IndyCar Series: Indy Japan 300
Topics: Indy Japan 300
April 20, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Scott and Helio. Our race winner, Danica Patrick, will be in momentarily.
Before Danica gets here, just a few facts. She is the first female in major auto sport history to win a race. Open-wheel racing dates to 1909. This was Danica Patrick's 50th start in the IndyCar Series. Her previous best finish was second place last year at Detroit.
We'll start off with a general comment from Danica and then we'll open it up to Q & A. I don't even know what to ask you. Take us through your day.
DANICA PATRICK: At this point I'm just glad that I don't have to answer the other question again.
THE MODERATOR: I guess we can open it up to questions.
Q. In this race did you do any special training
DANICA PATRICK: No. As drivers we usually train for the season, but not for this specifically. The road courses are more difficult physically, but this is not one of the most physical races of the year.
Q. When did you realize that you had won the race, and how did it feel when you realized it?
DANICA PATRICK: I knew halfway through -- I kind of knew from the start if we had enough fuel that I was going to have a chance because I was saving fuel from the first lap and nobody else looked like they were. So I knew at that point there was a chance to finish much higher.
But it wasn't until halfway through the stint that I had heard it was Helio and myself, I was either going to be second with the rate that the fuel was going, and it wasn't until I actually passed Helio that I knew -- I was pretty sure that I was going to win. But there was always that worry that the yellow flag would come out or that I wouldn't be able to catch Helio. But I maintained pretty good speed for how much fuel I was saving.
Q. How did you feel when you realized that you had won the race?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I was excited, obviously. I was pretty excited at the end. I've always said that I wouldn't do this, but on my last lap I was kind of just excited. And then finally when I actually had to talk on my radio, finally the emotion came out. I really couldn't manage any other words than "thank you." And then I was as relieved as I expected I would be years ago, how I knew I would feel when I won my first race.
But I guess over time that feeling has only gotten bigger, and over time I've been asked so many times when I'm going to win my first race, and finally, no more of those questions.
Q. Congratulations. When you pictured your first win, as a child coming up, when you pictured your first IndyCars victory, is this how you expected it would happen, and do you feel overwhelmed right now?
DANICA PATRICK: Gosh, I don't know. I don't know if I really pictured how it would happen, how it would feel. I obviously just knew I'd be relieved. I just hoped and believed when I was young that it would happen and if I had the right opportunity that it could. I just needed the right people to believe in me and give me that chance with a good team and good teammates. So thank you to them; I really enjoy being on their team.
And when it actually happened, I can honestly say that -- I don't know. It may have been a little anticlimactic. It was kind of like, it happened. Then I was like, yay, did it really happen? I'm first for sure? And then obviously the emotion came out.
Q. If it's not asking too much, share a little bit about what you talked about with your mom and dad and your husband there when they met you at the car.
DANICA PATRICK: It was quick; I wasn't with them a lot of time, but the time that we had, just the hugs and we love you, and congratulations, and a lot of fond words came out of my mouth, and that's about it. I'm sure dad said it was the best day of his life, stuff like that.
Q. It's your 50th race. Did you find is very long or was it quite short? Were you not expecting it yet? And then when did you start crying after the victory?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, it feels like it's taken a long time. You know, it did feel like it was a long time.
I think the hard part for me -- the good and the bad part was that -- it was really my first year in 2005 that I qualified on the front row, I was fast, I ended up finishing 4th but that was because a caution came out and the people were running out of fuel and there was a yellow. So I think it was a little bit of a chance my first year here.
And then obviously at the Indy 500, the next race, I almost won that one.
So from my third or fourth race in IndyCar, now we're at 50, I guess that's what someone told me because I don't really think about it, yes, it's been a long time.
I had a lot of opportunities last year that were missed due to bad luck. Yes, a long time coming, thanks. I can only say I'm just glad it's over.
When I go home it's the first thing I do -- I'm kind of hungry right now. It just hit me right now sitting here, I'm kind of hungry.
But when I get home, I'm a driver and I knew I could win, so I'm relieved, and I don't think it's going to change a lot. This is what I'm supposed to do. I don't think anything is really going to change other than a writer maybe.
Q. You told us that you were saving fuel. Were you saving fuel from the start of the race, and what kind of fuel mixture did you set for the car?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that the first stint of the race, that wasn't a big concern because we knew that there was going to be more fuel for what the tire life would be and there would be plenty of new sets of tires, so we really weren't worried about it on the first stint.
On the next one, again, it wasn't such a big deal, but we were starting to think about it. I know that the last two stints were the ones that I was concerned about, obviously the last one being the most important. But the one before, before they told me to save fuel, even I was starting to turn the fuel mixture down and save and do some other little techniques that help saving fuel. So I was starting to do that.
Again, I wasn't super-fast doing that. I was losing a little bit of ground, and somebody caught me so I went back to fuel position 1 and tried to keep my position. Track position is also very important, especially in the beginning and midway through the race. So it was the last two stints that I was saving fuel.
You know, basically the team tells me a fuel number that they want me to meet, because that's the way that they calculate how much I'll be using until the end, and that's what I used as my benchmark to save some. It took about two laps to get me to the exact right number because it's always a little bit hard to go slow. But having the big picture in mind was the important part.
Q. When you're facing the men's world, the racing world, not only in Indy but you've been racing with guys for all your life, so did you feel you had a disadvantage, and how did you overcome both of these disadvantages that you might have had?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think that the disadvantage to overcome was just that I hadn't won. A lot of women hadn't really proved on a consistent basis that they could be a good driver and always run up front. I think there had been times when they had done well but not consistently.
I can't tell you that I blame them for not believing that we could do it. But when you have 100 guys come through, finding one good one, the odds are a lot better than 100 girls since it takes a lot longer for 100 to come through. The odds are against us.
But I grew up with never really using guys as a reference, using drivers as a reference, and if I wasn't fast enough, I wasn't fast enough. That was the most important thing. I didn't think about it like that. I didn't think, oh, I'm the best girl out here today. I grew up with the right attitude to translate into a more competitive world. I thank my family for that.
Thank you, and thank you to all the Japanese fans. I always love coming to Japan.
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