, it's not as important. You think to yourself, 10th is okay, I'm not just hanging on. Last year I qualified 10th and I was thrilled, I'm like, "I'm not going back out there again."
Yeah, I definitely think it puts more pressure on and could in turn make it more exciting. So, yeah, I think that -- and I think that we have seen a lot of people go out and qualify over and over. Dario was rehashing one year requalifying about ten times in one day.

Q. You're with a team where your boss is a driver and the boss's son is a driver. How do you work it in yourself and the team itself when you're in that situation? It's the only one on the track.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's the biggest team on the track, and that's just better. I mean, it's more information. It's more confirmation of what's good and what's not good. No, it's a very positive environment. We work together -- we work together well, and we put a lot of importance on that to be able to use -- use that situation to our advantage.
So, no. Actually to some degree, sometimes you don't really think or even notice sometimes that you've got dad in front in the room. I don't know, I refer to -- I refer to dad when I'm talking to Marco as "so, I was talking to Mike," and not like "I was talking to your dad." I don't really put it in that sort of context.
It's slightly, you know, doesn't seem completely connected when we are sitting in a room. It's not like they are sitting there next to each other.

Q. The qualifying out here at the 500 seems to be a lot of emphasis on it as a driver. How hard is it for you to qualify and how hard would it be to go back out and requalify?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, fortunately, I haven't had to go through the pain of going out a second time. Although I really wanted to my first year, I didn't.
Bob put a really crazy number out there that I had to achieve four times in a row in practice and I couldn't, and I was like, all right, I guess I'm fourth today, at the end.
So qualifying is definitely -- there's a lot of emphasis on it. But we're here for a week. We're here for a week for qualifying really, and then we have next week for the race. I've always really put a lot of emphasis on speed because I've always felt like if you can make a car fast and make a comfortable fast car, you put some gas force and go race to some degree. If you make the car fast, it should be able to go in the race condition, too, with a couple of little changes.
So I don't think that it's a bad thing that everybody focuses on qualifying all week. Just makes us all faster.

Q. Last year Michael Andretti was another competitor out there that you had to beat, and he's still another guy out there that you have to beat. But should he finally win this race after all that he's tried, what would that mean to you to see him do that?
DANICA PATRICK: As teammates, we are always happy when someone wins because we always just want to know that we all have that chance, and when someone wins, we all know we've had that chance. So it's always a positive thing for us overall.
But that would definitely be a really, really memorable day if Mike won.
I, of course, I want to win for sure, just like Marco does and Dario does, Tony, everybody. We all want to win, no doubt. If we have to pick somebody to win, we would all raise our hand, but if there's someone next in line that we want to do it, it's Mike. I'm not a history buff, but I've definitely seen how many times he's been leading and how many laps he's led and how fast he's been here and has not materialized to a win for him. So it would be a very, very exciting day if he did win.

Q. I've heard Michael Andretti say that one of the reasons you're on the team was the save that you made in the qualifying attempt your first year here. I've been here a long time, and I've never seen anybody get into quite that much trouble driving out the other end. Do you want to talk about that day for a minute?
DANICA PATRICK: Sure, yes, it was obviously a very frustrating corner for me. I didn't save it once; I had to save it like two or three times, it was going, going, going.
But I went into it with the attitude and from the standpoint that I will not leave anything on this table. I will make sure that I go flat for four laps and if I don't qualify, I know I did everything I could and there's nothing as a driver I could have done differently. I went out there and it unfortunately it was cold like it was all week and temps just weren't up. On a sunny day it would have been fine probably, but that day it wasn't. I don't regret it for a second. Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps that's the reason. The laps weren't that hard, though. I was just so mad that I kept my foot down.

Q. We have heard stories from your teammates about the pranks and things, I think Tony's bike got chopped up; have they messed with you yet?
DANICA PATRICK: It was funny, this morning -- last night, I was getting on my bike to ride back to my coach, and my tire was flight. I'm like, God, that's the first thing they have done. They gave me a flat tire.
So I went in and had it pumped up and rode off and then I had to run back to grab my phone. So I'm riding back, I'm like, this thing is still flat, what the heck. There's a hole, oh, my gosh.
So this morning I see Marco and I say, "So I got a flat tire on my bike, I filled it up and went flat again, and at that point I thought, you probably didn't do it."
He goes, "No, we'll do something way worse than that." (Laughter).
You guys out there I'm sure have ideas of what they can do. I try not to imagine it. They keep telling me they want to shave my head when I win. (Laughter) See, this right here (indicating hair) has got to be six years' worth of work for me grooming and combing. I'm going to have wear a helmet for a few years.

Q. How hard is it to get your hair inside the helmet?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I don't have my hair band on -- I just put it back, it goes underneath my suit. It's pretty easy.
THE MODERATOR: Danica, thank you very much for coming in. Appreciate it.



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