CHEVROLET - Danica Patrick Media Day
CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
Q. You won't miss the media part.
DANICA PATRICK: I'll miss it a little.
Q. One of the things you consistently said was you weren't having fun. Your car is good, and you seem to be having fun.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah.
Q. Do you feel back in your element, maybe this is where you belong?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I mean, I think there's definitely a level of comfort, familiarity. There's definitely that level of familiarity that feels good. Obviously the car is good. There's a lot of people that believe in me over here. I'm not saying they didn't believe in me over there.
Look, the car is really good. Ed was very welcoming. It was really Matt, the head engineer, that called me and said, Hey, you're coming back to Indy.
It's nice to have someone that's worked with me before that knows what I can do. I don't regret any of the moves I've made, though.
Q. Do you regret anything in life?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I don't. Unless I ate something I wasn't supposed to, then I regret that.
One of my favorite statistics is the fact that I'm one of a short list of drivers that have led both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. I couldn't have that if I didn't do it. There were some high points in NASCAR. It wasn't a complete failure by any means. I mean, having a Daytona 500 pole is cool. I'll remember some of those other races that were big for me as far as how it went. Maybe they weren't wins or they weren't vying for the win and not getting it, but they were great for me. I'll remember those things.
Also coming back and having this be my final race, it wouldn't have been possible if I would have finished up in a normal way. Normally, usually when you choose your retirement, you finish up at the end of a season. I would have finished up in NASCAR. It would have been over at Homestead. That's how it would have gone.
Also the fact that it kind of felt like it wasn't really finished properly, that's what led me to think, What else can I do to finish it up? That also has brought me back here. It wouldn't be so dramatic if I wasn't gone for seven years. I'm sure I would probably have a few less people standing here.
It's kind of made the story what the story is. I'm just grateful I'm in a position where I have a fast car I can see Indy on the way out the way I saw it on the way in hopefully.
Q. You're not so back home again you think, Maybe I could do this?
DANICA PATRICK: It isn't uncommon for someone to say, Are you sure you're done?
I am sure I'm done.
What if you win?
I can't think of a better way to be done than if I win.
I'm good. I'm totally good. That always was my favorite part of the year. This is my favorite month. This is my favorite race. I've been fortunate enough to have the most success here, I feel. If I were to go back to IndyCar full-time, then it's all the stuff that I'm not remembering right now because they're not part of this month.
I'm good. I'm good to end with a smile at a special place like this.
Q. You have a horse in this race, too, a capable horse.
DANICA PATRICK: Obviously that makes a big difference in the way that it feels in my heart. Like I said, that's why I said I would do it, is because I was going to get the opportunity to put really time and effort into it. I wasn't just going to be going back and forth, splitting time. That to me was never appealing. After year two when I didn't do it, I didn't think that I would ever come back and do it.
I've had so many great moments here, I respect this place, the cars, the speed, the drivers so much. I wasn't going to come back just to do it. But doing it like this allows me the time to put the right amount of focus in necessary to be successful. Not only just from a time standpoint but from an energy standpoint.
Q. You always seem so cool, calm and collected about this. What kind of emotions come with your very last race as a driver here in Indianapolis?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. I haven't done it yet.
Q. Do you expect this to be an emotional day for you?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I do. I mean, for me, if it's just me, I go up to the car, get in, I think there's going to be emotion, but I think what's going to be really difficult is when there's so much emotion around me. I'm already going to write down a list of the people that are allowed in pit lane. That's it. My dad is going to well up. He already does anyway. He already has this month and all I've done is practice and qualify.
There is going to be emotion from people around me. That's going to amp mine up. At the end of the day I respect that part of the process of retiring, emotion, things like that. It's not going to do me any good to get in the car like that. I want to keep the space as clear as possible to just stay focused and stay calm and confident. We can cry afterwards.
Q. Derek Daley is a big fan of yours. Do you have a message for him working 30 years in television covering you?
DANICA PATRICK: This is my 27th year of racing, period. I feel like I've done it for a really long time. 30 years is a heck of a long time. When anybody has done anything that long, it shows their true passion for something. Congrats.
When something is over, it just means something is beginning.
Q. Do you feel like you've always been preparing for the next step?
DANICA PATRICK: I have this real habit of taking on challenges. The ESPYs, right? Things like that. Going to NASCAR. Driving IndyCars. Moving to England. I just have a habit for pushing myself, to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me. At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.
As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years. I'm super scared of heights. I'm still scared of heights. But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it. That doesn't mean I'm not still scared. That doesn't mean it's not still something that's easy to me afterwards. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.
Q. How much different is the series that you return to from the series you left?
DANICA PATRICK: Other than the fact that the group that I race with is all getting much more gray, the fact that I don't know half the drivers now, other than that...
I mean, there's a lot of familiarity. I feel like we're coming to a place that's all about repetition of history. I think this is probably the place that I would find the least amount of change, right?
Q. But the quality of the organization kind of has changed dramatically from Randy Bernard to Mark Miles and Jay Frye.
DANICA PATRICK: I wave at everyone and say hi. Everyone seems great. I'm afraid I'm not in deep enough to know the politics, so everything seems great.
Q. What is the key for you as far as staying up front, having a chance?
DANICA PATRICK: I think the key is going to be to have a car that turns in traffic, and also alone. I don't think it's going to be all that easy to keep the car turning for the whole run. Yeah, I think that's going to be the trick. If your car will turn, you have a shot at having a really good day.
Q. When you leave here after the race, what will your life be like then?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. I'm not there yet. I don't know. I mean, I haven't raced since February. I've taken vacations. I've worked on all my other businesses. I've been preparing for this. This has been a lot of work.
Yeah, but I make waffles on Sundays now. I have a thing on Sundays. That's pretty fun. In the summer, there's like farmers market. I can't wait for that. I mean, there's going to be probably some new stuff that I don't know yet.
The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress. Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That's uncomfortable.
Again, like I said, I tend to sign up for things that are uncomfortable just to test myself. I'm okay with less of that. I'm okay with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions.
I'm ready for that.
Q. How are your emotions for this?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm nervous, of course. I was sitting down eating breakfast this morning. My dad loves to talk about racing for sure. I haven't talked to him much about anything. I don't know why. It's just that it's been such a fast-paced time here, I've had so much to do. I was kind of sitting there. Plus I don't want to hear his opinion, to be honest.
I was like, Dad, what do you think the chances are? Do you think I got a shot?
I mean, I obviously know I have a shot, but let's talk real, like father-daughter. What have you seen out there? Dad, tell me what you've seen.
I have a bad reference for the closing race. For me, it's the distance from me to the car in front, I got so used to the NASCAR distances, I even look at five back or 10 back, look in my mirror, I'm like, I don't think it's five back, I think that's 15 back. Maybe it's just like a metaphor for the distance. Anyway, I'm just asking him what he really thinks.
I'm also asking him because I know there's a chance. I've been saying the last few days there's a difference between the beginning when I signed up for it, I was hopeful it would go well, and there's a difference between where it is now, which is having tested, qualified, gotten into race mode and gone, Things are pretty good. Now it's not just a hope, it's more of a reality that I've really got a shot at it.
At the end of the day if Miss Indianapolis decides that it's my day..
Q. If you do well, what are the chances of you coming back?
DANICA PATRICK: None.
DANICA PATRICK: There's none.
Q. Have you been in traffic enough this month to feel comfortable in the racecar?
DANICA PATRICK: I think I've been in the worst of traffic. Partly because at first it was a level of comfort. You go out and you feel how much gap you want, don't worry about cars behind you, go at the back of the pack. It's the worst place to be. If you're within the first few cars, it seems not too bad. I've been in those position as couple of times. When you're 10 back, 15 back, I can't get close. It's a disaster.
I think that's a good and a bad thing I think it's good because it's put me in the most difficult position possible to be critical of the car, what I need. It's maybe not quite as inspiring. I'm also very much in question as to where we all really do stack up in traffic because I know that everyone says it. When I'm talking to Tony Kanaan, he's like, I haven't passed a car all month. This is qualifying weekend. It's really hard to pass.
I think in practice on Monday he passed three or four cars in front of me. I know he's passed some cars now. That's the question mark: how many cars in front of you were there, how good is it in traffic, did you come out on new tires, are they on second-run tires.
Q. (No microphone.)
DANICA PATRICK: Amazing. I mean, when was your last weekend off?
Q. Last weekend.
DANICA PATRICK: Then never mind I was going to try to make you feel good. I feel bad for you. I will miss you guys.
I do, I love it. I mean, I've come up with many routines on the weekend, things that I do on a Saturday night or a Saturday and a Sunday. It's great. I get Sunday fun day every weekend now. It's going to be amazing.
Q. Looking forward for you, there's so much to look forward, you know what I'm saying?
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you. I mean, that's a good thing. It's a lot better than saying I look forward to your life, Danica, and it looks really dark. That would be sad (laughter).
I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis. I'm looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life. If I say I want it, there's a very good chance that's what I'll get.
Q. (Question about life out of the spotlight.)
DANICA PATRICK: In a house without anyone looking in?
Q. I know these things are tiring, doing 30 of them in a week. If nobody wanted to talk to you for a month or two months...
DANICA PATRICK: I did say the other day that I think there will be a couple of things lost. If I had to pick the ego thing that I'll lose is, my ego is going to have to cope with the sort of new not being the center of attention as often, right? That will be the ego shot. I acknowledge that. But I understand it's also fake, right? It's not what's going to make me happy. If you rely on someone else to make you happy, you being interested in talking to me, I'm not going to be successful most of the time. I can't tell you what to do. Your happiness has to come from another place.
But I acknowledge it. I know it's going to be less attention, less spotlight. At least until July is over with, with the ESPYs, then I literally will have a spotlight on me on stage. That is coming.
Then on the other side of things, as far as the things I'll miss from an emotional standpoint, that feeling of success when you really put yourself out there and you work really hard for something, there's a lot on the line, you're able to execute. That's amazing.
This last weekend in qualifying, the natural competitor in me was like, We should have trimmed more, I'm thinking about what he we could have done. Those are tough things to come by in the natural world as far as ordinary activities. These are extraordinary things, we're going 225 miles an hour.
I know that this will also be difficult, too. But I'm okay with both of those. I've never had to have the spotlight. I don't care if someone doesn't know who I am. I really don't. Just like when someone says, Aren't you famous?
I say, I'm only famous if you think I'm famous. I think that's how it works anyway.
As far as less pressure, I'm ready for less pressure. So I think I'm ready.
Q. Are the ESPYs a look as far as you wanting to do something in broadcasting?
DANICA PATRICK: No, no. The ESPYs was just really an insane honor. I have been going since 2005 every year. I love the event. I love sports. I'm excited to celebrate it. I feel like I am in a win-win situation. You tell a story about something that's great, that happened during the year, there are going to be people that have the emotional association with whatever you're talking about, no matter about how funny I am or not funny I am. So many people love sports.
It's also a new challenge. This is something that if I was racing, I would not get the chance to do. In two weeks, I go on a three-day weekend writers retreat to come up with concepts and skit ideas, on stage things, monologue. I wouldn't have time to do that if I was in the middle of my season.
Even if I did manage to squeeze it in, it's such an expenditure of emotion and energy, let alone stacking something like that. I've got time to do something like this, and it's come at a great time.
Q. Maybe you should try to come back to IndyCar full-time, does that make you think?
DANICA PATRICK: No. You showed up too late. I already answered that one.
Q. How does returning to Indy exceeded your expectations of coming back here, race aside?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, one of the most fun things I feel is that just seeing people. I mean, I saw my first-ever PR guy Tom. I saw him outside before I came in. I drop everything, I'm like, Oh, my God. Just the joy I have for seeing people that I haven't seen in so long, that I'm so grateful for. They've had such a great reciprocation of that energy. That's been something that I underestimated how good it would feel.
Q. Do you feel coming back to IndyCar for this one race has been easier given the difference in handling and setup between the two different kinds of cars?
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I don't think it's possible to have gone through the last five years full-time in stockcars and not have learned things. I learned about dynamics of cars, grip levels, handling. You're always picking little things up.
Perhaps there are things I picked up in stockcar racing that will apply in areas of an IndyCar that weren't there before. They are quite different. I think those things would be subtle. It's always good to expand your comfort zone. IndyCar has expanded my comfort zone. Stockcars did, too. They're kind of two different beasts.
Q. To see Ed on the pole, talk about the team dynamic in this race.
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, I had confidence that I was making the right choice with Ed Carpenter's team. Of course, I look really smart now, so... Their cars are really fast. I'm impressed with how Ed is able to manage being a team owner and being a driver at the same time. He does a really good job with that. We were together on the sort of business side of things before I got here. He's been able to transition into the driver mode really easily, too, be very supportive. Whatever I need, he's ready. I sent him a message last week, telling him thank you for giving me a good car. He replied with, I'd give you the same chance we had.
That's true. You cannot hide if a car is not fast at Indy. He absolutely did what he said he would do.
Q. All the on-camera time you've had over the years, if you wanted that attention back, do you ever see yourself doing some big media project?
DANICA PATRICK: The things that motivate me now, I got a feel of that, a glimpse into that with my book Pretty Intense. Being able to help me and empower them, it's just really cool. I feel like I don't need to go do something to have attention. I don't need to go to a show to read a prompter, that's it, to be on TV and have people care about me on some level.
I want to do things that help other people. Look, I'm fortunate enough that I have a big platform. If that comes in the format of doing something on camera, so be it. It might be books, a speaking tour. There's many different ways to do that. The platform then of course is the platform, right? From that standpoint, something like that might happen. Even I've said many times I want to have a cooking show. I keep going around and around in my head with different ideas what I want it to be like. More recent ones are like, How can we make this more impactful? There's simple cooking, but it's a half tablespoon of that. That's not deep enough.
Anything I do moving forward, I want to have some depth and reach into people's hearts, into themselves, to try to help people, empower them to make better choices not only with food, but everything. I think that's just one step, one piece of the puzzle of becoming the best you possibly can.
I can see some of that moving forward, but not because I want to be on TV, but because I want to help.
Q. When you look at the totality of your motorsports career...
DANICA PATRICK: Sounds so big.
Q. It is pretty big. What are you proudest of?
DANICA PATRICK: Of my career?
Q. Having impact.
DANICA PATRICK: Probably still having friends from high school that I love to hang out with. Lots are coming to the race.
Anyway, just making an impact on people's lives, having the ability to make an impact on people's lives, is really powerful. I know I was just kind of talking about that. It took a little self-reflection because it's almost like doing these things are therapy for me because you're asking me these interesting questions, they might not be things I really ever thought of before. Simple ones in the beginning, How do you feel about being a role model?
I don't know, I haven't put any thought to that yet. It gets your mind going, What do I think about that? What do I say to somebody if they're like, How did you get to where you are, what do I do, give me something inspirational? It's my story. It might not be conventional, but I'm not. It doesn't even have to be complicated.
The ability to affect people and inspire people is really powerful. I've never overlooked it. I've never said I didn't ask for it and I don't want it. I honor it and try to do a good job with it.
Q. You found out a lot of good things about yourself that you wouldn't have learned if you were just a workaday person?
DANICA PATRICK: Absolutely. There's power to say things out loud. Of course, the thought that goes into it before. Those things become more real. Yeah, I mean, you guys have made me dig deep.
Q. Doing our job.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's good I have a love relationship with the media. I'm not scared of you guys. I'm not. Look, if you write a bad article, there's things in it that are not true, I'm happy to call them out, but I'm not scared to talk to you. I'm also not scared to call you out.
It doesn't happen that often. But the media has been amazing for me. It's part of the package. It's part of what made me who I am today. Like this is not a problem I'm not dreading a media availability. Now, they're tiring because I'm really thinking about your questions. But I don't mind it, it's fine. It's therapy. Maybe I'll miss you guys, too. I really will. I'll miss you guys.
Q. What are you going to be doing a year from now?
DANICA PATRICK: I've thought to myself, I need to keep things going from this documentary through Indy and maybe the next year, month one, how you doing.
It's amazing. I'm so excited. I have nothing to do. It's fantastic. Actually month one won't be like that. First two months are dedicated to getting ready for the ESPYs. After that it will slow down a lot.
Q. Nervous about that?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm thinking I'm going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay.
Q. (No microphone.)
DANICA PATRICK: I was just thinking to myself, it's pretty impressive what Kurt did a couple years ago. For him to finish sixth, go back and forth... That was impressive I was just thinking that this morning.
Q. Is it a matter of being with the right team?
DANICA PATRICK: Look, you see that in anything. I mean, in NASCAR you see it. You see somebody drop into a car first year, you think, Oh, my gosh, they're amazing. They're probably in a good car. Then what happened? They forgot how to drive for a couple years, then they remembered how to drive?
You see it in NASCAR. You see it in IndyCar. You see it anywhere. If people are in good cars, there's a good chance you're going to have a good weekend. Mistakes might happen. It's the best chance you've got. At this level, everybody can do that, right? You didn't get here because you just decided to try it.
Q. (No microphone.)
DANICA PATRICK: I mean, you never know exactly. You can't ever count your eggs before you get to Indy. You never know what's going to happen. I went with them because I knew there was a really good chance they were going to be good.
Now, I was super nervous getting in the car for the first time. Very nervous.
Q. Qualifying was nervous, too?
DANICA PATRICK: I was nervous, for sure. It's either going to be easy or really, really hard. That's how it goes. I don't really remember this being quite so critical when I used to be here, but just the balance itself, whether it's understeering or oversteering, just that balance itself seems like as the downforce comes off gets really finicky. It seems finicky anyway, but that seemed to be the one thing that you had to manage really well in qualifying trim.
You're either going to go out there, it's going to be good, or it's going to be really, really hard, you're going to miss it. You're going to have to be flat, yet it won't turn, or it's snapping sideways. Look, it's possible. You have to have some respect for the speed. You're turning in at 237 miles an hour without lifting. You can't ignore that.
I was nervous. Of course, I wanted to do well. Remember those pictures from my first qualifying in 2005, leaning against the tires, I felt sick. That was obviously my first year, but I had been racing IndyCars all year. Any time a lot is on the line, it's nerve-wracking.
Q. When do you think you reached this level?
DANICA PATRICK: When I met the Dalai Lama. I read the book called From Here to Enlightenment before I went.
Q. When did this happen, where you became such a positive person?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it's a transition, right? Your own spiritual evolution, it seems like all of a sudden it happens, then you look back, Oh, no, it's kind of been happening for a long time.
It's probably been four or five years of it. Sometimes it's tough things that make you go there. You've got to figure out ways to cope. But I honestly have a really good group of girlfriends. We're all very open and very honest with each other.
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Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.