DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 5, 2010)- Danica Patrick, making her stock car debut in Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards race, made an appearance in the Daytona Int'l Speedway Infield Media Center on Friday afternoon to discuss the transition to stock car racing and her 12th-place starting spot in Saturday's race.
Below are excerpts from her Media Center appearance:
Talk about your car so far this weekend.
"The car's pretty good. We started off the day yesterday with a long practice session which was nice. I probably won't have the luxury of a long practice session for the rest of the year. We had a good four hours to work on the car and we did kind of need it and we got the car back to more kind of where it was in the practice we were here in December for. We weren't really picking up as much speed as we wanted when we were taping it up and trying to go as fast as possible but what we were really happy about was just when we went out to qualify today we went about the same speed that we did in practice and we didn't drop off at all, which can happen sometimes when you're the only one out there so we were happy about that and I think it showed. We were ahead of a few people that were ahead of us in practice. As Tony Eury Jr. pointed out to me, ‘you're going to be able to see the pace car from there!' so apparently that's ok.
Danica you've lost the practice but you haven't really run in the draft here is there any way to simulate that so that you can get a sense of what that's like or do you just kind of have to do it?
I did run in the draft here in testing in December. I did it probably about three different times. I went out there with up to five cars in a group. I tried everything from running the front of the pack to running the back of the pack and in the middle. Even tried to bump out there. That's a little harder than I thought it would be but I felt really good. Worked on closing that distance between two car lengths and being right on them at a half a car length because with my INDY Car experience I thought two car lengths was on them but it's not, which is understandable why the accidents are so big because you have nowhere to go because you are literally nose to tail. So I did get some practice. There will never be enough of that. I think that for a long, long time to come it will be something that you get better and better at but I am really glad that we did get out there in the December testing and that there was enough time to do that.
You're starting alongside Frank Kimmel. He's a nine-time ARCA Champion so if you want experience there's the guy. Do you feel very fortunate that you are starting next to a guy that has so much experience in these types of cars in this series?
Definitely. A lot of these drivers are new to me. I don't know a lot of them. But just from the experience that I have had with practice and getting to know them a little bit, being familiar with their driving and their speed at least if I haven't met them. There's a lot of nice guys out there and its nice to be around some good drivers. Tony [Eury Jr] was pointing them out-‘he's good, he's good, he's going to play good, be careful here, be careful there' but as he said, ‘you're in a good group' so that's good. The last thing you want to do is be put in a situation where you got to watch it at the start until about eight laps to go. I think we're in a good spot We'll hit the gas and keep our foot on it as long as we can.
Leilani Munter was on Twitter last night and mentioned that you had loaned her your spare HANS Device. Did you know her before? There are a half-dozen women in this race. Have you gotten to know any of them? I guess that's unusual. Can you talk about what that's like?
I see you on Twitter all of the time. I do know Leilani. We were actually Hostess Race Divas for a couple of years back in my first couple of years in INDY Cars and she's very nice. She's always been very, very nice to me. She sent an email out to me a couple of days ago saying that she wasn't sure that she would get her HANS back in time for practice and if I had an extra and I matter of factly had one in my bag as I was bringing it over here to the race so I did have an extra and I was happy to give it to her. I don't mind at all. We're very similar size. I don't really know the rest of the girls out there. I don't know them but I always try to make an effort to say hi to everyone I see. Try to make friends and fit in get associated but if I haven't seen them I probably haven't said hi to them so I'm sure at one point I will meet them. If not it's a matter of circumstance.
Milka Duno indicated that she was surprised that she didn't have control of the engineering and she was so used to making adjustments in open wheel racing. Where do you find the balance between driver and engineering in these cars?
Tony Eury Jr is a very good crew chief. In INDY Car our engineers are crew chiefs. I'm lucky to have great engineer-crew chiefs in both places. Tony's very talented. He's obviously been Dale's engineer. He was Dale's engineer for a long time, or crew chief. He knows what he's doing. I tell him what the car is doing and he fixes it and we worked very hard yesterday. We actually tried quite a few things and we did need the time to improve the car and we did that. And it has been that way pretty much everywhere we've went. I would say nine out of ten times I have a problem and I tell him what it is and he fixes it and that's it. It's like ya, okay, it's good. Now what? So he knows what he's doing. For me it's a matter of learning from him and understanding about the car. The difference between INDY Car and NASCAR is a lot of things are spoken in opposites so it's been a little bit confusing to me but I'm getting familiar. I'm getting into the car setup side as much as I can. It's hard to digest it all at once but it will take awhile.
Have you had a chance to talk to any Cup drivers? There's a lot more give and take here, especially the give.
I spoke to one last night. He sent his driver over there to come and get me at my bus and I was very flattered. I've never met one before. I've kinda said hey or whatever on the pit wall at the 24 hours race that we've been at before. I'm planning on playing it fair with everybody. If they give me a reason to be mad then I'll do something about it. These cars do have fenders and you're not going to take yourself out like you do in an INDY Car. But I'm not planning on being a jerk out there. That would imply that I did something to someone else before they did something to me. I'm out there to make friends right now unless someone gives me a reason not to like them.
How are you so calm through all of this? And what about Monday and your decision where to run the Nationwide race...is that a team/group decision?
As far as being calm. I'm lucky enough that I've been put in situations similar to this where there is a lot of media attention. Racing in the INDY 500 is always a lot of attention. Not as much as this but you do get a feel for it. Once there's 20 interviews what's the difference if there's 30? And I have a lot of people helping me, making sure that I am where I need to be and that I have time to drive the car and do what I need to do there. I've had plenty of time to chill out in the truck and watch TV with the guys. I hang out with them a lot and I really like all of them. The biggest difference? There's so much stuff that is different. There really is. And I'm referring mostly to the car stuff. It does feel very different. The car moves around it has a lot of vertical travel, the car rolls over a little bit, actually I noticed the vertical more than to the side, but I'm sure that traffic running, race running, is going to be different too. I've run in a group of five but I haven't run in a group of thirty yet or twenty or whatever its going to be. I haven't completely made a pit stop yet. It's a little bit funky with driving back to the garages all of the time because you never like get used to pulling in anywhere and getting used to references. There's no wonder why people miss there pit boxes, because you don't do it until race day so your not practicing it. And in terms of basing my decision on whether to run the Nationwide race next weekend. It really does come down to me but I'm also listening to everyone around me. There's been a lot of people, a lot of really good people, that have told me it's not the right place to start. It's a weird race. There's so many Cup guys out there. I don't want to be out there and make a mistake and take somebody out that's running for a championship or God forbid taking out one of the Cup guys and making them mad right away. And it will not happen on purpose but it will be inexperience so I just want to play it smart and I might very well go out there and feel really great but there are a lot of other things out there then just driving around. You've got pit stops you've got all kinds of stuff so I have the ability to take it slow, nobody is really pressuring me to do it so we'll be erring on the side of caution.
Last year in the negotiation phase you met with Kelly Earnhardt in a Sushi Bar in North Carolina. Did you have to do any type of preparation to learn more about Kelly Earnhardt and Dale as well and also after having that meeting what kind of struck you about her?
The deal was pretty much done when we met. I did not come to JR Motorsports when I was out here in the summer time meeting with teams. I went to a lot of race shops but not that one. The deal progressed quickly and the natural progression was with GoDaddy and GoDaddy being involved with that team was a nice thing. It was a good transisition and it really helped the process. When I met Kelly and even when you talk to Kelly-Kelly is a very straight-forward girl. She's got her head screwed on straight, she knows what she wants, she's not bothered by the little things, she's just what do you need, this, that, the other, good. Let's just get it done. Let's not argue about silly stuff and obviously that's mostly regarding getting the deal done. But she's just really straight-forward. Whatever she can do to help and I think we're all going to have a lot of fun with this process. I think she's really excited about it. The first time that I talked to her I was flying home from Indianapolis and this came up and I was about to get on the plane but I called her and talked to her as long as I could and she really did have those simple questions, which really is what everybody asks me. All of the Cup teams asked me when I first talked to them they are like ‘why do you want to do this, what do you want, what are you trying to accomplish, what are your goals.' They really wanted to know if I was serious. I would hope and I have heard from a few different people that they walk away and they say ‘she's totally serious about it' which is the way it is and obviously I am sitting here today so I was pretty serious. People want to hear it from me. People who have never met me and have never spoken to me. There is all kinds of stuff out there about me about what I'm like, things that people have written, and pictures and me looking mad all of the time and people don't really know what I'm like until they meet me so I think she just wanted to get a feel.
As opposed to earlier in the week now you know you have a really good car, one that could potentially challenge to win the race. Does that make you want more than what you talked about earlier in the week?
I don't think I would ever say that I'm not thinking about winning. I'm thinking about doing really well and I think it would be silly for me to talk about winning the race because I've never done it before and I have no idea but I don't think I would ever drive for a team that I didn't think I had a chance to win with. I believe in them. They believe in me. I have a lot to learn but now that we have qualifying over with and everything is kind of shook down a little bit more you can kind of see. I have a lot of good drivers around me but how it goes down in the race is still a mystery to me. But I'm going to be smart and try to be there at the end and do something about it and hopefully I have people where if I'm not in the lead they will want to go with me and that's all I know right now. I'm sure that I'll learn a lot, and hopefully I will make it past half way at least.
You said usually a person is their own worst critic. How patient are you going to be with yourself?
I think the fastest way to make progress as a driver is to always recognize what you've done wrong. I was disappointed with myself already during qualifying I came around from the line and I kind of did a tail spin a little bit and I didn't really go far. I didn't get all of the revs out of it and I'm like shoot, you know, and as you can see in the laps there's really not much to it and Tony is telling me it's all in the first five feet and I'm thinking great I didn't do well in those first five feet. I'm looking at those things but in a productive way. I'm not going to dwell on it. Note to self this is what I need to do next time. If you keep doing it over and over again you need to have a different plan of attack. I'm not going to get mad about it. I kind of feel like I'm going into my first year of INDY Car racing again.
Patrick starts 12th in Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race, live on SPEED beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
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